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Why Spiritual Formation is necessary for a believer?

Audrey Tay

 

Introduction

What is ‘Spiritual Formation?’  The word simply means to become like Jesus in terms of character where holiness is the crux of the matter. There are other terms which also depict the same meaning such as ‘Sanctification’ or ‘Christian Spirituality’. Basically in the evangelical circles, they understood it as the doctrine of sanctification.[1] The believer is being made holy as one becomes a disciple to be conformed to the image of Christ.[2] In order to be holy, one has to practise spiritual disciplines such as studying the word of God, choosing to do what pleases God and making time to communicate with the Lord so that one can grow into holiness.  

The word of God tells us that ‘without holiness no one will see the Lord.’[3] It is of utmost importance that one becomes like Christ because God desires to see a people belonging to Him that has the fruit of the Holy Spirit where we will all one day live together forever with Him.  

 

To be restored to the image of God as He has created us to be

To be restored to the image of God is a process or as some called it ‘sanctification process’ or even ‘spiritual formation’ where we grow by being transformed to the character of the Lord Jesus Himself. It has to begin with being born again. As Jesus said, “You must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God.”[4]   In this process when one repents of his sins and realised that he needs Jesus in his life as Lord and Saviour. He starts to grow by worshipping God together with the body of Christ, to grow in-depth of the word of God and to grow through communication with God by prayer. We must desire a deeper life in God then can we be truly transformed in the inward parts of our being – which is the positive inward reality which will then manifest into the outward reality.[5] It starts with recognizing that God loves us with an unconditional love and that brings forth worship from his subjects.  It is in worship that we begin to be changed in our thought pattern as God fills us with His unconditional love that brings healing as we embrace our lives’ pain.[6]

The image of God was marred because of the sin nature in man that was inherited through Adam. First and foremost in God’s mind is to restore us to His image.  Jesus is the door where we can be restored through His work on the cross for us.

 

Discernment of our life in the light of God’s revelation.

“For many are called but few are chosen.”[7]  We can all say we belong to Christ but do we really belong to Him. One can say we know Jesus, but does Jesus knows us. The Scripture speaks of bearing fruits in John 15.  We will miss it all if we think that we are saved just for heaven. John 15 do give us a warning that we need to bear fruits for God’s glory and we are asked to bring forth fruits meet for repentance.[8]   

Many of us come from idolatrous background so we think that Jesus is one of the pantheon gods. In being saved, we bring our false understanding of God into our new found faith. This is where one aspect of spiritual formation is so necessary. We need to grow into knowing the truth and thereby set free from wrong concepts of God.[9]

Jesus wants us to know Him, to love Him and worship Him. Jesus wants us to be like Him. So one has to recognise that if we truly want to understand our existence, we need to go back to the Creator who made us. Otherwise all that we do on earth will have no significance in this life or life after.[10]

We have to recognise we do not belong to ourselves. We actually belong to God whether we like it or not. At the end of the day, all of us have to return to Him who made us. The sooner we recognise this fact, we can then live according to the plan He has for us and His plan is the best.

 

Experiences in life are meant to bring us to become who we are in Christ

Quote from Dr Alex Tang, 14 November 2017 from facebook:

“Your life maybe messy, the pieces do not fit together and the colours do not match. But hey, this is your life and each piece embraces a story. Who you are now are much more than the sum of all your stories. Be grateful. Be yourself. It took a long journey to become you.”

Many of us come from different walks of life with many hang-ups. However these hang-ups make us who we are. We are to overcome all our hang-ups in Christ so that we come forth as a beautiful masterpiece for the Lord when we meet Him face to face. To me personally, God takes our whole journey of life to mould us to be what He made us to be and He takes pride in that. All these experiences are actually bringing us into the spiritual formation where one grows in holiness progressively. We will need to take time to know Him and see everything that happens in our life is under the supervision of God Himself. Unless we become what He made us, we will not be satisfied. He made us with a spiritual vacuum and only He can fill us with His presence which is the ultimate satisfaction.  

We are all in the world yet not of the world. God has called us and set us apart for Himself.[11] Through all the experiences in life whether positive or negative, it was meant to bring us to Him. As we are willing to live under His sovereignty we will move into the person He made us to be. This calls for dying to self where holiness is the result of the process of spiritual formation.[12] I believe that God is pleased when He sees us as duplicates of Jesus character so full of love and compassion like Him. This is the first and foremost God’s desire for everyone who has been redeemed by Him.

