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Spiritual disciplines are one path to spiritual formation. As in all areas of life, without a purpose for the practice of spiritual disciplines, they can quickly become empty and meaningless. Therefore, one must guard against trusting self and stay focused on the person of Christ.
In his book on spiritual disciplines, Donald Whitney writes, “There is little value in practicing Spiritual Disciplines apart from the single purpose that unites them (Colossians 2: 20-23; 1 Timothy 4:8). That purpose is Godliness. Thus we are told in 1 Timothy 4:7 to discipline ourselves ‘for the purpose of godliness.’ The Spiritual Disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness.” Godliness is the focus and end goal — being more like Christ, not respect and admiration from others.
Richard Foster writes: “When we despair of gaining inner transformation through human powers of will and determination, we are open to a wonderful new realization: inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours.”
Too often when a person comes to Christ, they believe they must start by changing themselves. Within six months to a year that person has dropped away from faith — burnt out. Why? Because they are trying to do a job that they can never do. Change in the human heart is a job only God can accomplish.
If you or I could bring the kind of lasting change that God brings, then there would be no need for Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary. Stop trying to change yourself and purpose to let God do His work in your life.
The spiritual disciplines cannot be the driving power of spiritual growth; instead, the disciplines must result from a deep trust in God’s work of spiritual formation. One must remember that the goal is not to become an expert in a particular discipline. The goal is to become more like Christ through this expression of trust in Christ.
2 Corinthians 3: 18 reminds us that we, with unveiled faces, reflect the Lord’s glory and are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord. Through the process of spiritual formation, Christians will become more and more like the Savior, Jesus Christ.
God is in the business of forming and shaping. He is in the business of breathing life into lives and spirits. As I said in a previous column, spiritual formation is the process of being intentional about allowing God to do His work. Through trusting God with one’s whole life, one can be formed and grow deeper in the life of the Spirit.
Spiritual disciplines can help this maturing process, and are one means of maturing into a transformed life that reflects the wholeness for which God designed us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God works to help shape ordinary people into the Christian He created them to be.
The Rev. Chuck Hartman is pastor at UpRiver Friends.
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