Editor's note:

On Mon­day of this week, we post­ed the first part of Richard Fos­ter’s 10 Coun­sels for Spir­i­tu­al For­ma­tion” where he list­ed three do nots.” Today, we post the sec­ond part which is made up of the sev­en do’s.” Togeth­er, these guide­lines will help us as we live inten­tion­al­ly ever deep­er into the with-God life, both in our own spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion and in shar­ing the ways of dis­ci­ple­ship with others.

—Renovaré Team

And now on to the sev­en do’s” of the work of spir­i­tu­al formation.

Do root spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion in the Great Commission. 

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, and teach­ing them to obey every­thing that I have com­mand­ed you …” (Matt. 28:19 – 20). 

We are to dis­ci­ple the nations — that is, all peo­ples, all eth­nic groups; to immerse them in the Trini­tar­i­an life and teach them to obey all that Jesus has commanded. 

A dis­ci­ple is an appren­tice, a fol­low­er of Jesus. There­fore dis­ci­pling the nations” must be root­ed in Jesus’ gospel of the king­dom, suc­cinct­ly stat­ed, Repent, for the king­dom of heav­en has come near” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). Jesus’ Ser­mon on the Mount is an expand­ed com­men­tary on that gospel of the kingdom. 

Do think internationally. 

Think­ing inter­na­tion­al­ly with respect to spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion involves think­ing geo­graph­i­cal­ly of the whole world. But pri­mar­i­ly it means that we are to be think­ing always of the whole human fam­i­ly.

What is essen­tial is life with Jesus, inter­ac­tive rela­tion­ship with the great God of the uni­verse, inner trans­for­ma­tion into Christlikeness. 

Thus we respect diver­si­ty. We hon­or the nec­es­sary human/​cultural ves­sel that must always go with the trea­sure” of Christ in us. Paul says that we have this trea­sure in clay jars” (2 Cor. 4:7). The trea­sure is the glo­ry of Christ, who is the image of God” (v. 4). The jars of clay rep­re­sent the human body and the var­i­ous cul­tur­al forms we use to enshroud the trea­sure. We receive every per­son with­in the con­text of their unique ves­sels, both per­son­al­ly and cul­tur­al­ly. We nev­er try to impose our own cul­ture upon them. Nor do we mis­take our own or oth­ers’ cul­tur­al ves­sel for the treasure. 

At the same time, our work of spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion must focus on our com­mon­al­i­ty — the things the human fam­i­ly holds in common: 

  • our com­mon defor­mi­ty — we are all sinners
  • our com­mon need of a Sav­ior to free us from sin
  • our com­mon need to be a good person
  • our com­mon desire to know how to live well, 

includ­ing such ques­tions as

  • how to love our hus­band or wife well
  • how to raise our chil­dren well
  • how to study well
  • how to face adver­si­ty well
  • how to run busi­ness­es and finan­cial insti­tu­tions well
  • how to form com­mu­ni­ty life well
  • how to reach out to those on the mar­gins well
  • how to die well. 

Do think in terms of the Church universal. 

Sec­tar­i­an reform move­ments that cement an eter­nal split only become ends in them­selves. Those involved in the task of spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion work instead for the trans­for­ma­tion of the whole Church, the whole Peo­ple of God in all her mul­ti­fac­eted expres­sions. Tra­di­tion­al. Con­tem­po­rary. Litur­gi­cal. Charis­mat­ic. Emer­gent. Catholic and Ortho­dox and Protes­tant. Big church and lit­tle church; house church and Crys­tal Cathe­dral. We attempt no end run around the Church. God is with his peo­ple in all their way­ward­ness and silli­ness, and so are we. What we are after is life in the king­dom of God — a life that all can live. 

We are today in the mid­dle of a spir­i­tu­al cen­trifuge. Old den­si­ties are break­ing up, new den­si­ties are form­ing. We are learn­ing new ways to do church: 

  • The new ways may not involve build­ings the way it has in the past.
  • The new ways may not involve litur­gies in the same way it has in the past.
  • We may have to learn ways of singing the Lord’s song in a strange land.

Like­ly we are in for lots of changes in the days ahead. But the point is we are for the Peo­ple of God — all the Peo­ple of God — what­ev­er form that takes. 

Do give sus­tained atten­tion to a bal­anced vision. 

Anoth­er ten­den­cy today in spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion work is to focus atten­tion only on the Con­tem­pla­tive— because that tra­di­tion has been sore­ly neglect­ed. But we need to remem­ber that that is only one dimen­sion of the spir­i­tu­al life; oth­er tra­di­tions include Holi­ness; Charis­mat­ic; Social Jus­tice; Evan­gel­i­cal; Incarnational. 

