I have recently been reading Kenneth Boa’s excellent book on spirituality, ‘Conformed to His Image’. It’s a big book. The type of book that you don’t sit down to read in one go but you can dip in and out of its rich pickings on the subject of spiritual formation. And formation, as the word suggests, is how we become more and more formed into the Image of Christ; through the indwelling of His Spirit and by our practising spiritual disciplines.
The word discipline can sound negative. It smacks of things that we have to do but don’t really want to. When I was a boy I had several attempts at learning how to play a musical instrument. I started with the bagpipes, in attempt to get into the Boy’s Brigade Band, but never really got beyond the chanter. Having failed miserably at that I was demoted to bugler and thought I was doing well until one day there was a knock at our front door. My sister answered it then came upstairs to say that a neighbour, several blocks away, had pleaded that I should stop as his wife had a terrible headache and could not stand the din I was making any longer. Then there was the guitar: I could strum chords ’til my heart was content but could not, as with any of these instruments, retain all the squiggly bits on the paper called the music sheet. Eventually I gave up. Mainly because I never mastered the discipline of practise, practise, practise!
However, there were things in life I eventually found that I could be more disciplined at, such as running. I knew that hard work in training paid off and generally the harder I trained the faster I got. This would spurn me on to go out in all weathers; a discipline in itself.
But being a Christian requires spiritual discipline. The word disciple is very closely linked to the word discipline. This Sunday we will be considering what it means to make disciples, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19. Being a follower of Jesus requires that we discipline ourselves in certain ways. Kenneth Boa reminds us of many disciplines practised by Christians throughout history which we seem to have lost an appetite for these days. Disciplines, to name but a few, such as:
Solitude and Silence Journaling Study and Meditation Fasting Secrecy Confession Fellowship Submission and Guidance Stewardship Service
Although the main focus of this blog is intended to be about prayer, it is clear that there are many other spiritual disciplines which would benefit us by means of helping us to be formed into His Image. As one in full time ministry I know how important it is for me to practise these things. It takes real discipline e.g. to say that I will not be visiting much this week because I need to spend time studying and meditating. For you it may be something different.
Perhaps we could ponder the observation made by Boa that, ‘In our culture, we increasingly tend to be human doings rather than human beings’. Therefore, let what we ‘are’, in Christ, be the basis for what ‘we do’. It’s easy to be disciplined in certain things, our natural abilities, and not so much in others. What spiritual disciplines do we find most difficult? As my athletic days advanced and I later took up triathlon, I discovered something that applied both physically and spiritually; better to train for our weaker disciplines than for our strengths.
(Perhaps even before getting out of bed in the morning)
Prayers of affirmation to guide us from a biblical perspective
at the start of each day could include the following:
- Submitting to God
Asking to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2)
- Adoration and Thanksgiving
Praising God for his attributes of love, compassion, grace, mercy, holiness, goodness, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, creation care, redemption etc.
Asking the Spirit to search our hearts and reveal areas of unconfessed sin. (Psalm 139:23-24)
- My Identity in Christ
I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I that lives but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20) I am forgiven because Christ died for me. (Romans 5:8, 1 Cor. 15:3)
- Filling of the Spirit
Ask the Spirit to control and fill us for this day. (Ephesians 5:18)
- Fruit of the Spirit
Pray for the fruit of the Spirit love, joy peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)Love is patient, kind, not jealous etc. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)
- Purpose of my Life
Seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:19-20) To Glorify God by bearing much fruit. (John 15:8)
- Circumstances of the Day
Trusting God and leaning not on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Acknowledge that God is in control and all things work together for good…according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28-29)
- Protection in the Warfare
Against the world. (Colossians 3:1-12) Against the Flesh. (Romans 6:6) Against the Devil. (Ephesians 6:13-18)
- The Coming of Christ and my Future with Him
Your Kingdom Come. Your Will Be Done (Matthew 6:10) My present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with that which is to be revealed. (Romans 8:18) My citizenship is in Heaven. (Philippians 3:20)
 Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation, (Michigan: Zondervan, 2001)