“Answering the Question: What Is Spiritual Formation?”

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Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary

“Answering the Question: What is Spiritual Formation?”

A Paper
Submitted to Dr. B. R. Lowman
In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements for the Course
Spiritual Formation
PATH 520

Floyd C. Marsh

20 March 2008

“Answering the Question: What is Spiritual Formation?”

How would God Himself answer, with just one word, the question “what is spiritual formation?” His response, no doubt, would be “conformation.” “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). Thus, it is His revealed will that His children become more like His dear Son, Jesus Christ, daily. This “conformation” is brought about in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. God, through the Apostle Paul, has revealed that as one beholds the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ they “are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). Therefore the process of “conformation” is brought about by the activity of “spiritual formation” through the superintendency of the Holy Spirit.

At times the activity of “spiritual formation” is narrowly defined as only a disciplined life of prayer. But it is this author’s conviction that it truly requires more than just a regimented prayer life. Thus, the type of “spiritual formation” that leads to true “conformation,” that is to the image of Jesus Christ, is more than one dimensional. It should be considered a three dimensional discipline. A life that includes spending time with God in prayer as well as in His Word to the end of experiencing ultimate rest in His presence.

Even though the very idea of “spiritual formation” suggests a realm that is distinct from the physical. There is a similarity between the means of developing physically and developing spiritually. As our physical development requires exercise, nourishment and rest, like wise our spiritual development requires the same. As the physical life needs the proper exercise to grow so does one’s spiritual life. In I Timothy the Apostle Paul exhorts young Timothy to exercise himself unto godliness. “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). Thus in the activity of “spiritual formation” as one comes to God in prayer they are “exercising” their faith in Him. Prayer is a dimension of that spiritual discipline that leads to godliness. As one engages in the exercise of godliness they will, no doubt, develop an appetite for spiritual nourishment as well. The Word of God is the food needed for spiritual nourishment and growth. Jesus Himself stressed the spiritual nutritional value of the Word when He stated that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Therefore the Apostle Peter encourages the believer to “desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). This spiritual growth and exercise requires rest to be truly effective in the activity of “spiritual formation.” Likewise as the physical life requires adequate amounts of rest so does the spiritual. And Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel, has given a guarantee better than any mattress company when He stated “come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Coming unto Jesus is not only the key to spiritual rest but to the overall success of the activity of “spiritual formation.”

“Spiritual Formation” is not an inactive pursuit but a cooperative activity with God. The child of God needs to rely upon Him to do His part as they do theirs. Therefore spiritual formation is that inner work of the Holy Spirit...
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