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Jesus And Transformation

Teaching Notes: Sunday 21/01/2024

Catch Up: Watch   || Listen

Are you seeing the transformation you want in your life, or do you feel stuck, struggling to change, falling into the same things, living the same year over and over again? It might be time to pay some attention to your spiritual formation!

Spiritual formation is the shaping (over time) of the inner being of a person, resulting in the transformation of the entire person, including mind, will, emotions, and relationships.

From my conversations with Christians over the years, it seems clear that many who follow Jesus understand the concept of salvation - described in various ways for example: coming to faith, accepting Jesus as savior, moving from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive, being born again and so on. Yet, often these same people feel stuck or frustrated later in their spiritual journey after crossing the line of faith. They understand their sin was canceled, yet they are still chained to the past. They feel like they are in a cycle. They feel like they have hit a ceiling and can't find a breakthrough. The same issues keep coming up again and again.

 Usually, it's not that people don't want to change, but more a case of being unsure how to change. Perhaps you can relate? I know I can!

This is the paradox we touched on last week - "it's no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). The old me has gone and the new me has come but the old me often appears to be very much alive!

In the context of Christianity, it is the process of the follower/apprentice/disciple becoming more like the teacher/rabbi - Jesus.

A working definition of Spiritual Formation (in Christ): The process of becoming like, and closer to, Christ.

At the outset, it's important to remember that

  • Spiritual formation is already happening to each of us, whether we are aware of it or not. The stories we tell ourselves, the habits we have, and the environments we place ourselves in all influence the person we are becoming.

  • It is not a brand new label for what we are already doing: worship, listening to preaching, life groups, and serving, but perhaps a different perspective on how it all works together.

  • It should not be a checklist that focuses on doing more “religious activities.”

  • While reading the Bible / listening to preaching is of utmost importance, where there is no translation from information to revelation, there is no transformation - simply because what is in your heart has a much greater influence on who you become than what is in your head.

  • Spiritual formation requires effort on our part. Here is another paradox - without God, there will be no formation, but without our active participation, there will also be no change. Dallas Willard said "Grace is not effort opposed, it's earning opposed. It requires effort and intentionality to put off the old person and put on the new (Eph. 4; Col. 3).

Here is a simple representation of the 3 dimensions of spiritual formation in Christ. Where all three intersect is where transformation really begins to happen.

1/ Holy Spirit

Spiritual formation may be thought of as a shaping by the Holy Spirit. The person of the Holy Spirit is the most powerful being, and He lives inside of followers of Jesus. He sanctifies those who believe. He is a teacher, guide, counselor, advocate, coach, and encourager - the empowering presence that you and I need to be transformed. Yet, He will respect your will, and will not force, control, or dictate. He waits to be invited into every area of your life.

To God’s elect… who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ… 1 Peter 1:1-2

2/ Heart (Mind, will, emotions)

This can be thought of as the shaping of the inmost dimension of a person

  • Mind (core beliefs, thought patterns, strongholds),

  • Will, (Impulsive will, reflective will, embodied will) emotions

  • Emotions (indicators of what's going on inside

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

Guarding your heart (mind, will and emotions) is your responsibility - and requires an awareness of what it is that you are believing, feeling, or running from. This is hard work and requires humility and vulnerability in the presence of the Holy Spirit and community.

3/ Hands, Habits, Head (H-applications... )

Think of this as the application part - the doing bit. Teaching, training, and practicing spiritual disciplines (e.g. prayer, silence & solitude, fasting, Bible reading, Sabbath, Community, Simplifying Worship). If we are not careful, this area becomes the focus (without an open heart and the prompting of the Spirit) and we end up "religiously busy" but with no lasting change.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 2 Peter 1:5-6


Spiritual formation (in Christ) happens when all three dimensions are working together.

If you leave everything up to the Holy Spirit but are unwilling to yield your heart, or take any responsibility to do anything, you won't see much change. If you have the heart to change and are following the Holy Spirit, but are unwilling to apply, you won't see much change. If you do all the "things" but ignore the Holy Spirit and present the best while hiding the rest, you guessed it, you won't see much change!

Spiritual formation (in Christ) happens when hearts are opened and yielded to God, in the presence of, and following the prompting of the Holy Spirit. And, there are some practices (both individual and in the communnity) that can keep you on track.

Which area needs the most attention for you in this season?


Why is this important? Simply put - this is what you are created for, and if you don't walk in this you will go through life feeling like something is missing!

Becoming closer to Jesus, and more like Him is what this is all about. It all comes down to a relationship with Jesus himself.

Jesus' Mission: Transformation

7 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Jesus' Method: Spirit-Empowered Disciples

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus' Motivation: Love

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Following Jesus is more than doing religious things; it is an intentional way of life. As we own our part, God is able to work in us and with us transforming us to be the kinds of people that we need, and he desires us, to become.

This week, develop a daily time and place to connect with God.

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