The mission of Journey Church is to turn people into fully devoted followers of Jesus. But what does that mean?
Christian spiritual formation is about taking on the very character of Christ himself so that as the Apostle Paul describes it in Galatians 4:18: “Christ is formed in you”. What does that mean? Paul writes in Colossians 3:12-14: “Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together.”
If we are genuinely seeking to follow Jesus, that calls for a loving renovation of our inner being, a transformation of our heart as we become more and more Christlike. Is that really possible with the struggles we grapple with day after day? Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18: “You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on.”
Being an authentic Christ-follower involves a thorough transformation of the inner life that increasingly embraces spiritual wholeness and holiness focused on the things we cannot see. Human effort is necessary because spiritual formation is not a passive process, but growing in Christlikeness in our inner being is not a merely human attainment. It is, finally, a gift of God’s grace. The resources for it come from the active presence of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of those who place their confidence in Christ, as well as from the spiritual connection believers have with others in the body of Christ, the church (which means that there is no such thing as long-lasting, life-transforming spiritual transformation apart from the church.)
What are the primary elements or activities involved in an effective process of Christian spiritual formation? Most of the activities commonly identified as “religious” can be a part of the process of spiritual formation and should be. Public and private worship, the study of scripture, prayer, giving generously to Godly causes, the experience of loving community, and service to others, all can be important elements in spiritual formation. But they must be thoughtfully and resolutely approached for that purpose, or they will have little or no effect in promoting it.
Other less commonly practiced spiritual activities such as fasting, solitude, silence, simplicity of living, confession, journaling, and spiritual direction can also be parts of spiritual formation. But get this. All activities intended to develop into a fully devoted follower of Christ are to be embraced in the context of an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus himself as our constant Savior and Teacher. There is not one formula for spiritual formation, for it is a dynamic relationship and one that is highly individualized.
So, how would you say you’re doing in the process of deepening in spiritual formation as you daily seek to become more Christlike?