What Is Spiritual Formation

What is Spiritual Formation In this essay the topic of spiritual formation will be addressed. We will attempt to define what it is and its role in our lives. How does one go about pursuing spiritual formation? Meaning, what steps are necessary for this pursuit. Is there an end point or is it a lifelong pursuit? The scriptures will provide us with Biblical examples and other sources will be used as well. Spiritual formation defined There are many definitions for the term spirit. The secular world has its definitions and at times it seems that it has made its way into the Christian realm.

Spiritual formation is defined as the never-ending inner work of the Spirit transforming believers into the perfect image of Christ. What does the bible say concerning the spirit itself? It states that the spirit dwells within all of us. Once one becomes a believer and a follower of Christ we have an ongoing battle within us regarding the old and the new spirit. The apostle Paul illustrates this when he states in Romans 7:14-24: 14For we know that the law is spiritual;? but I am made out of flesh,? sold? into sin’s power.? 15For I do not understand what I am doing,? ecause I do not practice what I want to do,? but I do what I hate. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. 18For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh.? For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. 19For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. 1So I discover this principle:? ? when I want to do good, evil is with me. 22For in my inner self? I joyfully agree with God’s law.? 23But I see a different law in the parts of my body,? ? waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.? 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body? of death? (HCSB) Now that we have our definition and have seen how there is an inner struggle between the spirit and our sinful nature, how one combat that very nature that we are all too familiar with?

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The Pursuit Our text answers a great question which will provide our lead into this portion. The question states “are there any clues to whether or not I am growing spiritually? ” [ (Westerhoff 1994) ] The answer to this question can be found in the same text in which the author Westerhoff points to Gal. 5:22-23 which states “22But the fruit of the Spirit? is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,23gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. (HCSB) All these ingredients combine to make someone a Christlike person, which should be the goal of all Christians. To achieve this, there needs to be a time spent meditating on the word of God and thinking and reflecting what we have learned. This work requires that one focus internally as well as externally if there are things that one doesn’t understand. Meaning that he or she should seek out knowledge for him or herself and search for clarity from those who are there to guide and help explain to us in detail the question that may arise; i. e. astor, elder, and/or deacon, etc. There are many ways of doing this. One of those ways in small groups such as a ladies Bible study, a church men’s fraternity, and discipleship classes, to name a few. Many churches offer some form of “grow classes” and they provide a great road map to help us pursue spiritual formation. We can see a set of instructions regarding what he or she should be doing everyday as part of the pursuit. The instructions can be found in 1Timothy. 4:13-15: “13Until I come,  give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching. 4Do not neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy,  with the laying on of hands  by the council of elders. 15Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all. ” (HCSB) Lifelong Adventure or Temporary Pursuit Joshua 1:8: “8This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night, so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. (HCSB) As this verse suggests we have to keep the word in our hearts all day in order to grow spiritually. What is a lifelong learner of the Bible called and what does it have to do with spiritual growth? The two are actually interwoven together. The term disciple refers to “someone who is a learner of follower who serves as an apprentice under the tutelage of a master” [ (Barna 2001) ] This definition can be illustrated by the relationship that the apostles had with Jesus. Jesus spent three years mentoring and preparing the apostles to carry out what we call the great commission.

Throughout their lifetimes it can be noted how their methods were evolving, none so more apparent than the apostle Paul, who traveled the most but achieved greater success when he trained followers and sent them out in the same way that Jesus did for the eleven. We will never completely understand the word of God because of our fallen state, though the redemption through the blood saves us from the sins of Adam and Eve. There is a silver lining to this and it is found in 2Cor. 8:7: “7Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—excel also in this grace. (HCSB) This passage illustrates that learning will be continuous and as we spend more time learning and reflecting the more we will understand. Conclusion The road to spiritual formation is not an easy one. The Christian will be asked to look within his or herself and take a self assessment. This is not always easy for most and at time the answers that are received is not always pleasant. The scriptures tell us that we must bear certain fruits and follow these steps as a way of tracking our progress towards becoming mature Christians and ultimately ending in being a disciple for him.

This topic has been discussed and will almost certainly continue to have different opinions attached to it. The aim was to give an introduction or a spring board to which one can research further and this seminary student believes that was accomplished here. End Notes [1] Note: unless otherwise stated, the Holman Christian Standard Bible is used throughout [2] Barna, George. Growing True Disciples. Colorado Springs: Water Brook Press, 2001. [3] Westerhoff. Spritiual Life: The Foundation for Preaching and Teaching. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.


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