Recently during a Seminar I was leading which emphasised the pivotal role of God's love as the most powerful agent for changing our lives for good, a lady shared that her personal security level, and therefore personal well being, had risen significantly through 40 years of God's unconditional love from her husband.
The good news from God to us is significantly about the possibility of us being changed from the inside by God's Spirit of love both directly from His Spirit and indirectly through His Spirit in others.
Formation of God's character in us by His Spirit is an 'essence' of our faith rather than just an 'aspect'. From early in the gospels e.g. Matt 3: 11-12, till the conclusion of the New Testament writings, this is a central theme. Jesus emphasised it in Matt 5:8 “You're blessed when you get your inside world – your heart and mind - put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” (The Message)
Paul almost invariably has a significant section in his letters which nails down that the Spirit's work in us produces fruit e.g. Galatians 5:22, 23 and Colossians 3: 12-14. Personal qualities and relationship capacities such as compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline, are vital to effective living and are probably universally desired and valued above any other personal qualities and relationship capacities.
This biblical theme has a similar pivotal place in my Christian walk and belief to the way Paul regarded teaching about the resurrection “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17 The Message). If God can't and/or doesn't change us from the inside by His spirit to be maturing into His fullness (Ephesians 4:13) then we best give Christianity away.
It is my fervent belief through a lifetime of close and sometimes almost desperate observation that these 'formation' teachings are true.
Often it is frustrating that the changes do take place at about the same pace as fruit grows and ripens… quite slowly. But it is still real and absolutely vital, especially to the effectiveness of our witness and evangelism. When Jesus sent his disciples out he told them “you are the equipment” (Luke 9:1-5 The Message). We are the message.
Who we are through God's Spirit in us is crucial to us getting an opportunity to speak the gospel. The New Testament tells us that we can 'hinder the growth of God's character in us by quenching or grieving the Spirit' (1 Thes 5:19 and Eph 4:30). We have a stewardship opportunity and responsibility to relate 'intimately and organically’ to God (John 15:5-6) so that the character of God grows in us.
“Formation” is the main game. It is not an optional extra.
Keith Farmer Mentoring