Spiritual Formation is the ongoing work of holiness in the person, brought on by ongoing encounters with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the discoveries made both in ones sinful self as well as God and His holiness, as a result of those divine encounters. It is the ongoing acceptance of God's ways over our own and exchanging our wages-of-sin for His gift-of-life, by living the gift more and more each moment.
Remember the time you were introduced to friend for the very first time? You know, the usual small talk ensues. "Hi, my name is ..." "What is your name?" "What do you do for a living? ... Where do you live?" etc. There was a time when you and I were introduced to Jesus for the first time too. Initial acknowledgement of Jesus is encounter #1, but it is far from the end of our encounters we will have with God.
After a first introduction, there is no way to know everything about a person. In fact, the only thing you know is that you do not know everything about them. It's just not possible. One encounter with God is no different. You can't possibly know Him ... really know Him... through a singular encounter.
Newsflash ... You can't rid yourself of the inward darkness you possess unless you are exposed to the Light of Christ, and you will never encounter the layers of darkness within unless you encounter the depths of the Light of Christ.
So, what are these encounters? How do I engage in this process of discovery-through-encounter?
#1: Erase Misconceptions: Namely that you know God really well, and you know yourself really well. You don't. If His ways are unsearchable, then we must search them out. He is worth seek and invites us to seek. He invites us into the deep so that His "deeper still" will call out to us. If you and I were self-aware of our own faults, we'd rid ourselves of them on our own. Your darkness won't seem dark at all until it's dragged into the light. So, you must rid your mind of the misconceptions that you know God, and yourself, really well. No. In fact, the only thing we truly know, is that there is so much we really don't know at all.
#2: Pray to be taught through experiences. Instead of praying for "requests," pray to be taught God's through experiences. Pray revelation of any way within you that does not honor Him. Pray for blinders to be removed from your eyes. Pray that testing grounds will be given to you so that you may learn.
#3: Soak in His Word. The Word of God is revelation, inspiration, instruction, correction, knowledge, wisdom, Light, Truth, and Power (just to name some of its attributes). The same verse can have layers of revelation which can only be unearthed over time. Read and re-read. Soak and learn. Reflect and apply.
#4: Pray for His Voice and Presence: Ask God to speak to you. Ask for the ability to sense His presence. Express your willingness to obey His voice when something is asked of you. Offer to lay down anything you are asked to surrender, and commit to take up anything offered to You by God.
Spiritual formation is not formulaic, it's a garden that can only grow when the soil has been prepared. Do these four things and you will be well on your way to a flourishing garden, because you're doing right things with the soil. And be reminded, this is an ongoing work. Commit to it for life and you will receive "Life to the full" and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN, may it be so for you.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.