The refreshing allure of shallowness
Google "depth" under the images tab and you'll get hundreds of pictures, a majority of them of the sea. In biblical times the ocean's depth was the most recognizable reference point for going deep. There are a few dimensional references in Scripture as well, definitions of an area with depth, height, width, breadth, or length as boundaries. Choosing a depiction of depth today is more problematic since we know about deep space, deep science, the vast multi-dimensional digital world, or the comic opposites of air-headed thought. The picture I selected for use in the title slide above isn't actually about genuine depth. It's people who are contemplating something, perhaps one of life's most challenging dilemmas, that of considering depth and resisting the refreshing allure of shallowness in our contemporary culture.
What is the measure of depth in a spiritual sense, as opposed, to say, shallowness? Why is depth considered the zone of spiritual leadership, and how can it be depicted? The starting place for me was the Apostle Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians. In the second chapter he wrote about the depth of God, what the Spirit revealed to those guided by the Spirit. It is presumed that it is the place of spiritual leadership, the quest of every person called to lead in mission, whatever the role. In his letter he communicated several truths about this depth to his readers---
1. Spiritual depth isn't worldly wisdom.
He wrote, "Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a
wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away"
(1 Corinthians 2:6, ESV). Paul wanted to differentiate deep spiritual truth from
the wisdom of the Greek system, philosophy and polytheistic religion. It's a
significant distinction today because there are so many wise teachers drawing
crowds with pop-psychology or home-spun common sense that gives a first
impression of spiritual depth. Typically worldly wisdom is just shallow.
2. Spiritual depth is revealed to believers.
Paul added, "these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the
Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10, ESV).
Once again there is a presumption: the spiritual depths are indeed revealed to
every believer. This truth is supported when he wrote, "Now we have received
not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might
understand the things freely given us by God" (1 Corinthians 2:12, ESV).
Spiritual leaders have the capacity to communicate the truth of the Spirit to
those who are believers. Another clarifying verse includes, "And we impart this
in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting
spiritual truths to those who are spiritual" (1 Corinthians 2:13, ESV).
3. Unbelievers cannot comprehend things of the Spirit.
Paul boldly wrote, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit
of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because
they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14, ESV ). In my understanding,
the only spiritual truth that an unbeliever can grasp is their need for Christ
when convicted and drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit. This creates a
resonance and engagement dilemma for many spiritual leaders, a temptation
to season their message with the language and images of pop culture.
4. Believers are equipped with the mind of Christ.
This important section of Scripture concludes with this power thought: “For
who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have
the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16, ESV). This is perhaps the greatest
reason the Gospel should be included in every church message. It is the only
spiritual depth unbelievers can understand.
5. No human can fully grasp the fullness of the depths of God.
Paul didn't relate his own personal struggles in this short passage. But, in his
further writings he confessed that he had not fully attained complete
identification with Christ. To the Philippians he wrote, "Not that I have already
obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because
Christ Jesus has made me his own" (Philippians 3:12). We will only be like
Christ at our death or his second coming (see 1 John 3:2).
These truths provide clear hints about the refreshing allure of shallowness in every age and environment. You see, shallowness looks good and feels better. The thin veneers of pop religion, however popular, should never be the habitat of spiritual leaders. They should be aiming at the depths personally and leading others there as well.
Depth is the zone of spiritual leadership, not the refreshing allure of shallowness.
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