It’s possible—perhaps even likely—that you’ve never heard the phrase spiritual formation before. It’s the kind of terminology that’s often sequestered in academic circles. But in recent years, the concepts and practices of spiritual formation have gained popularity in the church and brought related issues to the forefront for many believers.
The need for spiritual growth is apparent in the life of every believer. We must be transformed, refined, and sharpened if we’re going to break our old, wicked patterns and grow in grace and godliness. The pursuit of holiness is a lifelong battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil, in pursuit of Christlikeness.
You probably hear a lot about God’s sanctifying work in your life through His Word. But what does that process look like? How do you know if the living truth of Scripture is actually at work in your life? How do you know that God’s Word has actually taken root in your life?
While we understand that sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s people through His Word, it’s not an entirely passive process for believers. Spiritual maturity doesn’t come through osmosis—it takes careful discipline and hard work, even in the basics like how we study Scripture…
Whenever you’re speaking on behalf of someone else, it’s important to get the message right. Even in simple matters, accuracy is critical. Forgotten details and sloppy summaries can lead to confusion, mistakes, and frustration.
If you had to give a presentation on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, how would you prepare? Would you study the work of scholars to absorb as much pertinent information and insight as you could? Or would you simply mull the few facts and details you already know, hoping for the shreds of disparate information to coalesce into a useful outline? Obviously the second method is a path to embarrassment, misinformation, and failure. But why then do we tolerate similar patterns when it comes to studying and teaching God’s Word?
If you believe the Bible is God’s Word—that it’s His revelation of Himself and His plan for redeeming sinners, and that it supplies all the instruction and encouragement believers need for life, spiritual growth, and godliness—then getting the message right is of the highest importance.
Most people who claim to know and love the Lord would agree that His Word is central to spiritual growth. But there are a wide variety of ideas about what that looks like in practice. For many leaders in the spiritual formation movement, Bible study doesn’t really involve study at all. Instead, it’s an attempt to experience the text.
By now, we can agree that God’s Word is the foundation of our spiritual growth. But how do the words on the pages of Scripture translate into greater godliness and deeper sanctification in the lives of God’s people?
When it comes to Bible study, too often people want to jump straight to application. They might be faithful to read God’s Word, but they skip an important step on the way to applying it to their lives. And in many cases, that application comes from only the most basic, shallow knowledge of what Scripture truly says and means.
Elements of Productive Bible Study: Interpret, Part 2
Faithfully reading Scripture is fundamental to your spiritual growth. But reading alone isn’t enough to sanctify you—it’s just the first step in the process.
As we examine and evaluate the spiritual formation movement, we’ve been considering a key question about how the Lord works in our lives: “If God’s Word is the foundation of our faith and the source of our spiritual growth, how do we get the most out of it?”
Early on in my ministry, I discovered the best way to mentally retain something is to teach it to others. Preparing sermons each week has a way of drilling God’s truth into your head. And the things I study deeply to teach to my congregation are the things I have the easiest time remembering.
The role of Scripture in your spiritual growth cannot be overestimated. In this short series, we’ve already seen the vital importance of reading it faithfully, interpreting it accurately, and even teaching it regularly. However, no amount of reading and studying the Bible will encourage your spiritual growth if you lack the illumination of the Holy Spirit. In simple terms, for God’s Word to do its work in your life, you need to believe it.
Your prayer life has a significant impact on your spiritual growth. Prayer submits your will to the Lord’s, it aligns your desires with His purposes, and it cements His truth in your heart. In the end, it’s much more than simply bringing your requests and concerns before the Lord.
What drives people to pray? Is it superstitious beliefs, religious rituals, or spiritual needs? Are they searching for some mystical experience, or do they simply expect God to grant their wishes?
Sanctification isn’t easy—it takes faithfulness, hard work, and self-discipline. And even then, it’s not purely a function of your will, but the work of the Holy Spirit in you. It’s not manufactured overnight.
You probably know that most people in America and many more worldwide identify themselves as Christians. But how many of them can explain and defend the gospel, articulate basic biblical theology, or live lives that support the claims of their faith? The tragic fact is that compared to the vast number of people who claim to be Christians, very few are actually growing to be more like Christ.
We’ve reached the end of our series on spiritual formation and sanctification, but before we close the discussion, I want to encourage you with some practical ways to evaluate your own spiritual growth.