Last week we defined the term spiritual formation (as we will be using it) in seven words. If you missed that post, you may read it HERE.
At this point, we know:
- Our spirits are being formed, one way or another.
- Everyone experiences this “forming.”
- As Christians, our goal is the transforming of our spirits into Christlikeness.
- Spiritual transformation is God’s work of grace in us.
- The work is not God’s alone. There is work for us to do.
- Progress toward Christlikeness is possible.
Remember our two words from last week, passive and active?
Recall that God changes us through His work and by His grace. Spiritual formation, we said then, is a passive work. There is nothing we can do to earn it. Sadly, this fact paralyzes some Christians into doing absolutely nothing, surmising that spiritual formation is a completely passive work. Their paralysis derives from fear that any effort on their part will indicate they are trying to earn their way.
Let me encourage you to think back to last week. There, we said a hearty YES to spiritual formation being God’s work. However, in looking at Proverbs 4:23, we concluded that this work is not solely passive. It has an element of activity.
When it comes to spiritual formation, there are indeed things we can do to help us on our journey.
Many people refer to these things as spiritual disciplines or spiritual practices. Others, creatively, have come up with other terms such as soul-health exercises or holy habits. But regardless of what you or I or anyone else call them, their purpose is the same. They help lead us to Christlikeness.
Years ago, before we had children, my husband wanted to learn to pilot airplanes. Now, he didn’t just say, I want to be a pilot. Then sit back and do nothing waiting for someone to make him a pilot. Nor did he immediately climb in a plane and taxi off assuming he could fly.
No, he sought out a good teacher who could guide him on his journey. First, there was bookwork – on the ground! Then there were instruments to become familiar with, procedures to master, and emergency protocols to memorize. All the while, my husband was interacting with his instructor and practicing each new skill. As time progressed, Don became more and more like his teacher – more and more like someone who could fly a plane. And wasn’t that the goal?
Don wanted to become a pilot. So, he laid out a path and followed it to become what he wanted to be.
Thus it is with the Christian life and spiritual formation. We, first, need a good teacher.
Have you thought about Jesus as your Teacher? Perhaps you claim His as your Savior and even acknowledge Him as Lord of your Life, but do you see Him as your Teacher? The early disciples did. They wanted to learn from Him. They wanted to be like Him. So, they spent much time with Him – listening and practicing.
Jesus is the best Teacher we could ever have. The One who holds “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). He is completely capable and competent to be our Teacher. Jesus alone is qualified to lead us into Christlikeness. We need to spend much time with Him – listening, interacting, practicing.
THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES
In the near future, we will look at spiritual disciplines in more detail. For now, let’s simply mention them as the things that put us in the position of humbly interacting with our Teacher. They are the tool or the vehicle. Reading the Bible positions us to interact with Jesus. Prayer positions us to interact with Him. Through Solitude and Silence, Simplicity, and all the others, we are put in the position where we can humbly interact with the Supreme Teacher. And it is through these continual interactions that we are transformed into His likeness.