What is spiritual formation?
Christian spiritual formation is the process of humbly positioning our heart and mind to receive the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Biblical spiritual formation does not involve ultra-mystical rituals in an effort to experience god-consciousness or to receive a new revelation. Instead, the Christian patterns spiritual growth off the practices of Jesus and his disciples. Jesus and his disciples prayed, fasted, fellowshipped, memorized God’s Word, and much more in an effort to cultivate a correct attitude towards God’s calling on their lives. God’s plan for our lives is big. An intentional focus on spiritual formation equips us for our God-given tasks.
Every person undergoes a spiritual formation of some sort. The question involves what spirit we are allowing to form us. For those who understand their calling in Christ, spiritual formation is exercise of the faith muscle. We are not saved for the purpose of eternity alone. We have an upward call to maturity in Christ in this lifetime. God has saved us for that which he has created us. Spiritual formation happens when our hearts remain pliable in accepting our God-given identity and calling.
By nature, our triune God is a God of relationship. Since spiritual formation involves the development of our character, it cannot be a private matter. Just as every member of the Trinity is active in our salvation, every member of Christ’s body is active in our maturity. We are called to effectively communicate the Gospel within our specific sphere of influence. To accomplish this, we must grow in context with those around us. Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, worship, communion, Bible study, and fellowship are not just for individual spiritual formation. They also enable the church to attain a level of maturity that is effective for making new disciples.
The Holy Spirit sanctifies us from within by convicting us of sin, realigning our conscience with God’s standards, illuminating truth, and empowering us to walk as new creations. Our fellow believers encourage us, exhort us, edify us, and hold us accountable to the faith we proclaim. We need God and each other in our ongoing process of spiritual formation.
“The gifts that the body of Christ enjoys are dispensed by the Holy Spirit for the edification and benefit of the community. In short, there is no spiritual formation if there is no activity of the Holy Spirit.”-Paul Petitt Foundations of Spiritual Formation