2 Chronicles 34:1-33
In the story of Josiah we see an excellent example of the three major phases that a person will go through in the process of spiritual formation.
1. Tear it Down.
Josiah inherited a pretty messed up world view. His grandfather was the most wicked king that Judah had ever had. Manasseh had infected the people with a terrible case of syncretism. They believed that all forms of religious practice were equally valid and that Yahweh was no different than the Baals of all the surrounding Canaanite cultures.
Josiah’s father had been assassinated by a rebellious element in Jerusalem. Then he, as a young boy, had been placed on the throne in his father’s place, most likely under the strong-armed leadership of the rebels. There must have been a great deal of emotional trauma and dysfunction within Josiah’s mind and heart after having been raised in that situation.
For some reason, of which we are left unclear, Josiah was motivated to seek the heart of God. The first thing that he had to do was tear down the mess that he was in. He went through with a wrecking ball and ripped out everything that was obviously contrary to God.
We can think of it as being a gardener. If our heart is a garden, before we can plant anything or have anything healthy grow there, we must first tear out all the weeds and rocks that are choking everything out.
This is a painful process that will be met with great opposition. When a person who has been hanging out with the “wrong crowd” and decides to clean up his act, are those friends generally supportive? No. Misery loves company. Those friends will be threatened and challenged by the changes and will try every tactic in the book to convince the new reformer to see the error of his ways and return to the comfort of pagan worship.
If we want to grow and know the heart of God, then we must be willing to join with Josiah and tear down the old ways. We must be willing to challenge the worldview and philosophical grid that governed our previous thinking. We must be willing to stop going places and doing things that set us up for bad choices. We must be willing to move away from unhealthy relationships that have strong roots wrapped round our heart.
We must feel the need, the need to weed.
2. Build it Up.
If phase one has a negative, deconstructive, tone, then phase two has a positive, reconstructive tone. In phase one we rip out the weeds, we tear down the walls, we strip everything away, and we start with a clean slate. In phase two we start to build something new. In our garden we begin the orderly work of tilling the soil, adding fertilizer, ploughing straight furrows, and planting the seeds.
In Josiah’s story, he invested a great deal of energy in rebuilding the temple and creating the space for the proper worship of God as best he knew how.
That’s the key to phase two; creating space. If the Kingdom of God is going to grow, it has to have the proper space to do so. If the Kingdom of God is like a seed, then it needs to have a properly prepared field, with adequate water, fertilizer, and sunlight. If the Kingdom of God is a family, then it has to have a house in which to live.
The way that we create space in this phase of our spiritual development is through practicing what is called “The Spiritual Disciplines.” Just like an athlete needs to practice every day, and a farmer needs to walk the fields every day looking for weeds and bugs, so does the follower of Jesus need to practice some daily habits that will cultivate a heart in which the Kingdom of God can grow.
The Basic Disciplines are things like:
- daily Bible reading
- investigating the truth about God
- developing authentic relationships with other Christians
- serving others
Doing these things does not make us spiritual or “holy” or in touch with God. These activities are equivalent to the farmer tilling and preparing the soil. If the farmer doesn’t weed and feed, then the seed doesn’t grow. But, the farmer can’t make the seed grow, or dictate what it will look like; that is the miracle and mystery of life.
3. Turn it On!
Phase one is deconstructive, tearing down the old worldviews. Phase two is reconstructive, building a framework for the Kingdom of God in our heart. These two phases are preparatory phases that are getting us ready for the real deal; phase three is implementation. If Phase two is planting the seed, then phase three is watching it grow and bearing the fruit. If two is building a new house, then phase three is living in it!
The Kingdom of God is not a thing we do or a doctrine we adhere to, it is a living reality in which we engage! God is real and desires to know us and to be known. The Kingdom of God is a dynamic reality that grows and changes like the unfurling of a living plant.
When Josiah finally built the Temple, he was then exposed to the truth of God’s Law. You see, had he not put in the effort to create the space for the correct worship of God, he would have never had the opportunity to be exposed to the deep truths of God.
The Kingdom of God is like an onion, it has layers. As soon as we think we have God figured out and we settle into a comfort zone of following Him, He peels back another layer of the onion and shows us a whole other field that needs to be tilled and another wing that needs to be added to our house, or a room that needs to be remodeled.
Phase three is the exciting, dynamic, ever-progressing, process of being filled with the living presence of God and overflowing God’s Kingdom – His love, light, truth, and grace — into the world around us.
Phase three is the goal of our life on Earth. We want to make the level of reforms that Josiah did in Jerusalem. Yet, we cannot get to phase three without passing through phase one and two first.
Where are you today? Are you stuck in a briar patch of sin and confusion, needing to get out and begin your journey toward the heart of God? Are you just starting the process of replacing the old ways with the new ways of the Spiritual Disciplines? Or, are you experiencing a very fruitful time of overflow right now where God is using your gifts and talents to bring about great things in the lives of the people around you? Or, perhaps, you have experienced a season of overflow, and now God has peeled back a new layer for you and you are in the process of weeding and tilling a new field.
Wherever you are today, rejoice that God has made His Kingdom available to us and has made the processes available to grow in our relationship with Him.