What's up with spiritual formation?

Formation Fridays are for you, dear one: explore old and new ways to be beautifully formed into the image of Jesus. Because He calls you Beloved, the One that He loves, the One that he delights in. Growing up as a Baptist pastor's kid, I didn't know what spiritual formation was. I only knew I went to the combined church and Christian school at least eight times a week. I knew that I was required to memorize Bible verses. And I was given the impression that Godly people maintained their godliness through a daily "quiet time."

Specifically, these little workbooks required you to read Scripture, write down what it said, and write down how to apply it. Nothing wrong with that, it can be a valuable exercise. But if we're not careful, these kinds of exercises can become rote, mundane, and lifeless. They can puff us up, leading us into knowledge instead of relationship with a revolutionary, living and acting God.

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"Becoming like Christ," says Dallas Willard, "is about effort but not earning."

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What if it is possible to ask Jesus in prayer "how do you feel about me?" and to wait expectantly for his answer?

What if the Bible transforms into sweet manna for one whose stomach is grumbling, loudly...

And the Lord's Prayer, instead of being perfunctory, becomes the cry of a heart about to burst with assent: "Yes, Yes, Father! May your Kingdom come today on earth as it is in heaven. How can I bring your Kingdom to earth today?"

And get this: what if, whenever you fasted, you realized you were so filled with the Spirit that your stomach was hungry no more?

(The fasting thing would not be me. But before he died this year, 77-year-old professor and ordained minister Dallas Willard shared that after years of walking with Christ, he no longer hungers during a fast. This explains why I fell in love with him, spiritually speaking. Oh, to be filled and content, mind quieted, resting in your Savior with abandon.)

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There are two things God seems bent on etching on my mind regarding the spiritual disciplines:

1. They are get-tos, not have-tos.

2. We follow Jesus into the disciplines. 

But the Bible doesn't speak to spiritual disciplines! some cry. Which is a sad testament to our biblical illiteracy. For good Jews prayed three times a day, and the Jewish carpenter named  Jesus seemed to regularly exceed the quota. "Where is he now??" I imagine Peter asking, exasperated. "Oh, you know," John would reply. "He's probably retreated to some lonely place to pray. Just check out the nearest mountaintop."

You see, Jesus was praying and studying and memorizing and fasting and serving and giving and listening and obeying. This is what he did, and this is what his disciples would have done, too. So ordinary, so necessary, so life-giving, that the spiritual disciplines made up the warp and woof of living the Jesus-way.

What is life? To be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, the one who died for you.

How do you get this life? By effort, but never earning. By following him into his life-giving ways. By pursuing the disciplines, and in so doing, becoming truly free.

Your turn. Describe your experience with spiritual disciplines. What comes easy or hard? How are you being formed into the image of Jesus?