Christian Life

What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

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This past Sunday we begin a brand new teaching series at Renovation Church through the Book of Acts. For the first message, I had the honor of teaching through Acts 1:1-8. In Acts 1:4-5, Jesus makes a remarkable promise to His disciples: “While he was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. ‘Which,’ he said, ‘you have heard me speak about; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.’

Jesus’ promise that they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” has sparked considerable controversy in the Christian church. Entire denominations have split – and been born – from differing interpretations of this promise. It is clear from the immediate context that the event Jesus has in mind is Pentecost which happens in Acts 2. Nevertheless, it is also an event that continues to happen to people today (which all Christians agree on).

So, what do Christians argue about?

Mainly, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit what happens at conversion when a person calls on Jesus for salvation? Or, is it a “second blessing” that is accompanied by a sign gift (such as speaking in tongues)?

In my experience, it seems that there is a deep divide in the church between those who faithfully teach the Scriptures and those who rely too much on spiritual experiences. Those who focus on accurately expositing the text tend to downplay the experiential role of the Holy Spirit and conclude that many of the miraculous gifts ceased with the close of the apostolic era. Other Christians who emphasize the experiential aspect of the faith often veer from sound doctrine in their attempt to experience the miraculous.

What if both ways are wrong (and right)?

Let me explain.

First, we need to understand what the Bible means by “baptism.” This is the Greek work baptizo and it literally means to immerse. Picture for a moment the example of the Titanic. After striking the iceberg and when the ship was completely submerged under the water it was “baptized” in the literal sense of the word.

Keeping that in mind, when a person becomes a Christian, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul makes it clear in his letter to the church in Corinth (who just happened to over-emphasize spiritual gifts) that no one can call Jesus Lord apart from the work of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). Therefore a person truly is “baptized” or “immersed” in the Holy Spirit at the point of conversion – the evidence is their new faith in Jesus.

Yet, I think Scripture also makes it clear that we should not only seek “second blessings” but third, fourth, fifth, and more! I get this understanding from Paul’s admonition to the believers in Ephesus not to get drunk off wine but instead to be “filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).” In the original language, this verb has the sense of “continue to be filled” with the Holy Spirit. If the word “baptism” means to be immersed, we could paraphrase Paul’s word accurately if we say that his command is that we should continually be baptized – immersed – filled – by the Holy Spirit in order to grow in spiritual maturity.

So, I agree with both the conservative Christians but also with the Pentecostals – but with one major caveat. This teaching becomes divisive because many Pentecostal churches teach that the sign of having the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues; therefore, if you do not speak in tongues you are not a truly “spiritual” Christian. Although I do believe in the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit, a litmus test such as this one breeds self-righteousness and division.

It’s the same exact problem that plagued the church in Corinth. This is what Paul had to say about all of this –

1 Corinthians 12:29-30
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in other tongues? Do all interpret? 

One Pentecostal teacher I listened to made the claim that Paul expects the answer to each of these questions to be “yes.” That’s simply a gross misinterpretation of Scripture. In the wider context of this verse, Paul is making the point that the Church is the Body of Christ and like the human body, we all have different gifts that must be used together for the glory of God. In other words, there is no one person who has all the gifts. You need the Church and the Church needs you.

If it’s not tongues, what is the evidence that a person has been baptized by the Holy Spirit? This is what Paul says – But the fruit (i.e. evidence) of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). The baptism of the Holy Spirit should transform your character to look more like Jesus – only then will you be able to faithfully use spiritual gifts to build up the Church. 

Finally, how do we pursue this baptism of the Holy Spirit? Do we need a special teacher with a so-called “anointing” to lay his hands on us to transfer the Spirit to us like it’s a super power?

No.

We are baptized – immersed – in the Holy Spirit when we faithfully practice spiritual disciplines such as studying Scripture, gathering with your church community, remaining persistent in prayer, and partaking of the sacraments (such as communion). The Father has graciously given us these “means of grace” that we might position ourselves in such a way that we are transformed by the Holy Spirit rather than the spirit of this age.


What have you been taught about the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Do you find this helpful? What are some other questions you still have? Let me know by leaving a comment!

