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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

Theospection

Easter 2014--Theospection

I love the Easter season! Partly this is because I am fond of chocolate, the autumnal weather, and hot-cross buns.[1] But even more than that, I love Easter because I enjoy and benefit from the spiritual focus of this time.

The Easter season, and Holy Week in particular, is a wonderful time to reflect. Traditionally, the weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter are known as Lent. “Lent is a time of preparation—a season of prayer, fasting and repentance.”[2] Lent is also a time of reflection—with the hope that, after Easter Sunday, we would have experienced spiritual renewal. Many of us might engage in certain Lenten habits, or specific daily readings, which help prepare our hearts for Easter.

Engaging in focused times of prayer, fasting, reading, or reflection can be very helpful—for both counselors and counselees. Both counselors and counselees are often seeking immediate, concrete, practical life-change—and so we would do well to intentionally slow down and engage in a period of reflective preparation. However, there’s one very subtle danger involved in any time of reflection in which we are seeking renewal, and it’s this: renewal is not the result of introspection but theospection.

Introspection vs. Theospection

Theospection is a word I’ve made up to contrast with introspection. Introspection is self-focused over-reflection; endless self-analysis; limitless probing into inner recesses of your heart. Introspection is a subtle danger during any time of reflection—Lent included (and all counseling sessions included).

It is particularly subtle because, especially in the counseling endeavor, self-awareness is very important. Self-awareness enables us to answer vital questions, such as: what is driving my thoughts and behavior? What do I most value? When am I angry, sad, fearful, etc.? Growing in self-knowledge is helpful as we pursue renewal, but over-analysis is unhelpful (as it often promotes excessive self-focus). Simply put, introspection does not lead to personal spiritual renewal.

Rather, we experience renewal when we see God. In theospection, we gaze at God – and as a result are changed, renewed, refreshed. Let’s take a look at two passages where we see this play out.

Theospection: Seeing God’s Glory by Hearing God’s Word

In Exodus 33:18, we find Moses addressing God and making an audacious request: “Please show me your glory.” In the context, God has (again) demonstrated remarkable grace to sinful Israel, and Moses longed to see this remarkable God. Moses was seeking theospection.

So the Holy-and-Gracious God put some measures in place to protect Moses, putting Moses in the cleft of a rock and allowing him to see only His back (cf. Exodus 33:21-23). But what’s fascinating is what comes next: Moses sees God’s Glory by hearing God’s Word.

“The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.””

These words reveal the perfections of God’s character; these words reveal who He is, and who He always will be. When Moses heard these words, he saw God’s character. And what was the result of this theospection? Exodus 34:8, “Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.” Theospection led to personal renewal and invigorated worship for Moses – what other response is appropriate? Seeing God renewed Moses. Moses saw God’s glory by hearing God’s Word.

Theospection: Contemplation Leads to Transformation

Many years later, with some of these Exodus ideas in mind, the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). John Piper explains this verse memorably when he says that beholding is becoming. As we behold God, as we contemplate who He is—especially who He is in Jesus Christ—we become godlier. Seeing God, beholding His glory by His Spirit, through His Word, transforms us. Contemplating God, gazing at Him through His Word, transforms us. Renewal comes through theospection by the Spirit.

So to summarize: I see God, in my heart, by His Spirit, through His Word, and am transformed. As I worship God, by His Spirit, through dwelling on His truth, I am renewed. Transformation and renewal occur as I move from introspection to theospection.

Seeing God, by His Spirit, through His Word, Will Lead to Renewal

This Easter, I hope you experience spiritual renewal. Whether you are a counselor, a counselee, or just reading this blog for the first time, my prayer for all who read this is that you would be encouraged to pursue theospection. My hope is that you will experience renewal as you worship Him. Wonderfully, we can be confident in our expectation of such renewal. We will be transformed, by God’s Spirit, as we see God through His Word. Theospection leads to renewal. May you experience that this Easter as you gaze at God through His Word.

Join the Conversation

How could “theospection”—gazing at God through His Word—impact you this Easter season?



[1]Although I realize that if you live in the Northern hemisphere, then Easter occurs over your Spring! But are you still able to get access to hot-cross buns?

[2]Rebecca Van Noord and Jessi Strong, eds., 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

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  • Melinda

    I’ve been meditating on Isaiah 58 for the past few days as I’ve been lying in a hospital bed, being “rerouted” by the good hand of the Lord. It seems the fasting that the Lord hates is fasting that elevates self (even though we may be saying we are seeking to know the mind of Christ, we may say we are wanting what He wants). Self glory is hideous to God – whatever form it takes.

    But God clearly states what kind of fast He delights in in verses 5-7 – a fast of humbling our hearts before our Almighty God, and letting the Word of Christ that should be dwelling in us richly pour forth in loving service towards the people around us – not motivated by self-glory, but by God’s glory. We are a people who love self and self-glory, and we are so careful in our church circles to not let that self-glory look like self-glory. We are careful to not “smoke or chew or go with those who do”; we are careful to be squeaky clean in our reputations; we are careful to use terminology, at least at church, that says, “I want to seek God; I want to know what He wants”. Yet, the Lord says that if all that “fasting” is not motivated by love for God and people, and does not lead to lives lived in humble, obedient service and love towards our fellow man, out of love for God, then He will not hear us.

    We should be a people who desire the presence of the Lord in our lives more than anything else; we should want to be that “glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” as the “cracked pots” that God makes us in this life, so that all the glory from our lives goes to God and not to us. Then we are able to be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and cast down (2 Cor. 4:4-10) (and I might add “set aside”, “rerouted”, and “rebuffed”, to this list) as we carry around with us the dying of Jesus (the only power or ability we have to live a life pleasing to God is because of Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf) so that the LIFE of Jesus will be evident in us. That’s the great exchange that took place as a result of Jesus death and resurrection – He took our death, so we can have His life!

    That is the fasting the Lord takes sweet pleasure in – when we, by His grace and enabling, say “Yes!” to His redirections (Tit. 2:11-14), when we serve others not out of obligation or to earn “brownie points” with God or man, but because we love God and we love people. Then the Lord promises us in Isaiah 58:8-9: “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’” “Here I am!” What sweet words to those who are fasting from self, who are wanting to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” It makes every redirection, every failed goal, every thwarted attempt to carry out our own plans, worth it. What a gracious, merciful, powerful God we serve, who gives us everything we need in Christ to obey Him to the fullest, yet turns around and blesses us when we make even the feeblest attempt to deny self, take up our cross, and follow Him.

    Fasting from self is the fast that God delights in. Are we willing to do that? Are we willing to say, “Yes! Yes!” when the Lord reroutes us? He promises rich rewards when we are.

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