25 Aug In Case You Missed It…
Yesterday in church, pastor John discussed “The Call to Spiritual Formation,” which was a great continuation on his sermon last week titled “Forming Your Spirit.” Using the scripture Matthew 28:18-20, John talked about how Jesus does not call us to be converts to Christianity, but to be disciples of Christ. Jesus calls us to enter into a process in which we become like Him – to spiritual formation. But what is the difference between a simple convert and an actual imitator of Christ? If you think about it, converts never change the world. They have a lot of talk, but not much substance. But imitators of Christ have both the talk and the lifestyle to back it up. Imitators of Christ are powerful people because they show the rest of the world what it can look like to really be a Christian – to live in this world without being of this world. They make a tremendous impact with their lifestyles by simply being who they are.
There is one very big thing that hinders us from becoming the disciples that we desire to be. It’s called the Human Condition. The Human Condition often causes us to spend our lives struggling to be our own master and lord, achieving our own goals and monitoring our own performance. Even after we become Christians, it’s easy to become the focus of our own lives, and we fail to place God at the center. So should we quit aiming for the goal of spiritual formation? No way! If anything, we need to aim with even more intensity, with a completely different mindset about it.
How Do I Allow God to Form My Spirit?
“Christian spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others” – Dr. Robert Mulholland
There are four things to consider here:
- Spiritual Formation is a process. It’s not an instantaneous experience; it’s a lifelong process of growth into the image of Christ. The gradual aspect of spiritual formation moves against the grain of our instant gratification culture. We have been conditioned to expect almost immediate returns on our investments of time, energy and resources. Paul says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” So, we are “saved,” but we are also “being saved.” This process is not limited to just discipleship – it’s what life is all about. Every event of life is an experience of spiritual formation. Every action taken, every response made, every relationship, every thought or emotion allowed is part of spiritual formation into some sort of being. We either allow God to shape us toward wholeness in the image of Christ or we choose toward a horribly deformed image of humanity. The question is not whether or not we undertake spiritual formation, but what type of spiritual formation are we already doing?
- Being Conformed. The very thought of being conformed means that someone other than ourselves is in charge of the forming. This is not a comfortable thought. We are the ones that like to be in control. We are the ones that grasp, shape, and control things around us. We have extreme difficulty in abiding, waiting patiently, trustingly, perseveringly, to be shaped by God, according to God’s agenda. Ultimately, spiritual disciplines are not something we choose for ourselves – this is the problem we have with our individualized, privatized form of religion in our culture. We think that spiritual disciplines are something that we take on. But, in actuality, spiritual disciplines are things that God thrusts upon us. If we are left alone to form our own spirits, we will ultimately choose things that we can handle, things that fit our personality. However, genuine spiritual disciplines intrude into our lives at points where we are in bondage to something that keeps the image of Christ in us deformed. Cod uses difficult and uncomfortable situations to free us from bondages that keep us deformed from His image.
- The Image of Christ. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. It says that we are being transformed into the image of God. Spiritual formation takes place at the points of our unlikeness to the image of Christ. At those points, God confronts us and challenges us to respond to consecration to God there. When we respond, God graciously works to conform us to the image of Christ. Scripture comes into the picture here. This is why it is so important to read the Bible daily. But we must not read it to “master it,” we need to read it in order for it to conquer us. We don’t need to read the Bible for information, but for formation. We need to sit before the text and ask, “God, what are you saying to me?”
- For Others. The fourth part of spiritual formation, and possibly the most difficult, is accepting the fact that it is inseparable from our relationship with others. Our culture, which is all about self, tells us that spirituality is a private matter – that it is simply between us and God, and that others play a very secondary part. But if you read through 1 John, you’ll find that our depth of relationship to God is measured by our relationships with others. Are we, in our relationships with others, becoming increasingly Christ-like? If our spiritual journey is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ, then the journey should bring us to greater and greater Christ-likeness in our life with others.