The spiritual formation movement is very popular today. It is, however, in many ways a move away from the truth of God’s Word to a mystical form of Christianity, and it has infiltrated, to some degree, nearly all evangelical denominations. This idea of spiritual formation is based on the premise that if we do certain practices, we can be more like Jesus. Proponents of spiritual formation erroneously teach that anyone can practice these mystical rituals and find God within themselves.
Too often, adherents of the current spiritual formation movement believe the spiritual disciplines transform the seeker by his or her entering an altered realm of consciousness. The spiritual formation movement is characterized by such things as contemplative prayer, contemplative spirituality, and Christian mysticism.
True biblical spiritual formation, or spiritual transformation, begins with the understanding that we are sinners living apart from God. Our faculties have been corrupted by sin so that we cannot please God. True spiritual transformation occurs as we yield ourselves to God so that He may transform us by the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. At least half of every New Testament epistle is geared toward how to live a life well pleasing to God—by obedience and submission to the Holy Spirit in all things. Scripture does not only call us the redeemed, saved, saints, sheep, soldiers, and servants, but teaches us that only through the power of the Spirit we can live up to what the names mean.
The following passages address various aspects of spiritual formation, the work of God in the life of the believer.
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). Here is the aim of transformation: that we may be like Christ.
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is part of a passage that teaches that we are changed into the image of Christ not by following rules and laws, but by following the leading of the Spirit by faith.
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3–7).
Here, Paul reminds us of our before-and-after life. We have responded to the “kindness and love of God” shown to us by the death of Christ for our sins, repented of our sins, and now respond to the Spirit’s continual prompting and empowerment to live differently as God’s children. As a result, we have been transformed by the “rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (v. 5). This, then, is true spiritual formation—the reforming of our spirits by His Spirit into the image of Christ.
These are difficult questions to answer. Some people would say that using donated sperm to fertilize an egg—or donating your own sperm so someone else can conceive—is wrong because it seeks to bypass God’s will. If God wanted that person to have children, the thinking goes, she wouldn’t need sperm from anyone other than her husband. However, if we take this reasoning to the extreme, then we would have to say that it is also God’s will for a person with appendicitis to die, because performing life-saving surgery would “bypass God’s will.” Such reasoning is fallacious because medical intervention is not inherently sinful.
Still, there is a difference between saving a life in jeopardy (performing an appendectomy) and using medical procedures to aid in God’s creation of a new life. Just how much scientific advancement is God-honoring (1 Corinthians 6:19–20; 10:31)? Is all technology something God desires His children to make use of? In these “gray” areas, a believer in Jesus needs wisdom. It is good to gather detailed information and make a careful study of the procedures involved in donating sperm or receiving donated sperm. Also, it is wise to consult with doctors and other believers and, above all, to spend much time in prayer.
Ultimately, the creation of life is still in God’s hands (Psalm 139:13–16; Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 110:3). Science may aid someone in getting pregnant, but technology is not the source of life, and God can still prevent any pregnancy He doesn’t want to happen. At the same time, God allows sin even though He disapproves of it. So, the question remains: is it sinful to donate sperm or to receive donated sperm? There are some important issues to consider regarding donating sperm that could help someone make an informed, God-honoring decision. The first two questions are for a man who is considering donating sperm:
First, is the donated sperm to be distributed among unknown mothers? If so, you have no way of knowing if your child will grow up in a loving home, if he will be brought up to know the Lord, or even if she will have a two-parent home. Would contributing to an abusive family situation honor the Lord? If there’s a possibility that your child will not be reared in a godly home, and if that possibility leaves you without peace as you pray about it, then it’s probable that the Lord doesn’t want you to donate.
Second, what effect will your donation have on the child it helps to create? If you are not going to rear the child yourself, the child may struggle for years with questions about why you would “sell” him and never be a part of his life. Online blogs exist for children searching for their biological fathers (or “sperm donors”), as they try to come to terms with their unusual heritage.
Now, a question for a married woman considering using donated sperm: have both you and your husband considered the ethical and moral implications of introducing another man’s sperm into your body? God designed marriage to be a union of a man and a woman to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
And, finally, a question for anyone to consider: is the sperm from the sperm bank used to fertilize more than one ovum (as in the in-vitro procedure)? If so, multiple zygotes/embryos will be created, and some of them may later be destroyed because too many are growing in the womb. Other “extra” embryos are frozen and never implanted. If you agree that abortion is wrong, then you would probably agree that such treatment of embryos is also wrong.
A believer should pray, read God’s Word, and wait for a clear answer from the Lord (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15; Colossians 1:9–10). Your decision affects many other people, and it affects the potential life (or even death) of other human beings.
The theology of the cross, or theologia crucis, is a term coined by the German theologian Martin Luther to refer to the belief that the cross is the only source of spiritual knowledge concerning who God is and how God saves. Only at the cross does a fallen human being gain the understanding that is the result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at conversion (1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13–14). Cross theology is contrasted with the theology of glory, or theologia gloriae, which places greater emphasis on human abilities and human reason. Luther first used the term theologia crucis in the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, where he defended the Reformation doctrines of the depravity of man and the bondage of the will to sin.
