Articles

Spiritual Formation through the Word of God

Introduction:
History is a key indicator of how the future will proceed.  Within spiritual formation the pursuit of sanctity is an ongoing chase that leads believers in treasuring and cherishing Christ more until the believer reaches glorification.  Even then the complete and whole believer, obtained through the work and person of Jesus Christ, will continue to dive into the infinite worth of the Creator God.  Historicity becomes a beacon of light by communicating from the forefathers the celebrated disciplines which carve out a pragmatic approach to Christian living.  As the church observes and discovers through the illuminating lives of the saints the holy anguish in which the Spirit draws in their affections, the body of believers can faithfully pursue a wholeness of Christian living through the path laid by prior brothers and sisters.  The writer of Hebrews would articulate the host of saints before his/her time as “a cloud of witnesses.”1
In Richard J. Foster’s Streams of Living Water there are numerous accounts of saints who have gone before us and have established monumental disciplines which we are to model and practice.  Their lives speak of countless affections toward Jesus and a holy pursuit after their conformity into the image of Christ.2  These men and women cultivated, through the work of the Holy Spirit, a hunger and thirst for the heavens and casted their sights on eternity.3  Therefore, through Foster’s work I have come to consider that in my subjective lens I resonate most strongly and effectively through the Discovering of the Word Centered Life which catapults me onto a trajectory toward call, mission, and ministry.
Strong in the Word:
The Word of God is an (if not the most) integral piece in knowing and embracing the heart of God.  Christ was extremely clear in saying that “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”4  Even within Pauline theology is there an emphasis on the “mind.”  Apostle Paul stressed the importance of not being “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”5  Prior to this statement Paul emphasizes the reality that “those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”6  The Apostle John supports this truth as he encourages the believers in Ephesus to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”7  How are we to test the spirits?  Through the inerrant Word of God.  To embrace the Word is to embrace Christ who is Emmanuel in which “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”8
The Word of God is an extremely vital piece in my own personal development as a follower of Christ.  The cognitive pursuit not only allows me to know Him in intimacy, but to embrace the experiences that comes from knowing Him through His Word.  The more the Word of God is ingrained in the mind and heart of my soul the more my eyes take on a Gospel lens.  I find myself often praying that the Spirit would have “the eyes of [my] heart enlightened, that [I] may know what is the hope to which He has called [me].”9  The overview of having the Spirit of God manifest Himself into the life and work of a person must be instilled through the working of the Word of God.  Lets take a cognitive theological look at how the Spirit manifests Himself through the study of Scripture in John 14.
Theological Look at Manifestation:
Prior to Christ being glorified on the cross He gathered His disciples together to inform them of the Helper’s arrival.  These were crucial moments in the incarnate ministry of Christ because of the validity of who He was claiming to be, the Messiah, and what He was commissioning His followers to do.  Though He was by no means going to “leave [them] as orphans”10  Christ wanted to brace His disciples of the power which would come through in the wave of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost.  Jesus eased the disciples into the conversation of the infusion of the Holy Spirit by informing them of the work the Spirit had already done.  John 14:16 – 17 (ESV) goes as followed, “16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
What Jesus is claiming here in verse 17 is that the Spirit has been working in their lives in order to embrace the messianic claims of Christ.  Even prior to Jesus ascending back up to the Father the Spirit has been “[dwelling] with you.”11  Though this “dwelling” is not the fullness in which the disciples will experience in Pentecost it is enough to enable them to see the messianic claims as truth.  This is confirmed when Peter, in Matthew 16:16 (ESV), replies “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus quickly responds by saying, “Blessed are you…  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven.”12  The work of the Spirit enabled Peter to see clearly the truth of who Christ was and is and Jesus contributed those claims not to Peter’s intellectual capacity rather the infinite knowledge of the Father.
Following the essential piece of the Spirit working Jesus comments by saying in John 14:21 (ESV), “21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me, And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  The manifesting work of the Son which is realized in the work of the Spirit seems to articulate a conditional approach through the love of His commandments or Word.  Yet in context with John 14:17 we see that the Spirit’s prior work to illuminate the heart to desire the Word is effectual in nature.  In so saying one must embrace that the Spirit’s function is to glorify the Son “for He (the Spirit) will take what is mine (Jesus) and declare it to you.”13  Functionally speaking, the Spirit illuminates the mind and heart of individual(s) to open themselves to the Word and embrace the messianic truths of Christ.  Christ then reconciles the individual(s) back to the Father who pours onto them the manifesting agent of the Spirit who represents the love of the Father and Son.  All this is done through the agent, the Spirit, submitting the individual(s) to the Word of God because “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.”14
Call, Mission, and Ministry:
If my theology is correct through the illuminating work of the Spirit then my call to ministry, sense toward life mission, and goals for ministry are simply defined.  I allow the Word of God to dictate and draw out my call and that is to magnify and glorify the work and person of Jesus Christ who reconciled sinful man back to the Father through His death, burial, and resurrection.  My life’s mission rings similar, regardless of vocation or position, in that the supremacy of Christ is to be magnified in all areas of life to the ends of the earth.  My goals toward ministry hinge from the same Gospel truth in that “He must increase, but I must decrease,”15 so that regardless whether through suffering or prosperity the Name and fame of Christ be exalted on high.
Conclusion:
History and past saints that have gone before us play a pivotal role in our spiritual development.  To disregard the work of past saints is to de-appreciate the working of the Spirit in the lives of fellow brothers and sisters.  Looking onto the past saints of Augustine, Calvin, Wesley, or Luther one finds peace that the God of this age and the age to come never changes or wavers from His truth.  It is the same for the saint of this age like Piper, Driscoll, Sproul, MacArthur, Chandler, or Dever that proclamation of His truth never ceases to amaze.
Footnotes (Bible Verse)
1. Hebrew 12:1 ESV, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
2. Romans 8:29 ESV, “29 For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to he image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
3. Colossians 3:2 ESV, “2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
4. John 17:3 ESV, “3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
5. Romans 12:2 ESV, “2 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.”
6. Romans 8:5 ESV, “5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
7. 1 John 4:1 ESV, “1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
8. John 1:14 ESV, “14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
9. Ephesians 1:18 ESV, “18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.”
10.  John 14:18 ESV, “18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
11.  John 14: 17 ESV, “17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
12.  Matthew 16:17 ESV, “17 And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon BarJonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
13.  John 16:14 ESV, “14 He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
14.  Romans 10:17 ESV, “17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.”
15.  John 3:30 ESV, “30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

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