The topic of Spiritual Formation and Discipleship is something I’m very passionate about. And it seems to me, in my experience anyways, that it isn’t something many churches talk about or do. I feel that the Church today focus too heavily on evangelism. Now, don’t get me wrong, that is quite important, but the lack of discipleship is hurting many.
I attended a Christian school and was surrounded by great Christian men and women, but even after I was baptized I felt I was kind of left on my own to figure things out. The biggest trouble was not having a spiritual director or mentor. Yes, I learned quite a good deal about the Bible, but I still needed that guidance. Maybe it is my fault that I didn’t seek someone out. Not to put blame on any of those great folks at MMS for they have given me more than enough in this life, and I’m indeed grateful.
But even still today I feel like I don’t have that guidance or one-on-one with a older, wiser Christian with whom I could be discipled. Jesus commanded us in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We see that Christ doesn’t want us to merely baptize people and then leave them on their own. We are called to MAKE disciple. We are called to disciple and be discipled.
So I listened to one of my favorite professors at JBC give a sermon on the topic of Spiritual Formation. And I mention Discipleship because often it is something we chose for ourselves to undergo. And Dr. Gupton gave an amazing sermon on some ways to have Christ spiritually formed in you so much so that you are conformed to the image of His Son. And that’s the point of discipleship and spiritual formation. That you be made to look like Christ Jesus our Lord.
So I listened to Dr. Gupton’s sermon and took notes on it. And I wanted to share those notes with you on here so that maybe the Body would be edified. I hope you can take something from them:
Conformed to the Image of His Son
Dr. Gupton on Spiritual Formation and Discipleship
“Spiritual disciplines are activities we do to cooperate with God’s work to transform us into the image of Christ.” -Dr. Carlus Gupton
I John 3:2-3- “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
Romans 12:1-2-“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 8:28-29-“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Each of us lives between two realities. We live between who we are and who we long to be. We say to ourselves, “I am what I am.” We are insecure about our ordinariness. We want to distort who we really are. We change, but not that much. The second reality is: “I am not yet what I shall be.” The truth is underscored by Scripture, I John 3:2-3. In between these two realities is the process we call transformation or spiritual formation, growth. We are not the ones who do the transformation, but we are to cooperate with God in that transformation. Transformation=metamorphosis. God works to conform us to the image of His Son. Spiritual formation is the life-long process of being conformed to Christ for our good and that of the world’s.
How do we do this?
We must discuss the spiritual disciplines and practices. Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline is an amazing book on this subject.
1. They are put forth as overwhelming
2. Jesus warns heavily on putting the spiritual life out of reach of people (Matthew 23:4)
3. Spiritual disciplines are not a measure of spirituality. They are SUPPOSED to help us become more like Christ! Spiritual practices don’t help us at all unless they make us like Christ.
4. They are activities we do to cooperate with God’s work in transforming us into Christ’s image.
Spiritual Practice of Prayer:
-Principle 1- Simplicity. Jesus’ prayer. When you pray say these words. Do this. The prayer captured the major tenants of Jesus’ teaching. To learn what is important to Jesus then unpack those phrases. Kingdom is so much bigger than Church. It’s about our response to God and how we bring Heaven to earth. Kingdom encompasses so much of God’s grand vision for the world and how we participate in that vision. The prayers are simple, repeated throughout the day. Acts 2:42-devoted to Apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. They prayed at 9 AM, Noon, and 2 PM. Breaking of bread alludes to Eucharist. Eucharist was about that remembering and that transformation. Consistent participation in God’s work of transformation.
-Principle 2-Regularity. Jesus gives us these as simple, but as something done regularly. I Thessalonians 5:16-18, pray continually. Alludes to praying 3 times a day. Early Christians borrowed the tradition from the Jews.
The 3 Times of Prayer:
The Morning Light- Psalms 88
The Midday- Psalms 92
The Nightfall- Psalms 92
Remember those times so you pray and you honor the presence of God in your life. Reminder that God is in the work of changing you and you want to participate in that work.
1. The Prayer of Morning Light
John Stott’s Morning Trinitarian Prayer
Good morning heavenly Father,
good morning Lord Jesus,
good morning Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Father, I worship you as the creator and sustainer of the universe.
Lord Jesus, I worship you, Savior and Lord of the world.
Holy Spirit, I worship you, sanctifier of the people of God.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence
and please you more and more.
Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.
Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God,
have mercy upon me. Amen
2. The Prayer of Midday (can be any prayer)
St. Francis’ Prayer for Peace
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon:
where there is doubt, faith ;
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy
O divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen.
Mark the time that we say to God that we are walking with God. And that He is working in us, let us cooperate with Him.
3. The Evening Prayer (Prayer of Examen)
5 Practices at End of Day
1. Become aware of God’s presence
2. Review day with gratitude
3. Ask Spirit to see ourselves honestly-reflection
4. Pray about one event of the day
5. Look forward to tomorrow
4 Questions When Reviewing the Day:
-What went well?
-What went poorly?
-What gifts did I receive?
-What needs healing?
Prayer can be simple and regular. By this we participate with God in the process He is engaged in and that is transforming us into His image.