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Spiritual Formation – What Does It Really Mean?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30).  The Bible tells us that the human person is not just a physical mass of atoms joined together. Neither is the human person a soul that is stuck within a physical cage. We are whole beings – body-soul. To be formed as a Christian thus means a discipleship where transformation is from the inside-out.

What then is spiritual formation? It is fundamentally an effort to grow in maturity as a Christian so that the Christian becomes increasingly like Christ. If Christian maturity is a coin, spiritual formation is one side of the coin, and Christian education is the other side. While both have the same goal, spiritual formation tends to emphasize the affectional aspect of discipleship, whereas Christian education tends to lean toward the intellectual aspect. Both are equally necessary and good. We cannot properly love who we don’t know, and we cannot properly know who we don’t love.

Where does spiritual formation lead to? We may say it leads to a close fellowship and walk with God and other Christians so that we are faithful ambassadors of the Kingdom of God in this world. We work towards this by having our loves re-ordered so that we love as God loves. This involves understanding ourselves, and bringing ourselves into a true encounter with God.

What is involved in spiritual formation? Traditionally, spiritual formation tends to focus on certain practices. Prayer is a key practice, often coupled with fasting, meditation, silence and solitude, and various forms of retreats. Mentoring is another important practice, and a unique kind of mentoring that focuses on helping the Christian seek God is called “spiritual direction”. Various practices of reading the Bible such as lectio divina are also designed to help Christians read reflectively and contemplatively.

What is distinctive about Christian spiritual formation? It is true that on the surface, many religions and philosophies have similar practices such as prayer, meditation, and reading. What makes Christian spiritual formation distinctive is the centrality of Jesus Christ. For example, Christian meditation is not about emptying one’s mind to get in touch with one’s deep inner self, but about creating space to invite Jesus into our thoughts so that we think God’s thoughts after Him. All practices of Christian spirituality are foundationally rooted on Jesus as our intercessor and mediator before God.

Why should I be interested in spiritual formation? Firstly, it draws us into the presence of God to have deeper fellowship with Him who invites us in. Secondly, it transforms our hearts and desires in a way that shapes our outlook and actions to love as God does. Thirdly, as we grow unto maturity, we are better poised to help others enter also into fellowship with God. Those who see God, shall forever be changed.

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Daily Devo

Daily Devotional Journal

Scripture:
1 Thessalonians 5:13c-14
Sat, 25 June 2022

The “Peace and Patience” Frame

Observation:

What is the significance of Paul framing his exhortation with “be at peace” and “be patient”?

Deeper Reflection
PAUL IS SPEAKING TO BELIEVERS IN HIS EXHORTATION, See that no one repays anyone evil for evil” (1 Thess 5:15). These words point to a hard reality and a great temptation in the Christian community. The hard reality is, Christians do hurt one another, intentionally or unintentionally, by words, acts or attitudes. The great temptation is when we are offended and badly hurt, we hold a grudge until we are able to pay back the one who hurt us. Thus, Paul is particularly emphatic: “See that” – “Make sure that this does not happen!”We prevent the negative by practising the positive: “always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Thess 5:15). The action called for in “do good” is “seek”. “Seek” speaks of conscious intentionality, proactiveness and effort. It takes a good heart to have this “seek to do good”. It is a matter of the heart: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good” (Lk 6:45). And this seeking to do good is “always” there in the good heart. Along with this is the readiness to forgive those who hurt us. The foundation and starting point of forgiveness is “as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32).“Be at peace among yourselves” and “be patient with them all” frame the constructive actions toward the “idle”, “weak” and “fainthearted”, and those who hurt us (vv.13c-14). “We have no excuse for becoming impatient” with such problematic people “on the grounds that they are difficult, demanding, disappointing, argumentative or rude”62. “Love is patient” (1 Cor 13:4). And peace and patience go hand in hand.
62 John R. W. Stott, Thessalonians, 122
Application:

What does it mean for me to be at peace and be patient with people in the Christian community?

Prayer:
Write a prayer to God as your response from your meditation on and application of the Scriptures.
Prayer Pointers:
  • Give thanks and praise
  • Pray for Church Board: To lead the church together in peace and with patience
  • Pray for significant people
  • Pray for those in need
  • Pray for self

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