There are many things that we can do to bring change into our lives. All these things center around our actions. We know that our actions are a good indicator of what we believe. We also have to remember that following Jesus not only involves the things that we do, but it also involves our hearts.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said; “‘You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, You fool! will be liable to the hell of fire‘” (Matthew 5:21-22; ESV). According to Jesus, it is not enough not to murder a person, but we also must not hate. Hatred and anger are heart issues.
Self control and obedience are essential components to spiritual formation, but they are not enough. We need divine help to truly transform our lives.
The instrumentalities of Christian spiritual formation therefore involve much more than human effort and actions under our control. Well-informed human effort certainly is indispensable, for spiritual formation is no passive process. But Christlikeness of the inner being is not a human attainment. It is, finally, a gift of grace.
Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, p. 19
How do we receive the gift of spiritual formation? It happens through our surrender to God. If we do not surrender our lives to God, then we will not experience this wonderful gift of grace God has for us.
The apostle Paul wrote:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2; ESV)
Did you notice how the transformation of our minds follows our surrender as a living sacrifice?
Yes, we need to put effort into changing our thoughts and actions, but only God can change our hearts. This is because our hearts have been wounded and are in need of healing. You and I are powerless to provide the type of healing that we need. This healing is only available in our surrender to God.
Surrendering to God requires repentance and prayer. Repentance is the declaration that we are leaving behind the life and legacy of sin, and declaring our loyalty to God. This is done, not only through our words, but also through our actions. Through prayer weask God to bring healing to our hearts and guide us on His path of righteousness. Prayer and repentance are both daily activities that we must do.
Spiritual formation is a gift of grace. Thank You God for being generous with this gift!