Following Jesus is more than waiting to go to heaven. We are saved from Satan, sin, and death. We are also saved for the good works God planned for us (Ephesians 2:10). To accomplish these works requires that we are constantly becoming more like Jesus Christ. This is what Christian spiritual formation is all about.

When it comes to being like Jesus, we often focus on our outward behavior. Our actions can give us an idea of how we are living up to the example of Jesus, but they are a secondary indicator of spiritual formation. True spiritual formation takes place in the heart, which is then manifested in the way we live.

Christian spiritual formation is focused entirely on Jesus. Its goal is an obedience or conformity to Christ that arises out of an inner transformation accomplished through the purposive interaction with the grace of God in Christ. Obedience is an essential outcome of Christian spiritual formation (John 13:34-35; 14:21).

External manifestation of “Christlikeness” is not, however, the focus of the process; and when it is made the emphasis, the process will certainly be defeated, falling into deadning legalisms and pointless parochialism. That is what has happened so often in the past, and this fact is a major barrier to wholeheartedly embracing Christian spiritual formation in the present. We know now that peculiar modes of dress, behavior, and organization just are not the point.

Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, pages 22 and 23

We can establish all sorts of rules and regulations to guide our conduct, but that does not mean we are becoming more like Jesus. All it means is that we becoming great at following rules. Remember, Jesus often confronted the Jewish religious leaders of his day, because their rule keeping made them miss the heart of God.

For spiritual transformation to happen in our lives requires us to surrender our hearts to God. True spiritual formation happens with the heart.

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