Discipleship and Maturity in an Instant
There is a deep and troubling problem in the way modern Christians approach Discipleship or spiritual formation. The body of Christ, the church, has been tricked or trained to believe the idea that the entirety of our lives, everything that makes us who we are will be transformed during in a dramatic moment usually at a spiritual retreat, church camp, or event. Of course God declares that we are a “new Creation, a masterpiece.” But we still have a body that must submit spiritually and that takes process.
Many(most)think a kaboom is just around the corner or maybe God will declare a spiritual abracadabra over our lives to magically complete the good work he started. Maybe driving our car to work, God will visit and completely transform them with a big bang experience into a finished product, with a truly sound mind, not double minded and unstable in all thier ways, fully connected to God and at peace with the destiny for his Life. Finally living with the power to raise the dead, heal the sick, go doubting nothing, and maybe for the first time understanding the peace beyond all understanding. Going forward, bitterness, rage, anger, envy, self pity, jealousy, unloving attributes are fully gone and have no influence over his life. All of this achieved with no effort, just granted over him with no process of maturity required. The Heart will be reconstructed instantly by some sort of spiritual big bang and then suddenly they will be modified in every aspect of your life into being like Christ with no need for process or spiritual formation or effort.
This explains the heavy emphasis on constant retreats, events, concerts, victory conferences, spiritual dog and pony shows, etc. People are expecting some sort of massive evolutionary jump forward in their spirit to finally stop feeling the way they do, unworthy, weak and full of shame. Pastors and other leaders keep feeding this desire for more events, because the people really demand them in the hopes they can finally change and mature into a real man or women of God fully able to experience true peace and victory now in this life. Of course they generally leave encouraged for a while and then that old familiar feeling returns and they need another fix, another event to get them down the road. God never intended his beloved to be this way, dependent upon constant spiritual affirmation apart from a pursuit of God. God affirms us and sustains all things, declaring over us “this is my beloved in whom I’m well pleased”. We are being trained to see Christian maturity and discipleship as spiritual zip lines, flying above the trees effortlessly in safety enjoying an amazing panorama of beauty without challenge or trial. It may be fun and exhilarating, but the ride does come to an end quickly having to return to the start position again to re-experience the ride over and over again. Literally the definition of insanity. It is sick and destructive and many lives are wasted chasing the big bang experience, Kaboom, or the zip line. The end result for this training is a confused and bewildered body of Christ that never reaches peace and can be heard saying, “this God thing isn’t working.”
Spiritual formation takes effort and hard work at times. It is not earning but effort. The goal is to be whole, nothing lacking, nothing missing. We focus on getting “fixed” but wholeness and peace found in deep personal relationship with God that develops from daily pursuit of His character and nature quietly, almost still or stopped in his presence. The church trains us to get busy for the Lord, but slowing to a crawl resting in the work he finished long ago is where maturity is grown.
The full effort is exposing ourselves to God’s character and nature through the word, fasting, prayer, solitude, silence, etc. The spiritual disciplines, the activities Jesus considered so important to stay connected to his own father and to be able to fulfill His will. Spiritual Disciplines are the “putting and and putting off the word talks about in Ephesians 4:22-24. The spiritual Disciples are the seeking and finding in our daily lives and have largely been ignored. Seek ye first the kingdom of God(Matt 6:33) to obtain the knowledge of the Father is eternal life(John 17:3). Discipleship is becoming a lifelong student from the true teacher Jesus Christ to take on his character that he would be formed in our members(Gal 4:19) and putting into practice the character and nature of God as it flows through our lives. Spiritual disciplines are not behavior modification but truly transforming every part of our lives: our spirits, mind, emotions, intention, motives, etc. into the character and nature of Christ. And from this internal , inner spiritual growth and change from exposure to God our behaviors, thoughts and emotions change.
We typically do everything backwards.