Our choices are powerful because they are the way we respond to the world and the circumstances of our lives. We don't have control over the things that happen in the world, but we do have control over how we respond. These are the choices that form our character.
This is the reason why I believe it is essential for us who are parents and church leaders to have high expectations for the younger generation. Right now they are making choices that are going to determine the direction of their lives.
We can’t expect young people to spend their lives watching Netflix, playing video games, interacting with social media, and going into debt with credit cards to one day, in their mid-twenties, to become mature responsible adults.
When we allow our children to make the easy choice, to constantly choose what is fun, and to avoid doing hard things, then they will become people who are selfish, petty, shallow, and irresponsible. That type of life will not prepare them for the real demands of life.
I want you to think about something Greg Boyd wrote:
“Moral culpability is not just about people acting certain ways when they could have and should have acted differently. It’s more about people becoming certain kinds of people when they could have and should have become different kinds of people” (Satan and the Problem of Evil; p. 122).This is why it is important to remember that spiritual formation is always happening. Time, circumstances, and choices all play a part in forming the person we are. Christian spiritual formation is the intentional effort in making the process about becoming more like Jesus.
As a pastor I am concerned about how the church assists in this process of becoming more like Jesus.
How do we help people become more like Jesus?
I think it begins by telling people that to be more like Jesus requires being different.
We live differently because we are people who have our minds set on heavenly things rather than earthly things (Colossians 3:1-4), because we are people who walk by the Spirit rather than by the flesh (Galatians 5:16-26), and because we are people live humbly putting others ahead of ourselves (Philippians 2:1-11).
To do each one of these things we first need to make a choice to do it. Without that intentional act we will not be different.
How do we encourage the people we influence to make the choice to be different?
The first step we should take is to emphasize the fact that God, because of His great love for us, opened up way of redemption for us (Romans 5:6-11). This should be the foundation for our decision making. In other words, our choices become our response to God's love.
The second step we should take is to pray for our children, students, and friends. This is the example that the apostle Paul gave in Colossians 1:9-12. The reason Paul prayed for the Colossians was to empower them to be the type of people who honor Jesus. We need to pray for people to be filled with a knowledge of God’s will and with spiritual wisdom and knowledge so they can become people who honor Jesus with their lives.
The third step we should take is to give people tools, methods, and disciplines to help them train in godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). If we are honest we would admit that our process of discipleship isn’t working. Our church families are not filled with people becoming more and more like Jesus. In fact, I would wager many of us have given up on the belief that true transformation will take place. Sadly, we are content with a little behavior modification here and there. We need to help people understand that they are responsible for their spiritual growth and that spiritual disciplines such as meditation, prayer, worship, service, fasting, solitude, and celebration are ways in which we can train our bodies to ignore the pull of the flesh and to follow the Spirit.
Each one of us is in the process of becoming. We are either becoming more human and thus fit for God’s Kingdom or we are becoming less human and thus fit for the kingdom of darkness.
Our choices play an essential part in our Christian spiritual formation.
Not only are are called to pay attention to the choices that we make, but we are to help those around us to make good choices. This is why Christian community is a vital part of Christian spiritual formation.