Don’t Pray When Tempted?

We all know that prayer is a great tool for spiritual growth and in some ways it is the method and even the goal of the Christian life. But is there ever a time in the Christian life in which prayer is not the go-to tool? In a book on Greek Orthodox spirituality, the author recounted a conversation that was shocked me:

“There is a detail we must keep in mind in reference to the repetition of the Prayer as a method of overcoming the logismoi, [word for spiritually disturbing thought]” Father Maximos said softly as we turned back to where the car was parked. “A person should not resort directly to the Prayer immediately after being assaulted by troublesome logismoi.” “Why not?” I asked puzzled. “I know that what I am about to say may sound paradoxical. But an automatic recourse to the Prayer could have the opposite effects. It may lead a person to extreme psychic turmoil and to a loss of self-mastery. Old Paisios used to tell us that when confronted with a logismos, whoever resorts to repeating the Prayer very rapidly resembles a terrified soldier in the heat of battle. He holds his rifle tight to his chest, paralyzed with fear. To reassure himself that he is not afraid he repeats ’Holy Virgin help me, Holy Virgin help me.’ And he shakes from head to toe, sitting there completely immobilized and unable to fight or even to breathe.” Father Maximos laughed. “That reminds me,” he mused, “of the dentist we had on Mount Athos. The moment he would take a look into our mouths he would sigh, start crossing himself, and begin lamenting. ’Holy Virgin! May you help us. May God place His hand here.’ “Before a person begins to pray, when confronted with a troublesome logismos, a rational mastery over the situation must be developed. Again, if at all possible, the best way is to employ the strategy of complete indifference.1

When I first read this I was taken aback. But then it hit me, Jesus says to pray for God to protect us from temptations when we go to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). But his instruction to his disciples when it comes to sin is to ‘deny yourself.’ Not only so, but St. Peter’s instruction to disciples is to “be sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). Later in the same letter, being sober-minded is connected with resisting Satan’s temptations! Sober-minded, rational mastery over temptation is what we do for our prayers.

It would seem that having rational mastery over your emotions, your deepest desires, and the things which tempt you to sin is precisely the remedy to temptation in the moment. And one of the chief strategies of overcoming self-defeating thoughts is to distract yourself. The same, it seems, applies sinful thoughts in general.

It makes sense. While we should pray for God’s help in all things, asking God to help us overcome a temptation when we’re not trying to remove ourselves from its presence, master its cause in our hearts, or arrange our lives to exclude sin is like praying for good health while eating donuts. It seems doubtful that the Lord would help us to do anything we don’t care to accomplish. Overcoming sin is no different, we cannot simply pray for repentance, we must obey the command to repent.

References

1. Markides, Kyriacos. The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality (p. 139). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Pastors and Power

Richard Baxter saw, hundreds of years ago, the dangers of cozying up to political power. Ministers of the gospel, if they aren’t careful, will not only sacrifice original thought but also Biblical truth in order to avoid being ostracized, mocked, or disagreed with. Social media has made this quite apparent in the current year. For instance, as the pro-life position has become more and more subject to mockery, less and less Christians are publicly affirming it. I can think of two anti-political pastors (Greg Boyd and Josh Porter) who are “anti-political” as an expression of theology. So, they don’t really talk much about opposing abortion (as a matter of principle one should stay out of politics), but both were happy to engage in making fun of Trump and his voters on Twitter. I suspect that these strategies are more to appeal to people of a left-leaning political slant. And in fact, I’ve known many pastors personally who have taken a similar approach to ministry: mocking openly anybody in their churches that the political left finds distasteful.

Sadly, most positions are held by most people as a matter of tribalism rather than as a matter of truth. This state of affairs ought not be, but it is. As an aside, tribalism is a human default. The prime difference between the Christian and non-Christian tribes is that our chieftain (Jesus) commands us to put truth as our top loyalty (he is the Truth). So there’s a sense in which Christians should have the most disagreements (as seeking the truth entails argument) and the most unity (as we applaud the honest search for truth). Anyway, here is Baxter’s prescient commentary on our own time:

I would not have any to be contentious with those that govern them, nor to be disobedient to any of their lawful commands. But it is not the least reproach upon the Ministry, that the most of them for worldly advantage still suit themselves with the party that is most likely to suit their ends. If they look for secular advantages, they suit themselves to the Secular power; if for the air of Ecclesiastical applause, then do they suit themselves to the party of Ecclesiastics that is most in credit. This is not a private, but an epedemical malady. In Constantine’s days, how prevalent were the orthodox! In Constantius’s days, they almost all turned Arians, so that there were very few bishops at all that did not apostatize or betray the truth; even of the same men that had been in the Council of Nice. And when not only Liberius, but great Osius himself fell, who had been the president, or chief in so many orthodox Councils, what better could be expected from weaker men! Were it not for secular advantage, or ecclesiastic faction and applause, how could it come to pass, that Ministers in all the countries in the world, are either all, or almost all, of that religion and way that is in most credit, and most consistent with their worldly interest?Among the Greeks, they are all of the Greek profession: and among the Abassines, the Nestorians, the Maronites, the Jacobites, the Ministers generally go one way. And among the Papists, they are almost all Papists. In Saxony, Sweden, Denmark, &c. almost all Lutherans: in Holland, France, Scotland, almost all Calvinists. It is strange that they should be all in the right in one country, and all in the wrong in another, if carnal advantages and reputation did not sway much: when men fall upon a conscientious search, the variety of intellectual capacities causeth unavoidably a great variety of conceits about some hard and lower things: but let the prince, and the stream of men in credit go one way, and you shall have the generality of ministers too often change their religion with the Prince in this land. Not all, as our Martyrology can witness, but the most. I purposely forbear to mention any latter change. If the Rulers of an University should be corrupt, who have the disposal of preferments, how much might they do with the most of the students, where mere arguments would not take! And the same tractable distemper doth so often follow them into the Ministry, that it occasioneth the enemies to say, that reputation and preferment is our religion, and our reward.[1]

References

[1] Richard Baxter and William Orme, The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter, vol. 14 (London: James Duncan, 1830), 198–199.

Jordan Peterson and the Psychology of Redemption

Psychology of God Belief

In his excellent talk on the psychology of redemption in Christianity, Dr. Jordan Peterson explains how the Christian vision of God creates balance in the people’s minds. It does do by allowing for them to pursue an ideal without treating their own personal interpretations or reductions of that ideal as absolute in themselves. How? Because God is beyond our understanding, except as the highest possible good.

A New Testament Theological Take

What Peterson’s take might mean for the Christian is that our vision of God provides an ideal to pursue. But what idea? Primarily, it is that of the virtue revealed in Jesus and his teachings. Secondly, it is the Old Testament, interpreted through Christ. Finally, the virtue evident through the study of nature. But, since God and even the highest human character possible are ultimately incomprehensible, conversations with truth-telling as the goal must occur so that we can make the course corrections necessary to attain to the ideal. This is why Paul can say that he presses onward toward the goal, but also that he does not think he has attained to the goal of perfect participation in God or in the character of Jesus Christ.

The Jordan Peterson Video:

Here’s my own take on that concept:

Here are some of the relevant passages of Scripture:

Matthew 6:25-34 ESV “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (26) Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (27) And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (28) And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, (29) yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (30) But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (31) Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (32) For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (33) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (34) “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (4) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (7) Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. (9) For we know in part and we prophesy in part, (10) but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. (11) When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (12) For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (13) So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, (2) but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (3) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (4) having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

 

Philippians 3:12-14 ESV 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. (13) Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, (14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Charles Hodge on Sanctification

Below is an excerpt from Charles Hodge‘s systematic theology textbook on sanctification or moral/spiritual growth. He says more on this process in the same chapter, but here he simply talks about the method of sanctification. Here’s my summary of his six points:

  1. The preaching of the gospel and the Holy Spirit lead the individual convert to Christ, who promises to save his people from sin.
  2. Faith leads to union with Christ which essentially has two effects:
    1. You receive Christ’s merits. His crucifixion is your death and his resurrection is your life.
    2. You receive the Holy Spirit who helps you to grow in love for God and neighbor.
  3. God’s Holy Spirit helps you apply your knowledge of the gospel to your own life, thus transforming your character over time.
  4. God gives you daily opportunities to exercise your graces or the character traits of Christ and you are to look for those opportunities and practice those traits as the opportunity arises. Richard Foster once recommended praying each morning, “Lord, give me an opportunity to serve somebody in the name of Jesus today.”
  5. Being a part of the church community gives the faithful access to God’s grace in very tangible ways: God’s people, the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, the preaching of the word, etc are means of grace.
  6. Christians should practice God’s presence as they face the challenges of the day.