P.S. – If you want to watch the full message from this past Sunday, you can watch it below:

How To Interpret the Book of Acts

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This past Sunday at Renovation Church, we started a new teaching series through the Book of Acts. We will continue preaching verse-by-verse through this fascinating narrative on the early church, take a short break for a Christmas series, and then return to the book in early January.

One of the major things we must comprehend to faithfully read and apply the Book of Acts is the difference between “descriptive” and “prescriptive” when it comes to Biblical narrative. Unfortunately, time did not permit me to explain this concept on Sunday morning so I decided to write a short post to help you understand this in a way that is (hopefully) relevant and less scholarly.

First, let’s talk definitions. A “descriptive” event is, as the name implies, simply a description of something that happened without the intent of setting a new principle or practice. For example, when we see an event such as the early church choosing a new apostle through the casting of lots, it is not advocating that we should always and forever select church leaders by rolling a dice. Instead, the text is simply showing us how it was done in that particular situation.

A “prescriptive” event is a reality or principle that should remain true regardless of the circumstances. An example of a prescriptive event in the Book of Acts is the message found in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.” The “name” being spoken about is the name of Jesus. This is not simply a description of a sermon in the early church; this is the reality of the Gospel. Failure to believe this claim means you are not an orthodox Christian.

Simply stuff right?

Not really.

It gets difficult when we try to teach on the gift of tongues, baptism in the Spirit, leadership roles for women in the church, etc. – These are all topics that good and Bible-believing Christians disagree on – often due to a misunderstanding of “prescriptive” and “descriptive” texts.

Truthfully, there is not a fool-proof way to discern whether a text is descriptive or prescriptive. One helpful thing we must keep in mind when we approach the Biblical text is the genre of the writing. Acts is a history (Yes, I understand it is different than a modern history text) and the primary purpose is to provide the history and story-line of the early church. For this reason, the bulk of the text is going to be descriptive and we must prayerfully discern the principles and underlying realities the Holy Spirit wants us to understand and apply from the text. Many of the Epistles (such as Romans), on the other hand, are prescriptive. There are clear commands to do and not to do certain activities. These moral and doctrinal commands are clearly rooted in the character of God and do not change with the circumstances surrounding them.

I write all of this with the primary purpose of getting you to begin asking these kinds of questions as we study the Book of Acts. I will try to make it clear in my teaching when I am touching on topics that good Christians disagree on and why I take a certain stand on the text. Nevertheless, there is room for loving disagreement. As a church, I want to encourage us to strive for this ancient ideal: “in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.”

I pray and hope each of you are off to a good week. As always, if there is something I can be praying about or if you’d just like to talk, reach out to me. If you do not have my number you can send me an e-mail at tyler@renovationchurchsd.com – Have a great week!

 

How To Survive a Lion Attack

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Tomorrow marks the 8 year anniversary of one of the craziest stories I have read about.

It begins in the small town of Zanesville, Ohio. A retired school teacher named Sam Kopchak left his home to check on a horse he recently purchased. When he saw the horse he noticed something was wrong – the horse was extremely skittish. He probably assumed this was due to the horse’s new home but as he looked out the window he saw an even stranger scene. He spotted a small black bear surrounded by a group of horses in his neighbor’s pasture.

As Sam left the barn to walk back to his home, he spotted a dangerous and terrifying sight – on the other side of the fence there was a full grown African Lion looking back at him.

This was the beginning of the infamous exotic animal escape in Zanesville, Ohio. It began with Terry Thompson, an owner of many exotic animals, releasing his animals to terrorize the Zanesville area before taking his own life. Terry released 18 tigers, 17 lions, 8 bears, 3 cougars, 2 wolves, and 1 baboon.

Imagine for a moment you lived in Zanesville and received a notification that there were hungry lions and tigers on the loose. If it was me, I would quickly make sure my family is inside my home and keep my focus outside so that if I spotted one I could warn others of the danger.

This is the type of mindset Peter is encouraging us to have at the end of 1 Peter. He is writing to Christians experiencing immense and unjust suffering as a result of their faith in Jesus. In order to encourage them to stay strong in the faith, he pens a small but powerful letter. He closes this letter with a lion warning:

1 Peter 5:8-9
Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.

In this passage, Peter shares with us two ways to survive a lion attack. First, we must remain vigilant and second we must learn how to fight.

