My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you (Galatians 4:19).
The phrase “Christ formed in me” has been my goal for decades. Some days I have success, and on other days, I think that I have failed miserably.
Let me give you three descriptives of Christ formed in me (and Christ formed in you) …
- Peace. My fears are recognized when they arise, and I quickly counter with praise and thanksgiving, finding peace again (Philippians 4:4-7).
- Hearing God’s voice. I have a stillness of mind allowing me to hear God’s voice in my devotions and even during stress (Psalm 46:10 and Psalm 37:23).
- I want to please God. My desires change, I want to be in His presence, and I react differently to difficulties as holiness gains traction in my life (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
In my “spiritual formation” journey, I’ve been tempted to quit.
Through the years, when my efforts don’t seem to be working, I’ve thought about why I’m not growing in Christ. Below are three danger areas that I try to avoid …
- Working hard for Jesus. Involving myself in evangelism, church committees, and service projects as “works” leaves me exhausted. My flesh entices me to prove my righteousness.
- Helping the community. Serving our cities is good and helpful, but has little value in changing my inner life. I’ve learned that true spiritual formation starts with a deep conviction in my heart brought by the Spirit’s voice.
- The wrong theology. I believe in grace, and I am saved by grace, but I have never been changed by a grace that focuses on God’s help without my obedience.
If you read my list of “failures,” you will note a back and forth between works and grace – is it God or is it me that causes spiritual formation? Becoming balanced between the two is the key to spiritual formation.
For thousands of years, believers have found joy in Christ. They are formed in the image of Jesus. It is possible!
One of my favorite authors wrote the following quotes on spiritual formation …
All real formation effort is “heart work.” And for good reason, for the heart is the wellspring of all human action. All the devotional masters call us constantly, repeatedly, almost monotonously, toward purity of heart.
The most important, the most real, the most lasting work is accomplished in the depths of our heart. This work is solitary and interior. It cannot be seen or fully understood by any human being, not even ourselves. It is a work known only to God. It is the work of heart purity, of soul conversion, of inward transformation, of life formation.
Christianity is a relationship with God.
When I’m seeking first my relationship with God, Jesus speaks to me. My works then flow from my relationship with Jesus, and I find His power working in me. If I act without hearing God, I’ve reversed the process …
Okay, God, I need to do this. I need you to accomplish these goals.
Instead of works flowing from my relationship with God, too often, I’ve tried to stuff my relationship with God into works.
Instead of “Yes, God, thank you, Father,” it becomes “Help me, God!”
This is the fruit of spiritual formation – our prayers are, “Yes, Amen, and I obey,” rather than, “Rescue me!”