Beyond Spiritual Formation . . .

Have you noticed that spiritual formation is the latest idea to  hit the church.   We hear it in from the pulpits.  It is the focus of small fellowship groups.  The shelves of Christian books stores are increasingly filled  with new authors on the topic.  Christian colleges and universities are offering courses, majors, and degrees on it up to the level of the PhD.  This is all to the  good.

We read in Jeremiah 18:5&6, “ Can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord.  Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” Also in Isaiah 64:8, the people respond to God saying, “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”  Like the potter, God takes the clay of our lives into his hands, if we let him, and shapes us into something beautiful and functional, beautiful in his likeness and functional in serving him in ways that go beyond our imagination.  Such formation is not his ultimate purpose however.

There is always more. By God’s grace our formation is to be followed by the Spirit of God that fills us. This is to say that there is more to the Good News of the Gospel than spiritual formation. Beyond spiritual formation there is God’s infilling to the brim, and then to spilling over in profound love for others. When God does a work of filling, he does a work of cleansing, purifying our hearts after the likeness of his heart,  sanctifying entirely. Thanks be to God for he does immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine for us, then in purity of heart through us for others. Glory to God!

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10

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Leading With Character

 

In the weeks following the recent US presidential election, I’ve been thinking a great deal about leadership and character.  The concern in a great many hearts  was the apparent lack of character in both candidates vying for the most powerful position in the world.  My reflections are occasioned by preparation to speak for a day (four sessions) to a group of fifty special graduate students on the topic of Leading With Character.  They are special in that they are all ordained Salvation Army clergy whose pastoral covenant includes a commitment to personal holiness, sanctification, and purity of heart and life.

Just this morning I discovered a note-to-self that I jotted down at the beginning of several days of preparation.  It was a simple listing of ways to think about the nature of character.  Here’s verbatim the nine thoughts that came to mind about character:

(1)  It derives from our highest priority: life in Christ (no God but God). (2)  By character we mean living in the likeness of Christ. (3) It reflects a profound love of God and of people.(4) It is seen in dispositions (tempers) based on the “fruit of the Spirit”and purity of heart. (5)  It is guided by mind of Christ including a knowledge that surpasses knowledge (knowledge of the heart). (6) It is refined through continual responses to convictions that lead to repentance (a change in the right direction) through submission, surrender, and obedience to the word and will of God. (7) It is seen and judged (inferred by others) more by observation of true humility, compassion, and self-denial for others than acts of piety. (8) Character is formed by the company we keep. (9) Its outer expression in righteousness is inner holiness!

 

 

 

 

 

Social Holiness & Trinitarian Love

Rublev’s Trinity Icon

As a people called to covenant with God and to exercise general and specific gifts, we are blessed by the God’s gift of his very self.  Our greatest distinctive is our gift of Emanuel, God with us and God in us together.  This makes us different. This is our particularity as followers.  Holiness is the very character of God in us as we live relationally in the fellowship of the Trinity. The mystery of the privilege is ours as we embrace the invitation to participate together in the life and mutual love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The possibility of life together with God always and forever is Good News!  As it comes to us we pass it on to others (Matthew 28:19).

As GoodNews, God calls us to himself.  He draws us into intimacy so that we may know God in his fullness and make him known.  He call us to a life of holiness within his Trinitarian love where we may abide, rest, and remain (John 15:5) in the deep, intimate fellowship and unity (John 17:20-23) of the Trinity.  Thanks and praise be to God!  Glory to his name!