Hodge on Sanctification

  1. The Soul is led to exercise Faith
    It is led to exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to receive Him as its Saviour, committing itself to Him to be by his merit and grace delivered from the guilt and power of sin. This is the first step, and secures all the rest, not because of its inherent virtue or efficacy, but because, according to the covenant of grace, or plan of salvation, which God has revealed and which He has pledged Himself to carry out, He becomes bound by his promise to accomplish the full salvation from sin of every one who believes
  2. The Effect of Union with Christ
    The soul by this act of faith becomes united to Christ. We are in Him by faith. The consequences of this union are:
    1. Participation in his merits. His perfect righteousness, agreeably to the stipulations of the covenant of redemption, is imputed to the believer. He is thereby justified. He is introduced into a state of favour or grace, and rejoices in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1–3.) This is, as the Bible teaches, the essential preliminary condition of sanctification. While under the law we are under the curse. While under the curse we are the enemies of God and bring forth fruit unto death. It is only when delivered from the law by the body or death of Christ, and united to Him, that we bring forth fruit unto God. (Romans 6:8; 7:4–6.) Sin, therefore, says the Apostle, shall not reign over us, because we are not under the law. (Romans 6:14.) Deliverance from the law is the necessary condition of deliverance from sin. All the relations of the believer are thus changed. He is translated from the kingdom of darkness and introduced into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Instead of an outcast, a slave under condemnation, he becomes a child of God, assured of his love, of his tenderness, and of his care. He may come to Him with confidence. He is brought under all the influences which in their full effect constitute heaven. He therefore becomes a new creature. He has passed from death to life; from darkness to light, from hell (the kingdom of Satan) to heaven. He sits with Christ in heavenly places. (Eph. 2:6.)
    2. Another consequence of the union with Christ effected by faith, is the indwelling of the Spirit. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us, in order that we might receive the promise of the Holy Ghost. (Gal. 3:13, 14.) It was not consistent with the perfections or purposes of God that the Spirit should be given to dwell with his saving influences in the apostate children of men, until Christ had made a full satisfaction for the sins of the world. But as with God there are no distinctions of time, Christ was slain from the foundation of the world, and his death availed as fully for the salvation of those who lived before, as for that of those who have lived since his coming in the flesh. (Romans 3:25, 26; Heb. 9:15.) The Spirit was given to the people of God from the beginning. But as our Lord says (John 10:10) that He came into the world not only that men might have life, but that they might have it more abundantly, the effusion, or copious communication of the Spirit is always represented as the great characteristic of the Messiah’s advent. (Joel 2:28, 29; Acts 2:16–21; John 7:38, 39.) Our Lord, therefore, in his last discourse to his disciples, said it was expedient for them that He went away, for “if I go not away, the Comforter (the Παράκλητος, the helper) will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.” (John 16:7.) He was to supply the place of Christ as to his visible presence, carry on his work, gather in his people, transform them into the likeness of Christ, and communicate to them all the benefits of his redemption. Where the Spirit is, there Christ is; so that, the Spirit being with us, Christ is with us; and if the Spirit dwells in us, Christ dwells in us. (Romans 8:9–11.) In partaking, therefore, of the Holy Ghost, believers are partakers of the life of Christ. The Spirit was given to Him without measure, and from Him flows down to all his members. This participation of the believer in the life of Christ, so that every believer may say with the Apostle, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20), is prominently presented in the Word of God. (Romans 6:5; Romans 7:4; John 14:19; Col. 3:3, 4.) The two great standing illustrations of this truth are the vine and the human body. The former is presented at length in John 15:1–8; the latter in 1 Corinthians 12:11–27; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:22, 23; 4:15, 16; 5:30; Colossians 1:18; Col. 2:19; and frequently elsewhere. As the life of the vine is diffused through all the branches, sustaining and rendering them fruitful; and as the life of the head is diffused through all the members of the body making it one, and imparting life to all, so the life of Christ is diffused through all the members of his mystical body making them one body in Him; having a common life with their common head. This idea is urged specially in Ephesians 4:15, 16, where it is said that it is from Christ that the whole body fitly joined together, through the spiritual influence granted to every part according to its measure, makes increase in love. It is true that this is spoken of the Church as a whole. But what is said of Christ’s mystical body as a whole is true of all its members severally. He is the prophet, priest, and king of the Church; but He is also the prophet, priest, and king of every believer. Our relation to Him is individual and personal. The Church as a whole is the temple of God; but so is every believer. (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19.) The Church is the bride of Christ, but every believer is the object of that tender, peculiar love expressed in the use of that metaphor. The last verse of Paul Gerhardt’s hymn, “Ein Lammlein geht und tragt die Schuld,” every true Christian may adopt as the expression of his own hopes:—”Wann endlich ich soll treten ein In deines Reiches Freuden, So soll diess Blut mein Purpur seyn, Ich will mich darein kleiden; Es soll seyn meines Hauptes Kron’ In welcher ich will vor den Thron Des hochaten Vaters gehen, Und dir, dem er mich anvertraut, Als eine wohlgeschmückte Braut, An deiner Seiten stehen.”
  3. The Inward Work of the Spirit
    The indwelling, of the Holy Spirit thus secured by union with Christ becomes the source of a new spiritual life, which constantly increases in power until everything uncongenial with it is expelled, and the soul is perfectly transformed into the image of Christ. It is the office of the Spirit to enlighten the mind: or, as Paul expresses it, “to enlighten the eyes of the understanding” (Eph. 1:18), that we may know the things freely given to us of God (1 Cor. 2:12); i.e., the things which God has revealed; or, as they are called in v. 14, “The things of the Spirit of God.” These things, which the natural man cannot know, the Spirit enables the believer “to discern,” i.e., to apprehend in their truth and excellence; and thus to experience their power. The Spirit, we are taught, especially opens the eyes to see the glory of Christ, to see that He is God manifest in the flesh: to discern not only his divine perfections, but his love to us, and his suitableness in all respects as our Saviour, so that those who have not seen Him, yet believing on Him, rejoice in Him with joy unspeakable and full of glory. This apprehension of Christ is transforming; the soul is thereby changed into his image, from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord. It was this inward revelation of Christ by which Paul on his way to Damascus was instantly converted from a blasphemer into a worshipper and self-sacrificing servant of the Lord Jesus. It is not, however, only one object which the opened eye of the believer is able to discern.

