Christian Spiritual Formation Presentation
To introduce her book, Diane Chandler recounts a fourteen year process that lasted from 1980 to 1994 where the Vatican restored Michelangelo’s masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
From centuries of water damage, to smoke and wax residue, the original design became clouded, overshadowing its original beauty. Though the restorers worked diligently, they were unable to capture Michelangelo’s original work.
Chandler explains, “Creation, whether in artwork or in human life, is left in the hands of its creator and is virtually impossible to duplicate.”
In reflecting on creation, I think of myself as a created being. I know I have a Father in heaven who loves me. I realize I am created in His image. I understand I was born into sin and God had to redeem me through the sacrifice of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit.
However, I was born into a human family. I am the middle of three children. I come from a good family. My dad loves us, but it is my mom who LOVES her children. My parents have watched my growth process from infancy to adulthood.
My parents raised us in church and God was a centerpiece of our home. They wanted us to “get saved” however, I kind of think my mom believed we were born without defect, problems, or mistakes.
In fact, she thought we were perfect. She loved us through every stage of our lives and truly believed we were perfect through every stage. I have some pictures to attempt to prove her theory.
Pre-k- word from God that I would day be on the platform
When we look at these pictures, I know what she thinks, that is MY boy, my Daniel!
When I look at these pictures I see myself at stages in my life, and I know I was far from perfect, which she still struggles to accept.
In fact, once my siblings and I laughed about our ornery antics of our childhood in the kitchen. I went to the living room and found my mother weeps in her recliner saying, all these years I thought my kids were perfect, I told everyone, “my kids are perfect.”
With tears coursing down her cheeks she looked at me said, “I can’t believe you weren’t perfect!”
I come from a family with parents who did the best to raise us and form us into productive adults and honorable citizens.
But at some point, I came to the realization something in my life needed to change. I heard the question, are you saved? Do you know Jesus? Are you born again?
Similar to Dr. Tennison, I do not remember the date, but worse, I cannot even tell you the month, only my age. I was five, and in deep contrition, I came to God, broken because of my sin-ridden life, and Jesus forgave me.
Instantly, I was born again. I entered a new family. I inherited a new future. I received a new name.
But unlike my mother, who looked at me through rose-colored glasses, under the delusion I was perfect, my new Father, KNOWS the perfect plan He has for me, but He also recognizes how sin corrupted my image.
Many people can share a similar story, because of faith in Jesus Christ, they’ve been adopted in a new family. Many are familiar with Jesus’ explanation to Nicodemus:
3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Many can quote:
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
But salvation opens the door, to propel us into a life where God forms Himself in us, making us like He wants us.
Chandler explains, “By responding to God’s love and grace in the person of Jesus Christ, we are able to be conformed to Christ’s image through the person and power of the Holy Spirit.”
That is the message of the Kingdom of God. Entrance into the Kingdom is not a one-time prayer whereby we remain in our corrupted image. No, God begins the process of conforming us into the image of Christ.
Dallas Willard believes, “If we do not preach the gospel of the kingdom of God as Jesus did but preach some other gospel— of which there now are several, we cannot truly progress in the formation of character into Christlikeness. That is because the message preached will have no essential connection with constant spiritual growth.”
In many Pentecostal and evangelical circles I have encountered, there is great emphasis about entering the Kingdom, but little explanation about what to do once we are in the Kingdom.
Christian Spiritual Formation, according to Chandler, “describes the process of being restored into the image of God through Jesus Christ in its multidimensionality by the work of the Holy Spirit.”
Though I came form a good family, with parents who loved me and helped provide a support system for growth, since my conversion, I have had to unlearn patterns and learn the way Christ wants me to live.
The unique component of Christian Spiritual formation is its distinct nature. It is not self-help or sin management, Chandler divides the three words like this:
Christian— “all personal formation flows from the person of God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Spiritual— “more than simply the nonphysical and mystical components of life lived in God’ rather, it is utilized to describe all dimension fo life as influenced by the Spirit.”
Formation— “what is formed and the manner in which it is shaped.”
Christian Spiritual Formation should outsell and outnumber any self-help or therapeutic options, because its wisdom and components originate with God, not human.
Because we are created in the image of God, only He can restore His image in us through the redemptive process.
Chandler outlines seven dimension of CFS. I want to compare them with what I learned and had to unlearn from my unsaved family:
formation of the Spirit
I am perfect the way I am toGod has a journey of growth for me
Learned my emotional life from my family to God can heal my emotional wounds and help me identify what my emotions tell me
All I need is my family and friends to I need connection to a community of those who are also allowing God to form Himself in them
The end goal is get good grades to using my mind to think, reason and discern with the Word of God
Get a good job that makes good money, to discovering God’s calling for my life whereby I can reflect Him to others
Physical health formation
Eat, drink, and consume whatever you life to my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit
Get all you can and can all you get to provide for my family and others, extending the Kingdom of God
As I look back at some of the pictures I showed, I see where I was in the process. When I think back to situations in my life, I can see where God formed Himself in me.
Though I did not understand the vernacular of Christian Spiritual Formation, I can witness where God allowed me to go through situations that helped me grow in Him.
Chandler explains the process this way— conformity to Christ through the Holy Spirit does not convey “rote mimicry” or endless copying, but rather lies at the heart of image bearing and the discipleship journey.”
Through God’s grace, He works through my heart, will, and actions, to form Himself in me, helping me become the image He had in mind for me when I was growing in my mother’s womb.
As I read I told me wife:
Why did Jesus live to adulthood?
Wouldn’t it had been simple to let Him die as an infant and let Him rise and then share the story?
Instead, God allowed Him to live through adulthood, to go through the stages of life, fully God, fully Human, to show us how to depend on the Father.
Likewise, wouldn’t it have been easier for God to just take us home as soon as we receive Jesus as Savior?
Instead, God also lets us grow and mature.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
As I survey my life thus far, I can see how God allowed me to grow and how He has formed Himself in me. I have a long way to go, however, I join with others on:
“An interactive process by which God the Father fashions believers into the image of his Son, Jesus, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit by fostering development in seven primary life dimensions, (spirit, emotions, relationships, intellect, vocation, physical health, and resource stewardship.”
As I mentioned once this week, my wife and I are expecting our first child on May 26. When we went to our first ultra sound at week seven, something happened in me.
I have seen other people’s ultra sounds and it always looked like a blob. But when I saw ours, with that tiny heart beating, it wasn’t a blob, it was my child.
At week twenty, I learned his gender and saw his profile. Suddenly, I oddly felt like my mom, I decided momentarily, this boy is PERFECT!
True, he is created in the image of God, but the Lord wants to form Himself in my son as well.
Very soon, the cycle will start again in my son’s life. So as his father, I want to conform to God’s image so that I might show God’s love to him, creating an atmosphere in our home for Christian Spiritual formation.