Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Spiritual Formation Institute
Renovation of the Soul
Dr Alex Tang
Recently we have to do some massive renovation to my father’s garden. My
father’s house is built on hill slope. After about 10 years, we discovered that
the soil in his garden was beginning to shift down the slope. The contractor
took a look and shook his head. There was a gleam in his eyes which may mean
that he is thinking about buying a brand new Mercedes! He told us that the soil
shifting is due to an inadequate barrier below the house.
What he suggested was that we dig a deep trench around the outer perimeter of
the garden. Then he was going sink about a few hundred tree trunks (about 8 feet
long each) vertically into the trench. Next he would tie these wooden stakes
together with iron bars. Finally he will pour concrete into the trench to fix
the whole structure. That should hold the garden in place, he declared. I am
sure it will hold the garden in place. It sounds like I am building a fortress.
We would not have been aware that the soil in the garden has shifted if not for
a one inch gap appearing at the base of the perimeter wall of the garden. It may
be the same for our spiritual life. We come to church regularly to worship and
think everything is going well. We think the hymn “It is well with my soul” is
describing our spiritual lives.
We may have been Christians for so many years that we have become too
comfortable in church. We may not be aware of an inner shift in the soil of our
inner spiritual life away from God. Maybe we have been praying less and do not
attend prayer meetings anymore. We find less and less time to read the Bible.
Where once there was an urgency to share about Jesus with our non-Christian
friends, there is none now. We find ourselves putting less and less into the
It may even have been years since we regularly examine our lives to see whether
we are living a life glorifying to God. We share less and less with each other
about what God is doing in our lives. Our emotions are more often full of anger
than of gratitude. Anger is a sign that we are not content with what we have. If
that is so, we may need to do some renovation in the garden of our souls.
A. Schaeffer writing in True Spirituality (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House
Publishers, 1983) offers some insights,
“The true Christian life, true spirituality, does not mean just that we have
been born again. It must begin there, but it means more than that. It does not
mean only that we are going to be in heaven. It does mean that, but it means
much more than that. The true Christian life, true spirituality in the present
life, means more than being justified and knowing that I am going to heaven.
It is not just a desire to get rid of taboos in order to live an easier and
looser life. Our desire must be for a deeper life. And when I begin to think of
this, the Bible presents to me, the whole of the Ten Commandments and the whole
of the Law of Love.
True spirituality, the true Christian life, is not just outward, but it is
inward- it is not to covet against God and men.
But it is even more than this: it is positive; positive inward reality, and then
positive in outward results. The inward thing is to be positive and not just
negative; and then sweeping out of the inward positive reality, there is to be a
positive manifestation externally. It is not just that we are dead to certain
things, but we are to love God, we are to be alive to him, in this present
moment of history. And we are to love men, to be alive to men as men, and to be
in communication on a true personal level with men, in this present moment of
history” (p.16, 17)
Renovation of garden of our soul starts inwards. We need to shore up the
foundations of our lives with the Word of God, the love of God and the
empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Our spiritual lives must be in continual
movement; vertically in a relationship with God and horizontally in
relationships with other people. It must be happening now and always. As
Schaeffer said, “in this present moment of history”.
This continuing process of interacting with God and with men as we deepen our
inner spiritual life is known as spiritual formation. Dallas Willard explained
it better in his book, Renovation of the Heart (Colorado Springs:
formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of
forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes the
inner being of Christ himself…The result is that the ‘outer’ life of the
individual increasingly becomes a natural expression of the inner reality of
Jesus and his teachings. Doing what he said and did increasingly becomes part of
who we are” (p.22, 159)
If our spiritual life is continually being involved in the process of spiritual
formation, then we need not fear that we will slip and fall. Our inner life
becomes the life of Christ himself! There is no more solid foundation than Jesus
Christ. It is worrying to hear that only 3 out of 10 Christians finished well.
This is a good reminder for us not to be complacent but to be continual
intentionally involved in the spiritual formation of our souls.
Soli Deo Gloria
|posted 19 October 2006|