At times Christians seem more interested in salvation for the afterlife than in salvation to abundant life in Christ now (John 10:10). We tend to focus on justification more than sanctification. We seem to miss the fact that we are to be disciples. This lack is what Christian spiritual formation attempts to address.
Theologian/Philosopher Dallas Willard said, “What I call ‘the great omission from the great commission’ is the fact that Christians generally don’t have a plan for teaching people to do everything that he commanded. We don’t as a rule even have a plan for learning this ourselves. . . . And that explains the yawning abyss today between being Christian and being a disciple. We have a form of religion that has accepted non-obedience to Christ. . . .“
The intent of Christian spiritual formation is to facilitate the Holy Spirit’s inward transformation of our hearts, which is reflected through our outward behaviors. In essence, we cooperate with God’s work by obeying His commands. The acts of Christian spiritual formation are meant to draw us closer to God. They are methods we use to “put off [the] old” and prepare our hearts for God to “put on the new” (Ephesians 4:20-24). As we make efforts to obey the directives God has given us, we begin to know Him more. God’s commands are for our good, and they reflect His character. Thus, when we follow them, we know God more fully and we find more satisfaction in life.
WHAT IS SPIRITUAL FORMATION?
Christian spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ for the glory of God and for the sake of others (II Corinthians 3:17-18).
The focus of spiritual formation is God the Holy Spirit, who guides the ongoing journey.
The response is submission. The formation is an organic, life-long, and holistic process involving right thinking (orthodoxy), right behaviors (orthopraxy), and right feelings (orthopathy) of individuals and communities.
- Spiritual direction is a relationship between a person seeking a more Christ-like life and another who serves as a guide to the process. The guide is trained as a spiritual director.
- Spiritual formation focuses on the ordinary maturing of one’s relationship with God.
Christian spiritual formation or as others call spiritual transformation is not New Age-ism or works-based salvation. Christian spiritual formation is essentially the process of sanctification. God does the work, but we must also be disciplined to obey Him. He does the transformation, and we exert our effort to become more like Him. As the Holy Spirit renews us (2 Corinthians 4:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17), we work to allow Him freedom in our lives and to obey the commands we have received. He creates the new life, and we intentionally live it (Colossians 3:1-10).