1. Remain Vigilant
If you have ever watched an animal documentary, there are two things you will notice about the tactics lions use to attack their prey. First, they are most successful when they attack under the cover of darkness. They can quietly sneak up on the prey, pounce on it, and then suffocate it by gripping around its throat with their teeth.

In a similar way, this ancient lion often attacks when we are experiencing the darkness of suffering. He attacks our faith and encourages us to walk away from God when we go through the shattering effects of divorce or the shame-inducing experience of unemployment. When we are walking through the darkness, we must stay close to Jesus and focus on His Word rather than the lies of the enemy.

Second, lions never attack an entire herd of animals all at once. Instead, they pursue the weaker animal that gets separated from the rest. When the animal is separated, it becomes ideal prey for the lion.

Likewise, one of Satan’s tactics in our suffering is to separate us from the people of God by giving us a myriad of excuses why we do not need to be committed to a local church. The moment you disconnect from the local church is the moment you become ideal prey for the enemy to consume. When we experience the darkness of suffering our natural reaction is to isolate ourselves and avoid community – that is the absolute worst thing we can do. The Church is called to be a hospital for sick people; recognizing your sickness is the precise moment you need to run to the church body for help, healing, and encouragement!

2. Learn to Fight
Peter says it this way, “Resist him, firm in the faith…” What does Peter mean when he commands us to resist Satan? Well, if we keep in mind the lion imagery, one of the worst things you can do if you are attacked by a lion is turn your back and run! The natural instinct of all cats (even your house cat) is to pursue people and prey when their back is turned. It’s important that Peter does not tell us to run from Satan or to pretend as if he doesn’t exist. Instead, he says to resist him and remain firm in the apostolic faith.

So… HOW do we resist him?

Roughly 30 years before Peter wrote this letter, we see a battle between two lions in the Scriptures – the Lion of Judah and the Lion of this World (see Matthew 4). Immediately after Jesus’ baptism he is thrust into the wilderness to battle with Satan for a period of 40 days. Each of Satan’s temptations is an encouragement for Jesus to become self-dependent and achieve the glory of the Resurrection without the brutality of the cross. If anyone could stand toe-to-toe with Satan by his own authority, it would have been Jesus.

Nevertheless, do you remember how Jesus responds to each of these temptations?

It. Is. Written.

Jesus resists the Lion of this World by meditating on and quoting the Scriptures (specifically, the book of Deuteronomy). Elsewhere, the Bible is referred to as the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17) by which we fight against the spiritual forces of darkness in this world. The reason so many of us have disconnected from the local church and fallen prey to the enemy is because very few of us study the Scriptures on a daily basis. The only time many American Christians open the Bible is on Sunday morning and the vast majority of the pulpits across our country preach malnourished messages full of life-tips and empty of sound doctrine and real teaching.

Hearing the teaching of the Bible one day a week and expecting it to sustain you is like having one meal the entire week and hoping it will give you enough energy for the other 6 days. It is foolish and will leave you malnourished or dead. Likewise, refusing to study the Scriptures on a regular basis will leave you spiritually malnourished and ideal prey for the enemy of your soul.

You have an enemy who is hunting you.

He hides under the cover of suffering and seeks to separate you from God’s people. Learn to fight against Him by being so consumed with Scripture and the message of the Gospel that it flows out of you in your marriage, your parenting, your friendships, your workplace, and your community. It is time to reject the Americanized version of Christianity where we sit and listen for one hour a week. Instead, let’s pursue the radical discipleship that is evident throughout all of the New Testament.

It is through the words of God (the Bible) that we encounter the Word of God (Jesus). It is through the Word of God (Jesus) that we experience the work of God (salvation and sanctification). 

My Schedule for a Day Long Retreat

Chair on Dock at Alice Lake in Late Afternoon

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to lead my first ever spiritual retreat. Many retreats and conferences consist of sitting in a large room with other people and listening to spiritual or business leaders give presentation after presentation; to be honest, it can be exhausting.

Instead, I decided to pattern the retreat from Mary’s posture when she sat at the feet of Jesus and simply listened to His teaching (Luke 10:38-42). Our day was structured around connecting with God through Scripture, silence, prayer, and nature. As one of the people who joined me said, “God whispers through nature, talks through His Word, and shouts in our circumstances.”

