What Is Authentic Spirituality?

If you are taking Lent seriously, you will be asking, “What is authentic spirituality? What is it that I ought to covet and seek and pray for?”  According to Matthew, authentic spirituality has to do with purity of heart (Matt. 5:8), single-mindedness (6:22-24), kingdom righteousness (25:31-46), or, as I would phrase it, downright goodness.

Downright goodness is what Jesus insisted upon when he spoke about almsgiving, prayer, and fasting (Matt. 6:1-18). He was not negating these religious practices. He was teaching that an intimate relationship with God ought to result in unselfconscious expressions of them. When we practice them, we should do so without calling attention to ourselves—indeed, without even thinking about them. We should become so sensitized to and conscious of God’s mysterious presence in our every thought and action that we would do them automatically.

Jesus told the Parable of Kingdom Character in Matthew 25:31-46 to make unmistakable what authentic spirituality is. In it, the king invited into the kingdom those who had fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, taken strangers into their homes, and, in short, met human need wherever or in whatever form they found it. They were goodness in action.

They were those good trees bearing good fruit (Matt. 7:17-18). They were people who did the will of the heavenly Father and not those who just said, “Lord! Lord!” (7:21).  They were the wise who built on rock rather than on sand (7:24-27).

In our humanness, we can only strive to act with complete selflessness. But strive, we must. A few “ordinary saints” sometimes inspire us. Mother Teresa of Calcutta spent her life tending the dying, and called it doing “something beautiful for God.”

What beautiful thing can you do for God today?


E. Glenn Hinson is Professor Emeritus of Spirituality and Church History, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. A prolific author, Glenn has contributed numerous articles to Weavings and has served on its advisory board from the beginning. His latest book is A Miracle of Grace.

One Response to “What Is Authentic Spirituality?”

  1. jo says:

    I can appreciate a good challenge. Yes, God gives us his desires and will by the indwelling of his Spirit, and we work out what has been worked in. We can acknowledge God as the only one that can work in but as James said, “Step up to the plate and put your money where your mouth is”. Our works are the manifestation and completion of our faith. I really like the attention to heart matters because Jesus was always drawing our attention to that.

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