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
John 20:19-21; Luke 4:14-21
Mon, 2 October 2023

Sent by the Lord


What is the analogy that Jesus used in sending forth His disciples (v.21)?

Deeper Reflection
As we enter the month of October with our upcoming two Missions Sundays, let us focus our attention and prayers on Covenant EFC’s third Faith Exploit, “Disciple the Nations”. In today’s Scripture, verse 21 is a very significant statement that Jesus said to His disciples after His resurrection. And it applies equally to all those who are Jesus’ disciples today. There are three key observations we can make.First, the analogy that Jesus used – His having been sent by the Father – points us to Jesus’ foundational teachings that He came to accomplish the very will and works of the Father (Jn 4:34; 5:30, 36; cf. Lk 4:14-21). Second, the idea of Jesus’ disciples being “sent” reminds us that world missions is not a result of human initiative, but is God-initiated and God-directed. It is God’s mission in the world. Third, verse 21 reminds us that Jesus is not merely calling us to join God in His mission, but to relate to Him as our heavenly Father – in love, obedience and dependence.1Therefore, the more fundamental question is not “Are we being sent?” or “What must we do?”. Rather, it is “To what extent do we understand and treasure our sonship in relation to God our Father (Jn 20:17)?” So that, as beloved children of God, we will respond rightly to our heavenly Father who created us in His image, redeemed us in Jesus Christ, and called us to join Him in His mission. Out of gratitude and love towards God, we joyfully walk in the Lord’s will for us, and fully rely on His resources as we faithfully serve Him.
1 This is consistent with John’s emphasis in his writings on the Father-Son relationship that anchored and motivated Jesus in all that He did in submission and obedience to the Father’s will.

How do the purposes for which Jesus sends forth His disciples impact the
way I plan and live out the years of my life?

Dear Father in heaven, what manner of love You have bestowed on me that I should be called Your child! Every opportunity given to me to carry out Your will is a privilege for me to participate in Your glorious purposes. Help me to clearly discern the things that You want me to accomplish and to faithfully work at them with a heart that loves and depends on You and always seeks Your glory. Amen.
Prayer Pointers:
  • Give thanks and praise
  • Pray for leaders
  • Pray for significant people
  • Pray for those in need
  • Pray for self

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