Below is the schedule and information I created for those who joined me on the retreat. I pray you find it helpful and possibly encourages you to embark on your own retreat so that you can practice the discipline of solitude and silence to hear God’s voice more clearly.


MEETING LOCATION:

As soon as you enter into the State Park, directly in front of the entrance, you will see a picnic shelter and various tables. This will be our designation meeting location. Please be there by 8am.

RETREAT SCHEDULE:
(8am – 5pm)

 8am:
– Meet at Palisades State Park
– Welcome
– Short Teaching
– Morning Prayer

9am:
– Meditation Walk/Hike
One of the “spiritual disciplines” we can practice to connect with God is to slow down and be truly present to what is around you. Go on a walk or hike around the state park with no agenda. Listen to the sounds of nature and pay careful attention to the trees, flowers, grass, and insects that you see. What does the created world teach you about the Creator? Write down a few observations in your journal.

10am:
– Centering Prayer & Meditation on Scripture
Find a place to sit down at the park – it could be on a bench, a picnic table, or even on the ground. Focus on your breathing and seek to be still in the presence of God. As you do this, meditate on 1 Kings 19:1-13. In this passage, Elijah has reached a place of exhaustion and fear – seeking to die. God reveals Himself to Elijah but only through the still small voice of a whisper. What other details do you notice about this passage? What is the significance of God speaking through a whisper?

Notice the question God asks Elijah – what are you doing here? Take a moment and write out the reason you are on this spiritual retreat. Are you exhausted? Anxious? Fearful? Why? What circumstances in your life have led you to this point? How might God be inviting you to find rest in Him during this retreat? Journal your answers.

11am:

– Spiritual Reading
Spend some time reading the book you received at the beginning of the retreat – Habits of Grace. What stands out to you from the reading? How might God be using this book to speak into your specific situation of life? What about the “spiritual disciplines” is new to you? What is a good reminder for you? Journal your observations (or continued questions) about spiritual disciplines.

12pm:
– Silence Lunch
Return to our meeting place with your lunch. We will sit down & have lunch together but we will practice a “silent lunch.” This is a monastic discipline of eating in community while seeking to be aware of nature together. During your lunch, pay attention to what is around you and how God is seeking to get your attention through nature and the meal. As you eat your food, reflect on Jesus’ death & resurrection. As the food is crunched in your mouth and as you consume your drink, remember that Jesus’ body was broken for your sin and his blood poured out for you. Receive the afternoon meal as a gift from Him.

– Afternoon Prayer
After lunch, we will slowly read a few Psalms together and pray for one another as we enter into the afternoon time.

1pm:
– Meditation on Scripture
The best way to grow in the Christian life is to read Scripture slowly, prayerfully, and out loud. Find a place in the park where you can sit down and read the Bible out loud to yourself. For this time of meditation, read through the famous “Sermon on the Mount” preached by Jesus as found in Matthew 5 – 7. What themes stick out to you? How is the Holy Spirit speaking to you through this sermon by Jesus? In what ways does this message challenge you to live differently? Journal your reflections and observations on the Sermon on the Mount.

2pm:

– Rest in God’s Presence
We have arrive at the afternoon hour of rest. Around 2pm, we often become tired and lethargic. Rather than fighting against this, spend some time “resting” your body, soul, and mind in whatever way you prefer. You can continue to read Scripture, you can read another book, you can go on a walk or a hike, you can even find a place to lay down and take a short nap in God’s presence. In order to begin your time of rest, read aloud Matthew 11:28-30 and receive Jesus’ invitation to rest in Him.

3pm:
– Reflection on the Retreat
For this final hour in solitude, reflect on the retreat today. What parts of the retreat were especially life-giving and joyful to you? What parts of the retreat were difficult? Was solitude and silence easy for you? Or was it extremely difficult?

– Three Take-Aways
Pray through Psalm 139. After praying and reflecting on this Psalm, ask the Holy Spirit to give you at least three “take a-ways” from this retreat. How is God asking you to apply ideas, themes, or principles you learned to your every day life? How can you make this type of retreat a regular occurrence in your life? How is God inviting you to sit at his feet and listen to his voice this upcoming week?

