In considering spiritual formation, we've established several things:
- Our spirits are being formed, one way or another.
- What we're really after is the TRANSformation of our spirits into Christlikeness.
- That TRANSformation is God's work in us--it's all by grace.
- It IS possible to make real progress, even here on earth.
So if these things are true, are there steps for us to take? Is there anything we can do to help this process along?
The answer is yes. Remember, the transformation of our spirits into Christlikeness is God's work in us. It's God's grace that changes our hearts. We don't do anything to try to earn God's approval. The notion of trying to make ourselves righteous because of our good works is wrong-headed. God loves us because of His goodness, not because of ours. We're not trying to earn our way into heaven--we're saved because of God's grace, not because of our good works.
But while the doctrine of salvation by grace is opposed to the idea of salvation by works, it is not opposed to our making effort to learn and grow. Sometimes Christians are paralyzed into non-action, assuming that any effort in pursuing godliness implies that they're trying to earn their salvation. And that's wrong-headed, too. There ARE things we can do that will greatly help us in our journey. It IS possible for us to become more Christlike, and we can do that by doing some of the things that Christ did when He lived here on earth.
Over the next few days we'll be talking about some of those things. Some people refer to these as "spiritual disciplines." Others refer to them as "soul-training exercises." No matter what you call them, the goal is the same: becoming more like Jesus.
Here's an analogy for you. Someone who wants to be a great piano player gets a teacher to show her the way. She starts by doing simple, small things such as learning scales and practicing them every day. She interacts with her teacher over and over, and she practices each new skill as she goes along. Over the course of years, she is transformed into someone who is like her teacher--that is, someone who can play the piano, which is what she always wanted. But she didn't get there by simply saying "I want to play the piano. God, turn me into a piano player." No, she understood that there is a way to become a piano player, and she followed a path to become what she wanted to be.
So it is in the Christian life. If we want to be more like Christ, there are things we can do that will aid us as we work toward that goal. There are things that we can do right now, wherever we live and in whatever situation we find ourselves, to put ourselves in a position of humbly interacting with our Teacher so that we can learn from Him. And in that process of learning from Jesus, our hearts can change. We can grow to be more like our Teacher.
I for one find the prospect of becoming more like Jesus to be an exciting thought! How about you?