In a spiritual journey, that is real and not merely a virtual experience, one must first establish a relationship with the real and living God. And somehow to avoid getting side-tracked or waylaid by our own ideas, our own virtual - man-made substitutions, or our own - flesh approved - religious idols. We must seek HIM out, and be willing to make the changes that would make relationship with Him possible.
"Behold the Grace and the Severity of God", it is Written. "Grace", in that He meets us always where we really are - once we come to terms with that ourselves (He does not deal in denial). And "Severity" in that His requirements for real relationship are quite specific, and are often seen as severe, strict, and unwavering!
However, if we are emotionally and mentally healthy, which will result in our also having firm but flexible boundaries for relationships, we will find that we operate in much the same way. We will find that we are able to take people at face value, and "judge" - or perhaps "assess" is a better word - them only by their own behavior, and merit, and character, or lack thereof. Because, remember, we are made in His image. And we do "take after Him" or "inherit" His Character Traits - when the proper order of things is restored to us spiritually. That is all that the mystery of what has been termed "The Born Again Experience" entails - that we come into our inheritance and are able to finally reflect His balance, order and character in our daily expression of life. Even "on Earth as it is in Heaven", His will gets done through our loving obedience.
How different that is from the havoc wreaked by religious duty and bondage, which most often represents the "spiritual" arena. We have muddled the whole mess with our religious denial and our intellectual obsessions - but it is really quite simple (though not easy at first - it does get easier once the intellectual and religious battles are silenced). It is simply about a God, who IS Love, wanting a true, deep, loving relationship with the cream of His creation! What is so difficult about that?
It has, of course, been complicated by an enemy of His, who furiously hates both He and His creation! Who has, by right of conquest, been able to infest all of creation with his rebellious foulness. Yet, in His eternal quest for Love, God has provided a place of cleansing for any who will come. As the old Hymn aptly states, "There is a fountain, filled with blood, flows from Emmanuel's veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains!". That fountain is always available for all who have seen the lack, the stains, the perversion - for any who can accept the truth of "where they are", who can face the fact of the "falling away" from His ideal - who want to draw close to Him.
It is open 24/7 to those who are willing to be changed - to "die" to that other "self" - to give up the lower nature - with its unacceptable ideas of righteousness - with its twisted ideas of spirituality - to follow Him to "Jerusalem" - to the cross - to the grave - believing - as He did - in ultimate resurrection of a redeemed soul - and a life lived with God - in His reality!
Our cross looks different. Instead of one consummately grievous experience it is a zillion splinters of inconvenience, irritations, abuses, slights and offenses to be overcome with His gentle help and support. But in the end it accomplishes the same thing - it relieves us of that lower nature and helps us be reunited with the Character of God - which we were born to inherit from Him.
We have taken the natural beauty of nature and turned it into a man-managed Zoo for the entertainment and criticism of onlookers! We have mistakenly accepted, and unwittingly traded, lust for love, control and manipulation for authority, duty for obedience, criticism and gossip for intercession, judgment for discernment and entertainment for worship! And we have created a pseudo-intellectual-sensual-religious monster that has effectively inoculated us against anything real!
When the proper order is simply this. "And you shall LOVE the LORD your God with ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength..." "... and your neighbor as yourself" - Which, when done in a real, vital, accountable to truth, humble way, honestly reflects the inherited character of our loving creator, and will, if given its unhindered way, change the world from darkness to light, from terminal stupidity to eternal wisdom, from love to hate, from weakness to power, from cursed to favored, lost to found, rebellious to obedient - one human at a time. That is our mission if we choose to accept it. Yes. We can. But the question is always the same - will we? As the incomparably eloquent Brother Chambers has put it - have we entered the great compelling purposes of God? Or are we still lost in our own clueless pursuits?