Thursday, February 05, 2009

Which One Of These Is You, or I?

Borrowed from Christianity Today:

Spiritual Formation Agenda
Three priorities for the next 30 years.

Richard Foster


"Our world today cries out for a theology of spiritual growth that has been proven to work in the midst of the harsh realities of daily life. Sadly, many have simply given up on the possibility of growth in character formation.

Vast numbers of well-intended folk have exhausted themselves in church work and discovered that this did not substantively change their lives. They found that they were just as impatient and egocentric and fearful as when they began lifting the heavy load of church work. Maybe more so.

Others have immersed themselves in multiple social-service projects. But while the glow of helping others lingered for a time, they soon realized that all their herculean efforts left little lasting imprint on the inner life. Indeed, it often made them much worse inwardly: frustrated and angry and bitter.

Still others have a practical theology that will not allow for spiritual growth. Indeed, they just might see it as a bad thing. Having been saved by grace, these people have become paralyzed by it. To attempt any progress in the spiritual life smacks of "works righteousness" to them. Their liturgies tell them they sin in word, thought, and deed daily, so they conclude that this is their fate until they die. Heaven is their only release from this world of sin and rebellion. Hence, these well-meaning folk will sit in their pews year after year without realizing any movement forward in their life with God.

Finally, a general cultural malaise touches us all to one extent or another. I am referring to how completely we have become accustomed to the normality of dysfunction. The constant media stream of scandals and broken lives and mayhem of every sort elicits from us hardly more than a yawn. We have come to expect little else, even from our religious leaders—perhaps especially from our religious leaders. This overall dysfunction is so pervasive in our culture that it is nearly impossible for us to have a clear vision of spiritual progress. Shining models of holiness are so rare today.

Yet echoing through the centuries is a great company of witnesses telling us of a life vastly richer and deeper and fuller. In all walks of life and in all human situations, they have found a life of "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17). They have discovered that real, solid, substantive transformation into the likeness of Christ is possible.

They witness to a character formation that is nigh unto amazing. They have seen their egocentric passions give way to such selflessness and humility of heart, it astonishes even them. Rage and hate and malice are replaced with love and compassion and universal goodwill."


He surely puts it very well. Much to my surprise, he described a church I attended for a long time in paragraph 4.

I don't agree though with his agenda/solution in the rest of his article over at C.T. He puts too much faith in men. My advice would be to encourage people to pick a good literal word-for-word Bible translation and when you get a little stumped with something, just keep reading, and it will finally all make sense. Just keep reading, it will teach you. Find someone experienced who respects the "simplicity" of Christ's Word and ask them to share their understanding of it, if need be(maybe even as much as possible). Pick up the history books but...put down the theology books - except for a quick field trip into the more dysfunctional regions of Christianity - there is only strife and self-gratification in there. Scripture is simple, and vast, just get around people who respect the Bible's insistence on "simplicity". Christ tells us not to sit and figure out the future. God came to earth revealing His sovereignty and Truth, and then returned to heaven before our very eyes. Rejoice! And...keep it simple. And keep reading and growing in it's spiritual nourishment and practice. You'll be astonished at the peaceful and joyous fruit, and the practical understanding it will bear in your life.

So that's the priority I would start with if I had a Spiritual Formation Agenda. To encourage my fellow Christian who may be new to this to get a real Bible translation(a word-for-word translation in your own language and the language of those you might want to share it with) and read it a lot. That is the beginning of allowing the Bible to teach itself.

Hats off to the author of the above said article for his own implementation of his agenda for Christ.