4pm:

– Meet for Sharing
We will return to our meeting place and share with one another some of the insights God has given us during this retreat. Specifically, we will share our “take-aways” we journaled about in the previous hour. How can we support, encourage, and pray for one another before we leave?

– Closing Prayer
We will close our time by reading and reflecting on Scripture together. Finally, we will pray for one another and be dismissed.

Should You Avoid Toxic People?

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I told the people of Renovation Church last Sunday that I sometimes have the spiritual gift of being offensive so… here we go.

Let’s tackle a controversial question: should you avoid toxic people? According to the many posts shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – toxic people are to be avoided at all costs. You should not befriend them, speak to them, or give them any amount of space in your life. If you do so, you will end up miserable, angry, and exhausted.

I guess it’s a good thing Jesus didn’t do that – you would be in Hell.

The word toxic literally means, “a poisonous substance.” Therefore, a “toxic person” can be defined as a poisonous, or death-giving, human being. A toxic person is one who commits great sins without concern or care for those hurt by their terrible actions. It is the person who freely betrays your confidence; the one who joyfully gossips and tears you down behind your back.

According to a recent blog post I read, you should avoid these eight kinds of toxic people:

1. Those who spread negativity.
2. Those who criticize you all the time.
3. Those who waste your time.
4. Those who are jealous.
5. Those who play the victim.
6. Those who don’t care.
7. Those who are self-centered.
8. Those who keep disappointing you.

Friend, here’s the problem with this philosophy. If you take it seriously, you should avoid yourself.

You are toxic.
You spread negativity.
You criticize.
You waste people’s time.
You become overly jealous.
You play the victim.
You don’t care.
You are self-centered.
You keep disappointing others.

So do I.

Our human nature tempts us to label people with a term such as toxic so that we do not feel guilty for treating people made in the image of God as being less than human. Instead, we view them as sub-human; a strange “toxic” kind of person to be avoided at all costs.

Hurt people hurt people.

According to Scripture, you are unrighteous, ignorant, evil, worthless, deceptive, cursing, poisonous, violent, wretched, and rebellious apart from Christ (see Romans 3:10-18)

Thank God, Jesus came for unrighteous, ignorant, worthless, evil, cursing, violent, and toxic people like us. There was a time in Jesus’ ministry when he was slandered for spending time with so-called toxic & sinful people. Jesus’ response is one we must keep in mind when we are hurt by the so-called toxic people in our own lives – “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick… (Mark 2:17)”

So, should we avoid “toxic people”?

Only if you figured out a way to avoid yourself. The message of the Gospel calls us to befriend broken and toxic people that we might be a means God uses to bring healing through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But won’t befriending toxic people leave us bitter and pessimistic?

Yes, if you seek to do so through your own power and look to broken relationships to do what only God can do – provide the deep healing, energy, and strength needed for the ministry of the Gospel. If your joy is dependent on the human relationships in your life, no amount of “positive” people will bring healing to your soul. The only One who can provide lasting strength, peace, and wholeness is the Living God through Jesus Christ.

We pursue toxic people because we are toxic people who have found forgiveness, grace, and healing at the cross of Jesus Christ – the only non-toxic person to ever live.

Got Milk?

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This past Sunday at Renovation Church, I had the honor of teaching through an ancient letter written by a church leader named Peter. Specifically, we studied 1 Peter 1:22-2:3 and discovered together the power of God’s Word.

At the end of this passage, in 1 Peter 2:2-3, Peter instructs us to crave God’s Word in the same way a newborn baby desires milk:

1 Peter 2:2-3
Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good. 

As many of you begin a new work week on this Monday (or have today off due to it being Memorial Day), I want to remind you of how this passage applies to our lives today. The first thing we need to consider is exactly HOW newborn infants desire milk. If you have ever had a newborn in your home, you know that when a baby is hungry, that baby will let you know. When Ava was a baby, I was in awe at how such little lungs could produce such ear-shattering cries!

The other thing we know about newborns is that, on average, newborns eat 7 – 12 times a day. Keeping this picture in mind (and relating it to the Scriptures), I find it fascinating that the Psalmist proclaims, “I praise you seven times a day for your righteous judgments (Psalm 119:164).” 