We seek a bal­anced vision of Chris­t­ian life and faith:

  • a peo­ple of cross and crown, of coura­geous action and sac­ri­fi­cial love
  • a peo­ple who are com­bin­ing evan­ge­lism with social action, the tran­scen­dent lord­ship of Jesus with the suf­fer­ing ser­vant Messiah
  • a peo­ple who are buoyed up by the vision of Christ’s ever­last­ing rule, not only immi­nent on the hori­zon, but already burst­ing forth in our midst.

Can you see it? Even though it feels like peer­ing through a glass dark­ly, can you see a coun­try pas­tor from Indi­ana embrac­ing an urban priest from New Jer­sey and togeth­er pray­ing for the peace of the world? 

Can you see a Catholic monk from the moun­tains of Col­orado stand­ing along­side a Bap­tist evan­ge­list from the streets of Los Ange­les and togeth­er offer­ing up a sac­ri­fice of praise? 

Can you see social activists from the urban cen­ters of Hong Kong join­ing with Pen­te­costal preach­ers from the bar­rios of Sao Paulo and togeth­er weep­ing over the spir­i­tu­al­ly lost and the plight of the poor? 

Can you see labor­ers from Sowe­to and landown­ers from Pre­to­ria hon­or­ing and serv­ing each oth­er out of rev­er­ence for Christ? 

Can you see Hutu and Tut­si, Serb and Croat, Mon­gol and Han Chi­nese, African Amer­i­can and Anglo, Lati­no and Native Amer­i­can all shar­ing with and lov­ing one another? 

Can you see the sophis­ti­cat­ed stand­ing with the sim­ple, the elite stand­ing with the dis­pos­sessed, the wealthy stand­ing with the poor? 

Can you see peo­ple from every race and nation and tongue and stra­ta of soci­ety join­ing hearts and hands and voic­es, singing, 

Amaz­ing grace — how sweet the sound— that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.
(John New­ton, 1779

Do draw wis­dom and insight from The Great Tradition. 

Let’s reject the heresy of the con­tem­po­rary. The Peo­ple of God through­out his­to­ry instruct us in the way eternal. 

We learn from Moses. We learn from Luther. We learn from Joseph of Ari­math­ea. We learn from Cather­ine of Genoa. These are our teach­ers, our mod­els, our inspiration. 

And so we draw wis­dom and insight from The Great Tra­di­tion of the Devo­tion­al Clas­sics: among them Broth­er Lawrence; Thomas a Kem­p­is; Julian of Nor­wich; Jean-Pierre de Caus­sade; Thomas Kelly. 

Do take the long view. 

In our cul­ture, we’re in a hur­ry. We want quick results. We think in terms of life­times and cen­turies. But the soul will live for­ev­er. It is pre­cious beyond imag­in­ing. Thus invest­ing deeply in even a few folk will count for all eternity. 

In fact there are vast num­bers of peo­ple who are com­mit­ted to the long haul. They real­ly want to be like Jesus with all their heart and soul and mind and strength. And, believe me, invest­ing in these pre­cious lives will take all the ener­gy and all the time and all the prayer and all the weep­ing and laugh­ing and singing and hop­ing we can pos­si­bly muster. 

Do devel­op the high­est pos­si­ble Christology. 

Our task in spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion is to hold up the won­der and the majesty of this Jesus who is tops over all” — to use a phrase from the Cot­ton Patch trans­la­tion of the Gospels. There sim­ply is no one to com­pare with this ful­ly human, ful­ly divine per­son who strides across the pages of the Gospels. Very God of very God,” and yet human, as the creed declares. Quite clear­ly, Jesus is the sin­gle most impor­tant per­son in all of human history.

Let me make this as straight­for­ward as I pos­si­bly can: Jesus is the absolute mae­stro of life. He is the Mas­ter of every sit­u­a­tion: in teach­ing, in human rela­tion­ships, in all of life. 

And the won­der is that this very Jesus who walked the hills of Galilee and who died on the cross of Gol­go­tha — this Jesus also rose from the dead, vic­to­ri­ous over all the pow­ers of death and hell and is now alive and here to teach his peo­ple him­self! Jesus will teach you and me how to live, real­ly live: 

  • in the midst of our life circumstances
  • fac­ing our life problems
  • answer­ing our life dilemmas.

This is the very Jesus we read about in the Gospels, the mas­ter teacher who could reveal the hearts of his hear­ers with such ten­der­ness and care; of whom it was said, A bruised reed he will not break, and a smol­der­ing wick he will not snuff out” (Matt. 12:20). Jesus would nev­er crush the needy … nev­er snuff out the small­est hope. 

The good news we share in spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion is this: Jesus the Mas­ter Teacher has come to town and is giv­ing mas­ter lessons in how to live life well! 

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Reformed Wor­ship.

Starting Soon: The 2020-21 Renovaré Book Club

An inten­tion­al way to read for trans­for­ma­tion not just infor­ma­tion. Runs Sep­tem­ber 2020 through May 2021.

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