    The Spirit enables him to see the glory of God as revealed in his works and in his word; the holiness and spirituality of the law; the exceeding sinfulness of sin; his own guilt, pollution, and helplessness; the length and breadth, the height and depth of the economy of redemption; and the reality, glory, and infinite importance of the things unseen and eternal The soul is thus raised above the world. It lives in a higher sphere. It becomes more and more heavenly in its character and desires. All the great doctrines of the Bible concerning God, Christ, and things spiritual and eternal, are so revealed by this inward teaching of the Spirit, as to be not only rightly discerned, but to exert, in a measure, their proper influence on the heart and life. Thus the prayer of Christ (John 17:17), “Sanctify them through thy truth,” is answered in the experience of his people.

  4. God calls the Graces of his People into Exercise
    The work of sanctification is carried on by God’s giving constant occasion for the exercise of all the graces of the Spirit. Submission, confidence, self-denial, patience, and meekness, as well as faith, hope, and love, are called forth, or put to the test, more or less effectually every day the believer passes on earth. And by this constant exercise he grows in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is, however, principally by calling his people to labour and suffer for the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom, and for the good of their fellow-men, that this salutary discipline is carried on. The best Christians are in general those who not merely from restless activity of natural disposition, but from love to Christ and zeal for his glory, labour most and suffer most in his service.
  5. The Church and Sacraments as means of Grace
    One great end of the establishment of the Church on earth, as the communion of saints, is the edification of the people of God. The intellectual and social life of man is not developed in isolation and solitude. It is only in contact and collision with his fellow-men that his powers are called into exercise and his social virtues are cultivated. Thus also it is by the Churchlife of believers, by their communion in the worship and service of God, and by their mutual good offices and fellowship, that the spiritual life of the soul is developed. Therefore the Apostle says, “Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24, 25.)

    The Spirit renders the ordinances of God, the word, sacraments, and prayer, effectual means of promoting the sanctification of his people, and of securing their ultimate salvation These, however, must be more fully considered in the sequel.