The truth is, very few of us spend time with God by meditating on the Bible even once a day – let alone 7 times a day. The vast majority of Christians in our churches are malnourished; seeking to survive off of one meal a week from their pastor. Peter makes it plain – If you want to grow in your Christian faith, it begins by learning to meditate on, love, and prayerfully read the Scriptures on a daily basis.

The second observation I want to point out for you is his emphasis on the purity of this word (desire the PURE milk of the word). Purity means it is undiluted by the things of this world. In far too many churches, the Scriptures have become diluted by the pastor’s attempt at creativity or church growth. Most sermons in outward-focused and contemporary churches (similar to Renovation Church) hold to a high view of Scripture in their statement of faith but the weekly sermons paint a drastically different picture.

Many pastors do not teach the Bible.

Instead, they come up with 3 – 5 different points they want to convey to the audience THEN go to the Bible to try to find proof texts to defend these points. In other words, the Biblical text is not the main point of the message; the pastor’s creative ideas are and the biblical text simply serves as a springboard for the pastor’s agenda/vision. This type of preaching may grow a large church but it will not produce disciples – it only creates spiritual consumers. It leaves the members of the church malnourished and untrained in the deep things of God.

As you begin this week, here are a few questions to wrestle with:

1. What are some ways you can make studying the Bible a daily discipline so that you will continue to grow in your faith? What are some activities you need to cut out of your schedule so you have time to simply BE with God?

2. As you gather with your church on Sundays, ask yourself the question, “Is the pastor using the Bible as a springboard for his/her ideas or is the pastor faithfully teaching the Scripture in it’s original context?” If you find that the majority of the messages are not faithful expositions of Scripture, approach your pastor from a attitude of genuine humility and love, seeking to hear what he/she has to say.


I hope all of you have a great week. As usual, if you are facing a particular challenge or simply want someone to talk to, I would love to connect with you. You can send me an e-mail at tyler@renovationchurchsd.com 

 

From Affluence to Monasticism – The Story of St. Benedict

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In my previous post, I briefly outlined the project I will be working on for my Doctor of Ministry at Sioux Falls Seminary. This project is rooted in a deep and practical study of an ancient rule known as “The Rule of St. Benedict.” In this post, I will provide a little more information on the author behind this ancient monastic rule. 


Monasticism become a popular movement around the time that Constantine declared Christianity to be the favored (and then legal) religion of Rome in the 4th century. The Church went from being a persecuted minority, depending on one another and the Holy Spirit for community life, to a powerful majority as a state religion. As a result of this change, the faith slowly become corrupt. Church leaders began making extravagant amounts of money and yielding extraordinary power over those in their charge. It became the opposite of how Jesus taught his followers to exercise leadership:

Matthew 20:25-28
25 Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Many Christians were deeply pessimistic about the corrupt nature of the church. In order to live out the radical elements of the Christian faith, many retreated to the desert to be alone with God, study God’s Word, and commit to intercessory prayer on behalf of the Church.

It was in this climate (during the 6th century) that Benedict was born into an affluent family in Rome. From the little we know, Benedict lived a charmed life and had all the comforts of luxury. As he got older and was studying in the great city of Rome, he became disillusioned with his wealth and the state of the church. It was during this time of seeking that he felt drawn to monasticism.

Benedict retreated into the desert and pursued the life of a hermit. A hermit was a monk who lived on his own in an effort to seek God through prayer, Scripture study, and manual labor. Benedict’s fame began to grow and a large multitude of people were regularly visiting him to receive his counsel and insight into the spiritual life. Eventually, other men decided to apprentice themselves to Benedict and become his fellow monks. Benedict’s first foray into forming a monastery ended up as a failure; his disciplines were too strict and demanding for those who sought to follow him.

Eventually, Benedict formed another monastery at Monte Cassino around 529 (about 80 miles southeast of Rome). It was from within this monastery that Benedict developed what has come to be known as “The Rule of St. Benedict.” It was written with the purpose of applying the Gospel to the everyday lives of those in his monastic community. Nevertheless, since it was a faithful exposition of the Scriptures for community life, it became the standard monastic rule of the Western church. The fact that there are Benedictine communities all over the world, 1,500 years after the writing of the Rule, demonstrates the power of this ancient rule for our lives today.


In my next post, I will briefly outline the Rule of St. Benedict and explain how you can study it for yourself to experience the benefits of this ancient document.