God’s Spirit at Work - The Promise of Formation
Updated: Jan 7, 2020
The Bible teaches that God seeks to form each of us into unique persons to display his glory. The goal of formation is transformation:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect“ (Romans 12:2).
The instruction to us is not to conform to the world, but to say no to the power that the world has over us while living in the world. The promise of transformation "by the renewing of” our mind, is not that we do the transforming, but the Spirit of Christ in us that does the transforming. God is the transformation agent. God is the author of spiritual formation. God, through the Holy Spirit, is the finisher of spiritual formation. God is the potter, and we are the clay. It is the empowering presence of God at work in our weak and frail humanity to form us into the likeness of His Son. The person experiencing spiritual growth is experiencing the transformation of his/her whole person “into [Christ’s] likeness with ever-increasing glory.” All this says Paul, “comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit ("2 Cor. 3:18).
Thus, spirituality is about living out our Christian faith, in the world, in the context of a living, growing relationship with God in Jesus Christ. This way of life, spiritual formation, suggests several implications. First, it is an ongoing process, not something you either "have" or "don't have." It is a process that began before we had any awareness of it and will continue until the end of our lives. Second, we are formed through this process as we live in intimate relationship with God. Thus, the Holy Spirit seeks to mould us and shape us more and more into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Finally, we do not initiate this process but rather it is the Spirit of the Risen Christ who draws us and forms us. Yet, we have a choice, we can resist, or we can strive to cooperate.
The church traditionally has spoken of the peculiar actions of cooperation as "spiritual disciplines," activities such as daily prayer, contemplative listening, corporate worship, feasting and fasting, stewardship, Sabbath-keeping, working on behalf of justice. When we participate in these activities with a genuine desire to be encountered by the Holy Spirit, we are engaging in a spiritual discipline. There are no magic techniques or formulae, for fostering spiritual formation, just ordinary practices that, when carried out with a desire for intimacy with God, can become transformational.