It must be said that, at present, one of the great dangers to authentically Christian spiritual formation comes from sole reliance upon psychological teachings and practices that simply omit the realities of Christian spiritual formation, or else substitute for them processes that do not do justice to life in the Kingdom of God. The transformation of the inner self into Christ-likeness cannot be achieved by anything other than the life of God in the soul, and anything short of this, however good and proper it may be in its place, will not be enough to meet the deepest needs of the human heart or satisfy the mind and the emotions. It will leave life adrift.
The fruit of the Spirit simply is the inner character of Jesus himself that is brought about in us through the process of Christian spiritual formation. It is the outcome of spiritual formation. It is “Christ formed in us.” It is called “fruit” because, like the fruit of trees or vines, it is an outgrowth of what we have become, not the result of a special effort to bear fruit. And we have become “fruitful” in this way because we have received the presence of Christ’s Spirit through the process of spiritual formation, and now that Spirit, interacting with us, fills us with love, joy, peace. . . .
Spiritual formation requires practice and discipline
Solitude and silence, fasting and frugality, study and worship, service and submission—and other practices that serve in the same way (there is no complete list)—are therefore integral parts of any reliable program of spiritual formation. They should be a substantial part of our private lives and of our associations with others in the body of Christ. They do not earn merit, but they do allow us to receive from God what will not be passively bestowed. They are not righteousness but wisdom.
We must stop using the fact that we cannot earn grace (whether for justification or for sanctification) as an excuse for not energetically seeking to receive grace. Having been found by God, we then become seekers of ever-fuller life in him. Grace is opposed to earning, but not to effort. The realities of Christian spiritual formation are that we will not be transformed “into his likeness” by more information, or by infusions, ispirations, or ministrations alone. Though all of these have an important place, they never suffice, and reliance upon them alone explains the now-common failure of committed Christians to rise much above a certain level of decency.
The preparation for all of life’s actions including the spiritual essentially involves bodily behaviors. Watching or vigil, for example, is a bodily behavior. Of course it is not only a bodily behavior, but the point we are in greatest danger of missing in our contemporary culture is that it also is not purely “spiritual” or “mental,” and that whatever is purely mental cannot transform the self.
One of the greatest deceptions in the practice of the Christian religion is the idea that all that really matters is our internal feelings, ideas, beliefs, and intentions. It is this mistake about the psychology of the human being that more than anything else divorces salvation from life, leaving us a headful of vital truths about God and a body unable to fend off sin.
Grace and trust May I just give you this word? Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action.
Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone. Many people don’t know this, and that is one major result of the cutting down of the gospel to a theory of justification, which has happened in our time. I have heard leading evangelical spokespeople say that grace has only to do with guilt. Many people today understand justification as the only essential result of the gospel, and the gospel they preach is—and you will hear this said over and over by the leading presenters of evangelical faith—that your sins can be forgiven. That’s it!
This brief article reminds us that our salvation is not just a “rescue” from an eternity in hell, but more is a growing in our spirits and minds, and hearts to become like Jesus. (and that process will never end). From GraceLifeInternational.com…………….
In the spiritual life, it is actually true that “where there is a will there is a way.” This is true because God is involved and makes his help available to those who seek it. On the other hand, where there is no will (firm intentions based on clear vision) there is no way. People who do not intend to be inwardly transformed, so that obedience to Christ “comes naturally,” will not be transformed.God will not pick us up and throw us into transformed kingdom living, into “holiness,” against our will.
While the initiative in the revival and reformation of the soul originally comes from what lies beyond us, we are never merely passive at any point in the process. This is clear from the biblical imperatives to repent and to believe, and—for the person with new life already in them—to put off the old person and put on the new, to work out the salvation that is given to us, etc., etc. It is certainly true, as Jesus said to his friends, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). But it is equally true for them that “If you do nothing, it will be without me.” In the process of spiritual reformation under grace, passivity does not exclude activity and activity does not exclude passivity.
Hence, the invasion of the personality by life from above does not by itself form the personality in the likeness of Christ. It does not of itself restore the soul into the wholeness intended for it in its creation. It does not alone bring one to the point where “the things I would, that I do, and the things I would not, I do not,” where “sin will have no dominion over you” (Romans 6:14). Rather, I must learn and accept the responsibility of moving with God in transformation of my own personality. Intelligent and steady implementation of plans for change are required if I am to lose the incoherence of the broken soul and take on the easy obedience and fulfillment of the person who lives ever more fully within the Kingdom of God and the friendship of Jesus.
Spirituality and spiritual formation are whole life matters. A “spiritual life” for the human being consists in that range of activities in which, being brought to spiritual birth by God’s initiative through the Word, he or she cooperatively interacts with God and with the spiritual order (“kingdom”) deriving from God’s personality and action. The result is a new overall quality of human existence with corresponding new powers. A person is a “spiritual person” to the degree that his or her life is effectively integrated into and dominated by God’s Kingdom or rule. For the “babe in Christ,” much of their embodied and concretely socialized personality is not under the direction of God, and the reintegration of their whole life under God is not yet achieved.