Chapter One: Introducing Spiritual Formation
“We live from our heart”. p. 13
Spiritual Formation (in general) is “the process by which the human spirit or will is given a definite ‘form’ or character.” Everyone’s spirit has been formed by the environment, experiences, etc. around them. The goal is not spiritual formation as we know it, but spiritual transformation. If a soul can be formed, it can be transformed as well.
“The spiritual transformation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself..” p. 22 Often times we focus on the external ways to change ourselves (like reading more, praying more, memorizing scripture, following lots of rules) in hopes of being inwardly transformed. However, this is often what leads to legalism, what we call “externalism.” But it is “that Christ be formed within you” (galatians 4:19) that is what matters. However, obedience is an essential outcome of Christian spiritual formation.
“The ‘outward’ interpretation of spiritual formation, emphasizing specific acts as it does, will merely increase ‘the righteousness of the scribe and Pharisee.’ It will not, as we must, ‘go beyond it’ (Mt 5:20) to achieve genuine transformation of who I am through and through- Christ’s man or woman, living richly in his kingdom.” p. 23
Willard says that this book, he hopes, will be useful for those seeking first the kingdom of God and His rightousness, AND for the leaders of groups who are taking seriously the commission to train people to do all the things that Christ taught. I hope that it does both. I think it’ll be good to read this and learn about spiritual transformation and not get caught up in spiritual disciplines and the sort. But focus more on the heart.
I picked this book up to read while I worked out simply because it was a gift that I hadn’t read yet, and it was a paperback so I could read it while doing the elliptical at the gym (i love to read while exercising, the time flys by much faster). God, however, has used this book to open my eyes even more about the persecuted church. This book is an accompolation of stories from women around the world- their daily lives. These women blow me away with their trust in God and willingness to lose family, friends, and “safety” for the sake of the gospel. When I say “for the sake of the gospel”, I mean to testify to Jesus in their lifes, and by doing this, showing the gospel to be Truth and Life.
I read these stories and long to sit with the women who tell them. What is their prayer life like? What keeps them going when they feel alone and abandoned? How has God worked in showing His Character to them? What do they think about during a day? How has being persecuted affected their relationship with God?
Many of our sisters around the world addressed those in America and in other western countries that can live freely in regards to what they choose to follow. They encouraged us to live rightly, to be modest and kind and generous, because the world is watching us. Many Muslim men in Egypt see the stereotype of Christians in America and are not wanting their wives to become Christians because of what we do and don’t do here. Oh, if we could better understand the fact that our lives have an impact on people other than ourselves. That we are not an individual who can make their own decisions, but we are part of a whole, whose collective identity is shaped by each person, and each person influences others.
Many over in other countries who are struggling to stay alive because they have been kicked out of their homes and disowned by their Muslim families, are looking around for help, and find none. I have always been an advocate of letting them take care of themselves so they don’t rely on the western church. but after reading this, i just realize that that attitude is a lie from the enemy. we are one body, and they are our sisters and brothers. We have a responsibility to them. I can’t think up a good enough reason not to help. sure, when churches are at places where they can support themselves, that’s awesome. but in some of these places where the little house churches are all with nothing, we need to help them to develop skills to support themselves. we are God’s hand and feet.
What a perspective-altering book. I really want to encourage people to read stories out of here, even if just a few
I think I’ve decided that this blog would be for my reading notes. As I’m reading a book, I will post my reading notes on here, pretty much for my own benefit and record. I will also reflect on books here….not having to worry about being raw in my thoughts….but allowing myself to be completely honest and reflective. Sometimes I’ll post on my xanga good entries that I write in here.