Yet, this is also the reason it is a problem. When we simply go along with the flow we allow our lives to be at the mercy of the culture. We go where the culture takes us.
I believe this is one of the key reasons why American Christians lack spiritual maturity. We haven't put intentional effort into following Jesus. Rather, we simply went with the flow of our culture.
Thankfully, God in His mercy, has still brought healing to our hearts and transformation to our lives. It is not like we haven't experienced any transformation, but the growth we have experienced has been stunted.
The fact that we have experienced spiritual formation should cause us to pause and thank God for the work He has done in our lives. At the same time it should move us to confess that we have not lived up to our side of the transformation.
It is crucial for us to understand that there is a part that we play in Christian spiritual formation. All through the New Testament we find expectations for the way we are to live. There are lists of things we need to stop doing and lists for things we need to start doing. Faith requires action and obedience is an act of faith.
With that in mind think about what Dallas Willard wrote in Renovation of the Heart:
"Spiritual formation in Christ is an orderly process. Although God can triumph in disorder, that is not his choice. And instead of focusing upon what God can do, we must humble ourselves to accept the ways he has chosen to work with us. These are clearly laid out in the Bible, and especially in the words of and person of Jesus." p. 10
Since Christian spiritual formation is an orderly process, then it is a process that we must choose to begin. I already wrote about The First Step of Christian spiritual formation.
How do we take that first step? What does it meant to surrender to Jesus?
I think we find the answer in Matthew 4:17; From then on Jesus began to preach, "Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near." (NLT)
Repentance is the intentional action we take to surrender to Jesus.
Repentance isn't just feeling sorry for and confessing our sins. Those are important elements of repentance, but I think repentance means much more.
Real repentance is about changing our loyalties.
Remember, sin is rebellion against God and His Kingdom. That means, through sin, we have pledged our allegiance to Satan and his kingdom. Repentance is the undoing of that reality. By repenting we declare our loyalties are changed and now we loyal citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.
This intentional change of loyalty is absolutely crucial to spiritual formation.
There are other steps that we must do through this process. We have to do things like pray, study, give, be baptized, forgive, and serve. For these acts to truly have a transformational affect on our lives, we must first repent.
Repentance, at is core, is an act of faith. It is an act of faith because through repentance we declare our belief, trust, and commitment to God. This is what it looks like to surrender to Jesus.
Christian spiritual formation is an intentional process. It is a process that begins with our choice to repent. Make that choice.
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