The primary difference between the theology of the cross and the theology of glory is the ability or inability of man to justify himself before a holy God. The theologian of the cross sees as inviolate the biblical truths of man’s inability to earn righteousness, the inability for humans to add to or increase the righteousness attained by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and the only source of man’s righteousness coming from outside of ourselves. The cross theologian agrees wholeheartedly with the Apostle Paul’s assessment of the human condition: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Romans 7:18). The cross theologian rejects the idea that man can attain righteousness in any degree by keeping the works of the law, but is saved and sanctified solely by grace (Romans 3:20; Ephesians 2:8–9).
Theologians of glory, on the other hand, see good in humans and ascribe to them the ability to do the good that lies within them. They believe that there remains, after the fall, some ability to prefer good over evil and to choose the good. Most significantly, glory theology posits that humans cannot be saved without participating in or cooperating with the righteousness given by God. This is the classic works vs. faith debate which has long been fueled by a misunderstanding of certain passages in the book of James. James 2:17–18 is interpreted to mean that we are justified by our works, while James is actually saying that those who have been justified by faith in the work of Christ on the cross will produce good works as evidence of true conversion, not that conversion is obtained by good works.
It should be noted that theology of the cross is not the sentimental idea that Jesus is made more attractive to us by His identifying with our trials and tribulations. While Jesus certainly does identify with our suffering, our suffering is not somehow made nobler because of it. Our suffering is the byproduct of the fall of mankind into sin, whereas Jesus’ suffering was that of an innocent Lamb slaughtered for the sake of others’ sin, not His own. Nor is cross theology our identification with His suffering through our own, which pales in comparison to what He went through. In the end, Jesus suffered and died because nobody identified with Him. The people cried, “Crucify him!” One of His disciples betrayed Him, another denied Him three times, and the rest abandoned Him and fled. He died alone, forsaken even by God. So to attempt to unite ourselves with Him in His suffering is to diminish His sacrifice and exalt our own sufferings to a level never intended by the theology of the cross which Luther posited.
Are you deeply concerned about the future of America? Is something in your gut telling you that our system is fundamentally broken and that the mainstream media is not telling you the truth about what is happening? If so, you are definitely not alone. Right now, there are millions upon millions of Americans that are absolutely horrified as they watch this nation deteriorate. In fact, according to an analysis of recent polling data conducted by Real Clear Politics, approximately 68 percent of all Americans believe that the country is on the wrong track and only 23.5 percent of all Americans believe that the country is on the right track. And of course our problems did not appear just recently. In fact, many of them are the result of decades of very foolish decisions and they are not going to be fixed easily. Unfortunately, there is very little consensus among Americans about how to fix any of our problems. There is more anger, frustration, hatred and division in the United States today than there has been in decades, and there is very little hope that the great storms that are looming on the horizon will be averted. Those that are wise are preparing for what is coming. Those that are not are going to be absolutely blindsided by what is rapidly approaching. (Read More….)
(Washington, D.C.) — This week, an American reporter interviewed Yossi Klein Halevi, “the American-born Israeli author of the masterful [book], Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, who is in the U.S. on a book tour. He had strong words of condemnation for the nuclear deal reached in Geneva with Iran.”
I can’t say I’m sure Halevi is correct, that an Israeli strike is now “inevitable,” but I thought these were comments worth you seeing.
Excerpts from the interview:
- “I think it’s a betrayal. The Obama administration had to be dragged into supporting sanctions. It took the administration three years to sign up for crippling sanctions. And now, just as they’re starting to work, the administration is beginning to dismantle the system. That’s a betrayal.
- “They are laying…
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UPDATED WITH NEW ARTICLES & COMMENTARY: (Washington, D.C.) — The deal is done. The Iranian leaders are claiming victory. The White House is claiming victory. Most European governments, as well as Russia, are claiming victory.
The Israeli government, meanwhile, is horrified. They, and many of their citizens, feel more isolated than ever. As I reported from Jerusalem, this was true before the deal was struck. It is even more true now.
“One [Israeli] radio host on Sunday repeatedly played clips of President Obama, during his visit here in March, reassuring Israelis, in Hebrew, that ‘you are not alone,’ and then said ominously, ‘We are in fact alone,'” reported the New York Times.
Below, you’ll find a selection of key articles I’ve found helpful over the past 72 hours in understanding the deal and the reaction to it from various quarters. Above all, I encourage you to read the full text of the…
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First Thanksgiving Proclamation
President George Washington
October 3, 1789
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and to humbly implore His protection and favor, and
Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the people of these great States to the service of that great and glorious Being, Who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was or will be . . . that…
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by Mike Ratliff
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 ESV)
One the most disturbing aspects of the churches who practice Christianity “lite” is the near total abandonment of a call to personal holiness. Even more discouraging is the fact that they preach a version of the gospel that has had any mention of repentance severed from it. The reasoning behind this, of course, is that they are building bridges to the unchurched. If they preach the whole gospel they will drive away those they are attempting to draw to join their churches. The problem with that sort of reasoning is that it is based in pragmatism. It is based on fleshly reasoning and the ways of the world. It is actually unbelief in the form of ministry. The architects of Christianity “lite” do not believe that God is still…
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