Imagine expecting a 5-year-old to have the strength and muscle tone of a world-class weightlifter. It would definitely be the rare exception to see a kid with this kind of physical maturity.
Spiritual maturity is much the same. You may often expect your own journey to become more like Jesus to happen instantly. Maybe you even expected it to happen almost immediately after you said, "Yes," to Jesus. In reality, being like Jesus doesn't happen immediately. It takes a long time, a lifetime in fact. And really, the goal isn't to just "look like Jesus." Instead, it's a deep, intimate relationship that's built over a lifetime. And the result of that lifetime relationship is Christian Spiritual Formation.
Evan B. Howard, Ph.D. is the founder and director of Spirituality Shoppe, a Center for the Study of Christian Spirituality. He is also an affiliate faculty with Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of A Guide to Christian Spiritual Formation: How Scripture, Spirit, Community, and Mission Shape Our Souls and other books and articles. He leads workshops and seminars on Christian Spirituality and enjoys living a simple life with family and animals in rural Colorado.
A Guide to Christian Spiritual Formation by Evan B Howard
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Chapter 1 - Why Christian Spiritual Formation Matters
Isn't it enough that God saves me and that I'm free from sin? Yes... and no. You were saved for a purpose. You were saved to bring glory to God, your creator and heavenly father. Sadly, you can't do this on your own. It takes following the leading of the Spirit as he transforms your life day by day, bringing it into conformity with the image of Jesus Christ. In this chapter, Evan discusses a bit of his book, A Guide to Spiritual Formation, and why he's found spiritual formation in the Christian life to be, not just a part of the Christian life, but the whole of the Christian life.
Chapter 2 - Your Life is Ministry to God
Every Christian who follows Jesus is a minister. It may not be the way you make a living, but it is your full-time job. The Westminster Catechism says humanity's "chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever." Your entire life is about bringing glory to God, 24 hrs a day. This affects the way you wake up, eat breakfast, drive to work, come home, go to sleep, and everything in between. In this chapter, Evan tells his own story of meeting Jesus and his own journey toward understanding his entire life as ministry to God.
Chapter 3 - Establishing Rhythms for Spiritual Formation
The Teacher in Ecclesiastes wrote, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven... He has made everything beautiful in its time." God created you to live your life in rhythms. Sometimes that may mean focusing on parenting for a few months, sometimes it may mean taking a break from everything to focus on your relationship with God. The key is to follow the leading of the Spirit as he guides you in those rhythms. In this chapter, Evan talks about his own rhythms and the process he went through to develop those rhythms with the help of his wife and a close friend.
Chapter 4 - Spiritual Formation as a Discerning Art
When we look at living out the Christian life with others, things get messy. Why? Because we're all different. We have different cultural backgrounds. We have different presuppositions. And so, when it comes to walking with others, sometimes there's going to be friction. In this chapter, Evan talks about understanding the way each of us are wired differently when it comes to how we grow best. Some are more relational, and others desire strict rules. No one way is the "right" way. Instead, it's all about using wisdom to discern how the Spirit is leading you.
Chapter 5 - Learning to Respond to the Beloved
In this last chapter of our conversation with Evan, we get to ask our favorite questions. The most valuable lesson Evan has learned in the Christian life sums up the entire conversation so well. We can talk about rules and formulas for spiritual growth or even about how well we bring glory to God in what we do. But really, at the end of the day, it's all about learning to respond to the beloved.
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