  6. The Kingly Office of Christ
    In this connection, we are not to overlook or undervalue the constant exercise of the kingly office of Christ. He not only reigns over his people, but He subdues them to Himself, rules and defends them, and restrains and conquers all his and their enemies. These enemies are both inward and outward, both seen and unseen; they are the world, the flesh, and the devil. The strength of the believer in contending with these enemies, is not his own. He is strong only in the Lord, and in the power of his might. (Eph. 6:10.) The weapons, both offensive and defensive, are supplied by Him, and the disposition and the skill to use them are his gifts to be sought by praying without ceasing. He is an ever present helper. Whenever the Christian feels his weakness either in resisting temptation or in the discharge of duty, he looks to Christ, and seeks aid from Him. And all who seek find. When we fail, it is either from self-confidence, or from neglecting to call upon our ever present and almighty King, who is always ready to protect and deliver those who put their trust in Him. But there are dangers which we do not apprehend, enemies whom we do not see, and to which we would become an easy prey, were it not for the watchful care of Him who came into the world to destroy the works of the devil, and to bruise Satan under our feet. The Christian runs his race “looking unto Jesus;” the life he lives, he lives by faith in the Son of God; it is by the constant worship of Christ; by the constant exercise of love toward Him; by constant endeavours to do his will; and by constantly looking to Him for the supply of grace and for protection and aid, that he overcomes sin and finally attains the prize of the high-calling of God.

Do we need asceticism?

Asceticism is a maligned concept, but it’s cross culturally universal. At its essence, asceticism is exercising to optimize your life for some goal. Everybody is, in this sense, an ascetic practitioner. The problem is that we may not have chosen the goal toward which we are heading or we may be doing exercises improper to the goal.

For instance, in Fight Club men are being shaped into consumerist nobodies whose souls were as empty as their closets and refrigerators were full, but they keep buying things and accepting advice from unfulfilled individuals (advertisers or women who hate men) for designing their lives. They seek meaning, but use the tools of nihilism to achieve it.

In this sense, many people engage in quite severe exercises toward goals they’ve never chosen! People will work at jobs they hate, miss out on their children’s lives, eat food that hurts them over and over to save time, all the while wishing desperately to not make those choices. But the more ancient sense of asceticism is choosing certain severe practices to escape such deadening life paths to pursue truth, goodness, and beauty.

Margaret Miles observed that if we find ourselves attracted to any of the goals of historic asceticism (virtue, happiness, personal power, spiritual growth, a persistent sense of meaning, etc), then we should “take seriously the claim of the historical authors that ascetic practices are the best means toward them.[1]

What were the goals of ancient asceticism?

  1. The acquisition of happiness and virtue.
  2. Control over one’s desires.
  3. Control over one’s thoughts.
  4. Control over one’s body.
  5. A clear vision of God and a deep compassion for the downtrodden.
  6. Partial escape from the symbolic world provided to us by others.

There were others, but these are the ones that are most appealing to me.

A modern asceticism would have to include:

  1. Fasting
  2. Solitude
  3. Physical exercise
  4. Strict attention to money and how it is used
  5. Escape to nature in some form
  6. Various forms of meditation (on Scripture, introspection, mindfulness to learn to control your thoughts/moods, etc)

 

References

[1] Margaret R Miles, Fullness of Life: Historical Foundations for a New Asceticism (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981).

 

The Brain, the Body, and Christian Spirituality

Spiritual growth happens in the body.

For many of us, the idea that the brain is the locus of the mind seems obvious. But less obvious is the notion that the body is the locus of the brain. But perhaps even less obvious is that the whole body, including the brain, is the mind. Scott Adams writes:

I am sure you have noticed that your mental state is deeply influenced by diet, exercise, sleep, sex, stress, and lots more. And I’m sure you make some effort to do those things the right way when you can. But if you think those actions are influencing only how you feel, and not your actual thoughts, you don’t understand the basic nature of human beings. And this is the key takeaway:

The source of your thoughts is your body, not your brain.
When I am not feeling good, I don’t ask my brain to fix things on its own. I manipulate my environment until my thoughts change. That’s because I see my body as the user interface to my brain. I don’t let my brain think whatever it randomly wants to think. I constrain it to productive thoughts by manipulating my environment.

Similarly, the Bible teaches that the whole of the human body should be conceived of as the locus of spiritual growth:

Romans 6:13-19 ESV Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (14) For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (15) What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (16) Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (17) But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, (18) and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (19) I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

The answer to the question of spiritual growth lies, uncomfortably for many of us, precisely in our conception, treatment, and use of our bodies. Why is this? Because while each of us experiences the self in a somewhat disintegrated fashion, each of us is, indeed, a single person. So there is no spiritual growth without attendance to the body.