The second is while we are in the process of becoming like Christ, we need to recognise that we are also part of the Body of Christ in the church and Body of Christ in the world. Spiritual formation encompasses every part of a disciple’s life from personal life to the life in the society and to the world as a whole.  Spiritual formation also occurs in everyone that live on this earth whether one is a believer or not.  It starts with the birth and ends at death.  Everyone has to go through trials and tribulation for the purpose of changing our character so that we produce good fruits. All the more when we are Christians, we see it as God moulding us to become like Him in character.  This is where we see ourselves being restored to the image of God that we were created but also to be the ‘Christ’ for others which is our mission in the world.[13] 

 

The destiny of every person

The destiny of one’s life is do God’s will. It is God’s mission for each of us. Most of us know the general will that is in accordance to God’s written word. God has entrusted His specific work to each of us according to the talents and abilities bestowed upon us to use them as His channels of blessing and for His glory. Therefore we need to seek God’s specific will for our own selves and this can only happen when we learn to be intimate with God, to grow into a loving relationship with God. To know God’s will is to know God personally.[14]

We need to discern that the experiences we have in our life moves us nearer to God or away from God. If we respond negatively to all negative experiences, we will lose out on what God has planned for us and what He meant us to be in Him. When we know God to a certain degree and have learnt to trust Him, may we then make choices that allow us to live out our true identity in Christ. God looks at our life as a whole and uses these experiences in our life as raw materials to build our character in the light of eternity.[15]

 

Conclusion

Spiritual formation is necessary for a believer because we need to be restored to the position where God made us. This is where the Holy Spirit convict us of our sin and need for Jesus.  Our image in God begins to be restored in the process of spiritual formation with the revelation of who God is to us and our need for the born again experience. This is solely the work of the Blessed Holy Spirit.

A believer has to progress to be a disciple and in so doing, he or she has to be affiliated to a local church and into the faith community of believers in order to grow and learn spiritual disciplines and receive healing for their past pain and hurts. The disciple will learn to love God and worship Him for who He is rightfully. It is a love relationship between God and us.

The disciple of Jesus has to understand that it cost Jesus everything in heaven to save us and we in turn will cost us everything to have Jesus in our life. Experiences on earth is like a school training us for eternity. Some experiences gives us joy but some gives us pain and suffering but be rest assured, when we respond positively to these experiences with the assistance of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we will be changed.[16] Nothing happens for no reason, God is behind the scene even when some experiences are beyond our imagination. Spiritual Formation is never easy but God is still on the throne.  

Therefore, Spiritual Formation is so necessary for us to become Christ-like, a community of people of God and establishing the kingdom of God on earth in order to be a blessing to the world around us.[17] It starts with personal responsibility to God and then to the community and society and lastly to the world at large. We begin to see the big picture of the Kingdom of God on earth. 

As they serve, their inward character is being built up and will manifest in their outward life. They grow into the maturity and likeness of Christ slowly but surely as God desires as man respond to the work of the Holy Spirit within him.  This calls for intentional obedience where the surrender of one’s will to resists the old nature to sin.  In other words, the dying to self. It is a continuous movement of the work of God in our lives where one occasionally move towards God and at times away from God.[18] However, through the movements of God in our lives, we learn to become committed to the cause of God and eventually our lives to God to become His workmanship in Christ.[19]   

 

 

 Bibliography

 

Tang, Alex. Spiritual Formation on the Run. (Singapore: Armour Publishing Pte Ltd, 2009).

Tang, Alex. Till we are fully formed. (Malaysia: Malaysia Bible Seminary, 2014).

Voon, Choon Khing.  Discerning God in our life: The Dance of Two Wills. (Seremban, Malaysia: Seminari Theologi Malaysia & Genesis Books, 2016).  

Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Life. (Grand Rapids: Michigan: Zondervan, 2002).

Porter, Steve L. Sanctification in a new key: Relieving Evangelical Anxieties over Spiritual Formation. (Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care, 2008, Vol 1, No. 2, 129-148).

Mulholland, M. Robert. Spiritual Formation in Christ and Mission with Christ. (Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care 2013, Vol. 6, No.1, 11-17).


 

[1] Steve L. Porter.  Sanctification in a new key: Relieving Evangelical Anxieties over Spiritual Formation. (Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care, 2008, Vol 1. No. 2, 129-130).

[2] Romans 8:29

[3] Hebrews 12:14

[4] John 3:3

[5] Dr. Alex Tang. Spiritual Formation on the Run. (Singapore: Armour Publishing Pte Ltd, 2009)72-73.

[6] Dr Alex Tang. Spiritual Formation on the Run.  82-83.

[7] Matthew 22:14

[8] Matthew 3:8

[9]Voon Choon Khing. Discerning God in our Life: The Dance of Two Wills. ((Seremban, Malaysia: Seminari Theologi Malaysia & Genesis Books, 2016) 23.

[10]Rick Warren. The Purpose Driven Life. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002) 21.

[11] John 17:26

[12] Dr Alex Tang. Till we are fully formed.  (Kuang, Malaysia: Malaysia Bible Seminary, 2004) 54.

[13] M. Robert Mulholland. Spiritual Formation in Christ and Mission with Christ. (Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care 2013, Vol. 6, No.1 , 14)

[14] Dr Voon Choon Khing. Discerning God in our Life.  142.

[15] Dr Voon Choon Khing. Discerning God in our Life.   23.

[16] Dr Alex Tang. Till we are fully formed.  105.

[17] Dr Alex Tang. Till we are fully formed. 117.

[18] Dr Alex Tang. Till we are fully formed. 121.

[19] Ephesians 2:10

 

 

 

|posted 20 Dec 2017|

               

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