I have two favorite metaphors to discuss spiritual formation.
The first is a journey. Jesus called to his first disciples, “Follow me!” and they traveled with him as he demonstrated what it looks like to live in fellowship with God.
The first disciples in John 1:38 asked Jesus, “Where do you dwell?”
Jesus replied, “Come and See,” so they followed him.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to move, to explore, to grow.
But what is the destination?
That leads me to my second favorite metaphor. The Vine and the Branches.
Jesus said in John 15:1-5, “I am the vine and you are the branches…remain/dwell in me and I will remain in you, and you will bear much fruit.”
The destination of this journey is not a physical time or place. The destination is the love of God.
God’s love is infinite, therefore we will never arrive. We simply keep growing.
We go and grow in two directions.
First, we grow deeper roots to be grounded in the love of God.
Second, we grow taller and wider branches to spread the fruit of God’s love wider.
Here’s the key to spiritual formation. It is not our work.
Jesus didn’t say, “produce fruit!” He said, “remain in me.” Dwell in me. Rest in me.
We must always keep in mind the paradoxical tension between the fact that our life in God–our salvation–is a gift from God, through Jesus Christ, not our work (Ephesians 2:8-9) on the one hand. And, it is our job to cultivate the relationship and stay deeply rooted in Christ, and to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12) on the other hand. See Colossians 2:6-7.
Jesus holds us and, through God incarnate, we are rooted in the love of God.
The Apostle Paul tells us that the fruit we are to bear is the fruit of the Spirit. It is love (Galatians 5:22-26).
Jesus promised the disciples that they would receive power (dunamis)–the ability to do the work Jesus calls them to do–when the Holy Spirit comes upon them (Acts 1:8).
The Spirit of God is the animating force of the universe–the fire, the wind, the water–that gives us the ability to grow deeper in the love of God. The Spirit flows through us to produce the fruit of love in the world (Romans 8:1-17).
Spiritual formation is not a self-centered endeavor. It is not about navel-gazing and getting in touch with ourself as the end result.
Spiritual formation is the process of growing up into maturity in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we can see ourself how God sees us, for who we are created to be. When we “find our true self” then we can get over ourself. The Apostle said that we are crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) so that we can be a positive contributing part of the amazingly diverse and interdependent world that God is continually unfolding.
My prayer is that the resources that I create on this website will help you to grow deeper in the love of God, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the world.
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