Summary: Life Management 101, part 2. Dave deals with eight essential spiritual disciplines we must pursue to become like Christ. Eight disciplines taken from "So You Want to Be Like Christ?" by Charles Swindoll.
Reform School for the Spirit
Life Management 101, part 2
Wildwind Community Church
June 25, 2006
What is spirituality? You could define spirituality, in general, as those parts of us that desire fulfillment, passion, purpose, and a sense of being part of something greater than ourselves. We live in a society that teaches us to be excellent consumers, and first-rate competitors. Spirituality picks up where these things leave off. After you have bought all you care to buy, and beat everyone and everything you care to beat, what are the needs inside of you that haven’t been met? Those are spiritual needs.
There are emotions in you, things that happen inside of you, that you take for granted moment by moment, but that are signs of something remarkable that lives inside of you – things that are signs of your spirit. Now when we talk about Christian spirituality, we are talking about the development of your spiritual qualities in such a manner that your spirit begins to resemble the spirit that was (is) in Jesus. That’s why I like to use the term “spiritual formation.” Look at the striking language Paul used when talking about this idea of our spirit coming to resemble the spirit of Jesus:
Galatians 4:19 (NASB77)
19 My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you—
Galatians 4:19 (MSG)
19 Do you know how I feel right now, and will feel until Christ’s life becomes visible in your lives? Like a mother in the pain of childbirth.
Until Christ is formed in you. Until Christ’s life becomes visible in your lives. Until your spirit has taken on the shape of the spirit of Christ, you might say. That’s why I love the phrase “spiritual formation.” Until Christ is formed in you, until Christ’s life becomes visible in your life.
But even though I love the phrase, it still doesn’t quite capture what I want to communicate to you today. For we are spiritual beings at birth, aren’t we? This means that we are in need not so much of spiritual formation, as we are of spiritual reformation! See, you have already been shaped spiritually, into some form or another. You already respond in a certain way when you are provoked. You already have certain feelings and thoughts about your purpose in this world. You already have some sense of whether or not you are part of something larger than yourself. That’s why I have entitled today’s message, “Reform School for the Spirit.” You and I need to go to reform school. Our spirits have already taken on a certain shape because of the environments in which we were raised, and because of the things that have happened to us and the fortunes and misfortunes we have experienced.
Many who surrender their lives to Christ are curious that even though they may feel differently at first, so much about them remains the same. They still have the same temper problem they used to have. Maybe they’re still hooked on pornography. Maybe they are still inclined to speak in ways that are filthy. Maybe they’re still greedy, or unloving toward their spouse and kids. And they ask, “How come I’m still the same, if God’s spirit lives in me?” What they need to understand, what many of us here today need to understand, is that in giving our lives to Christ, what actually happens in that we enroll in spiritual reform school – we enlist ourselves into a new way of life that will allow God to re-form our spirits into the shape of the spirit of Christ. This isn’t about spiritual placement – where God simply places a perfect spirit in each of us and we live happily ever after. It is about spiritual formation, where Christ is formed in us through our everyday experiences and relationships. See, critical to the development of humility is the experience of humiliation. Critical to the development of patience is the experience of aggravation. Critical to the development of love is the experience of apathy. Critical to the development of prayerfulness is the experience of self-sufficiency. And so you live, and you have these experiences again and again and again, and slowly you learn how to think and feel and respond…until Christ is formed in you.
Today I’m going to share with you eight essentials in Christian spiritual formation – eight things you must practice in your life – eight qualities that must be developed in your life in increasing measure – if you would desire for Christ to be formed in you. As I told you I would do last week, I’m lifting these eight things directly out of Charles Swindoll’s readable little book called So, You Want To Be Like Christ. Do you know why it’s important that you know I’m lifting them and not coming up with them on my own? Because you need to know that there are specific things you can do that have been tried and tested by millions of Christ-followers over two millennia, that have been shown to form Christ in us. This really isn’t about you as an individual. This moves us away from the “What about me”-ism that plagues our society and moves us toward a universal brother and sisterhood with believers throughout the ages who have practiced these things and found that they are a way to life, when God is allowed through them to grow His Spirit in us.