A friend of mine sent me an e-mail asking for my help on an assignment. He was to ask some fellow believers what they think the term “spiritual formation” means and then summarize.
When I first saw the topic I was a bit puzzled. "Spiritual Formation" was not part of my vocabulary. My first thought was that it was just another buzzword, one of those new catchy terms coined by some hipper Christians than I. I thought, this is not a biblical word. Why use it?
So I looked up "formation" in my concordance, just to make sure. The only uses I could find were of a battle "formation" of soldiers arrayed for war. (Would warring angels be in "spiritual formation"?) No help here. So I looked up "form." I found that Rachel was "beautiful of form and face" (Genesis 29:17). So was Joseph (Genesis 39:6). Was I on to something?
I did remember that the latest copy of the DTS alumni magazine had an article (which I had read) on Spiritual Formation, written by a classmate of mine. It seemed to equate Spiritual Formation with discipleship and transformation of character. Now I had somewhat of a handle on it. I like the word "transformation" better.
Then I recalled Galatians 4:19. "My children for whom I am again suffering birth pangs until Christ is formed in you ..." The Greek word is morphoo.
This then is what spiritual formation is! It is the forming in our lives of the character of Jesus Christ. It is what God predestined for us. " ... whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed (summorphos) to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29).
It is, I believe, a lifelong process in the believer, though it gets its jumpstart when we, as believers commit our lives to Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1). We are then to "be transformed (metamorphoo) by the renewing of (our) mind" (Romans 12:2). "But we all with face unveiled, gazing as in a mirror on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (metamorphoo) into that very image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
So then, what are the ingredients in our recipe for Spiritual Formation?
· Commitment of our lives to Christ based on our knowledge of and experience of God's mercies to us (Romans 12:1).
· Renewing of our minds through study of and prayerful meditation on the Word (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
· Changed behavior patterns based on our renewed thinking -- the application of those biblical principles.
· Constant communication with others who are hopefully more mature than we are, yet are still involved in this process themselves (Philippians 3:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 11:1), people who are concerned about our growth into Christlikeness (Galatians 4:19)
· Involvement with others by helping them move along in the process.
· A continual growth in Christlikeness through this process (2 Corinthians 3:18).
· It never ceases until as John says, " ... when He appears we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is" (1 John 3:2).