I hear lots of talk about going to the next level in a variety of contexts, such as: exercise, cooking techniques, snowboarding proficiency, work commitments, teenage adventures, etc. It seems to me that when people use this terminology, it’s to emphasize an improvement, increase intensity or make something more extreme.
So what could going to the next level look like with spirituality? Maybe “next level spirituality” first requires an honest assessment of our current level. Who am I now? What are my present comfort zones? What do I naturally gravitate to? It’s hard to go to the next level if we don’t even know what our current level is.
This makes me think about the first time Jesus met Peter, in Luke 5, when Peter was mending his net after a discouraging night of fruitless fishing. While Peter was net mending, Jesus borrowed Peter’s boat & preached to a big crowd. When Jesus finished, He told Peter to put his boat out to catch fish, which Peter did & caught a boatload of fish!! I think Peter recognized a stark contrast between Jesus’ teaching & his own spirituality because of how he replied to Jesus after the miracle catch of fish. Peter said to Jesus, “Away from me, for I’m a sinful man.” And I love that Jesus invited Peter to the next level of spirituality, by answering, “Follow Me & I’ll make you a fisher of men!”
Peter responded to Jesus’ invitation by dropping his net, leaving his boat & following Jesus for almost three years. I’d venture to say that Peter’s spirituality went into hyper-drive, getting to spend 24/7 with Jesus for these years. In Peter’s next level spirituality, he had some incredible experiences like walking on water, distributing miracle provision bread & fish, seeing innumerable healings, along with some resurrections and heaps more. At the same time, Peter’s next level spirituality also included some defeats, such as arguing with Jesus about denying Him, sinking into the water when he was distracted by the winds & waves, falling asleep in Gethsemane when Jesus most needed him, along with cutting of a servants ear when Jesus was arrested.
But I would suggest that the best way we can evaluate our spirituality and go to the next level is seen in Jesus’ conversation with Peter, in John 21, after His resurrection. This conversation happened within a few days of Peter vehemently denying Jesus, Peter failing to keep watch with Jesus in Gethsemane because of being sleepy & after he cut off somebody’s ear. Shortly after these failures, Jesus shows up on the shore of Galiee. When Peter knows it’s Jesus, he throws himself into this sea, so he can swim to Jesus, who is waiting on the shore with a toasty fire, fresh cooked fish and bread, a ready breakfast for hungry fishermen. The subsequent conversation that occurred between Jesus & Peter was all about genuine love. And in my thinking, the highest level of spirituality is rooted in living genuine love. I say this because of Jesus’ words in John 13:35, “People will know that you follow Me by your love for one another.”
Let’s be careful to appreciate that miracles are cool, character is vital, but genuine love is essential for next level spirituality.