Every person, at some point in life, must decide whether to receive Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior. But that is just the starting point of a lifelong journey in discipleship as a follower of Jesus. As the apostle Paul says, we are to grow mature in Christ. We grow up into the head of the Body, who is Christ (Eph. 4:15). Such “growing up” is the process of spiritual formation.
To be formed spiritually means to engage in specific practices and disciplines with one clear goal: to draw nearer to God in Christ and focus less and less on self. Richard of Chichester, a 13th-century English bishop, once said.
“Day by day, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, and to follow thee more nearly.”
Spiritual formation is a process that sharpens our attentiveness to God and helps us to be more and more like Jesus.
Finally, in all spiritual formation and development, it is important to remember that spiritual formation does not take us on a journey. A journey is an exploration without a destination. The joy of the journey is in the exploration and discovery along the way. That really is a secular and postmodern understanding of “spirituality.” In spiritual formation, we are on a pilgrimage with a clear destination. As Jesus defines his ministry, we are destined for the kingdom of God. We are “in rehearsal” for life in eternity, in the very presence of God. On this earth, we engage in this earthly pilgrimage day by day.
The five areas of spiritual formation are: reflective reading, active repentance, total stewardship, prayer, and community accountability. As we consider specific practices that aid our formation, it will require us to surrender time. Spiritual formation cannot be found in a “Five Minutes to Improve Spirituality” devotional. It will require us to change the pattern of our lives to practice the purposes of God.