Spiritual formation. What is it? What does it look like? I am sure most people wonder what we mean at Grand Parkway when we use those words.
When I think about spiritual formation, two quotes come to mind that have tremendously affected my life. One is, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”
- World Vision founder, Bob Pierce
The other quote is,“Sometimes I would like to ask God why he allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.”
“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”
“Because I am afraid he would ask me the same question.”
The questions I have for you would be: Are you becoming more like Christ? Are you being spiritually formed into His likeness? I would hope that this would be the natural process that happens as a result of studying God’s word, spending time with Him in prayer, participating in community, and experiencing the Holy Spirit working in our lives.
When we are doing these things, our hearts and minds begin to see more of what He sees and feel more of what He feels, and our actions become more like the actions of Christ. We begin to value what He values, treasure what He treasures, love who He loves, and feel outrage at what outrages Him.
At times we seem to be so caught up in learning and accumulating knowledge that it is easy to forget that Jesus commanded us to go and do. There is a fine line in how it all works together; but if we are becoming more like Christ, we aren’t just sitting in another Bible study or Worship service with no outward service to people. If we are being spiritually formed, then our lives should reflect Christ. He was in the community with people – talking, loving, ministering, celebrating, crying, discipling, and caring for the Christian and the non-Christian. (Matthew 25:35-36).
I was very fortunate to grow up in a Christian home with parents who were involved and committed to the church. I had a solid foundation and understood the importance of studying God’s Word and growing in my faith. In my early twenties I was called into ministry, attended seminary and began serving at a church. I started out in ministry thinking if we can just get people to read and study the Bible and build fellowship in the church, we would be in great shape. As a church, I thought we were doing a good job with both of these goals.
The longer I served the more I realized that there was more to being a Christian than gaining knowledge. As pastors, we encouraged our church to reach out to other people and serve, and this helped them further their Christian walk. I also began discipling students in small groups and meeting one-on-one with others. These successes made me question if there were other things to help people fully realize God’s plan in putting their faith into action.
When I read the quote, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God,” it caused me to think about all the studying, teaching, and going I had done, and I wondered if I had ever really looked at things as God does. More importantly, did my heart break for the same things God’s does?
Not long after that realization I found myself on a mission trip, sitting on a tin roof in a slum in Nairobi, Kenya, looking out over the poorest, most poverty stricken place I had ever seen. As I sat there I asked God “Why do people have to live like this?” Just a couple of weeks later I read that second quote, and it completely changed my thinking and how I viewed things in God’s Kingdom.
Spiritual formation is an ongoing process for all of us and is so much more than reading and studying Scripture. It is becoming more like Christ – it is being Jesus to the people who see us every day.
I’d like you to consider these questions when you think about your spiritual formation:
• Where am I as a Christian?
• Have I matured in my faith since I started on my spiritual path?
• Do I have a vital and growing relationship with Christ?
• Do people look at me and see someone who lives like Jesus?
Spiritual formation is a lifelong process of having an intimate relationship with Christ that transforms us into the image and likeness of Him. My prayer is that we are all continuing that journey of becoming more like Jesus.