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BALANCE – Part 2 Finding Balance Begins With Being Centered

The key to balance is the origination of support. I am confident if you were to ask a performer in Cirque Du Soleil how they maintain balance. An overwhelming response would be the strength and support of their core (lower back and abdominal muscles). In other words, the center.

Before describing the proposed balance areas needed for the local church to value spiritual formation, we must begin with our spiritual center (see Fig 1.2).

The spiritual center is the place or, more properly stated, the Person where we receive our support from. The key to spiritual formation is centered on the Godhead’s dynamic work.

First, to be introduced to the concept that Christlikeness is not a human attainment but a gift of grace (Willard, Renovation of the Heart, 366-369).  

Our spiritual formation begins with the recognition (various in encounter but singular in intention, see Howards The Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality Chapter 7) that God’s love is not something we can earn from human effort but only to be received and recognized through grace achieved through Christ at the cross.

Chandler, in her book Christian Spiritual Formation: An Integrated Approach for Personal and Relational Wholeness, states the following:

“With the love of God as the primary catalyst, demonstrated by Jesus’ death on the cross, it is what Stephen Seamands suggests as the visible manifestation of divine love: “Christ’s death not only supremely reveals the nature of divine love, it also discloses what is eternally etched in the heart of the triune God.” Further, Jürgen Moltmann asserts, “The cross is the center of the Trinity.  . . . Before the world was, the sacrifice was already in God. No Trinity is conceivable without the Lamb, without the sacrifice of love, without the crucified Son.” (Chandler, 19).

Chandler goes on to say when a believer receives the grace of God through Christ’s demonstration of love, salvation, this acts as a catalyst throughout the life of this person to become conformed to the image of Jesus (Ephesians 1: 7-8; 2: 4-5; 2 Peter 3: 18) (Chandler, 19).

In addition, Chandler adds that spiritual formation is “the process of being restored into the image of God through Jesus Christ in its multidimensionality by the work of the Holy Spirit (Chandler, 17).  Howard Evans summarizes this idea by defining Christian spiritual formation as “the intentional and semi-intentional processes by which believers (individuals and communities) become more fully conformed and united to Christ, especially with regard to maturity and calling.”(Howard, 268).  Furthermore, Willard adds to this description the reminder that the restlessness of our heart calls for continual attention to the formation by stating,

“The greatest need you and I have— the greatest need of collective humanity— is renovation of our heart. That spiritual place within us from which outlook, choices, and actions come has been formed by a world away from God. Now it must be transformed. Indeed, the only hope of humanity lies in the fact that, as our spiritual dimension has been formed, so it also can be transformed.” (Willard, ROH, 161-164)

Photo by 许 婷婷

It is from here that our process of formation begins in recognizing that God’s love for us is not only for the purpose of justification (saving us from our sins) but also for regeneration (becoming like Him) and then representation (bearing His image to the world). And once this justification is established in the heart of the believer, regeneration, and representation should be the emphasized integration of discipleship and faith.

Second, when centering our formation in the dynamic center of the Godhead, we realize regeneration is not merely a passive process but an act of engagement to become more like the one we love and who first loved us (1 John 4:19). Willard shares in Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interview and Talks, that a person should think of the process of formation as a participation of both the human spirit as well as by the divine Spirit. (Willard, Renewing, 5126-5136). This process Henri Nouwen aptly describes in his book, Here and Now: Living in the Spirit, the following:

The only “interior” spirituality that can support us through our ongoing process of formation in Christ is that which firmly roots itself in an abiding communion with God. Communion is what being in “union with” means. It involves nourishing the already existing connection we have with God and raising it to an intimate level where we come closest to experiencing what we have been created for: full communion. Indeed, “God has given us a heart that will remain restless until it has found full communion” (page 43).

Therefore, formation is the process of becoming more Christ-like (centered) in both an act of reception and grace (justification) and also continual attention to our participation in finding time to nourish the communion of that gift (regeneration and representation).

And finally, to continue to help with this participation towards formation is the consistent attention and practice to Christ’s command found in 10:27.

27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”Luke 10:27 (NRSV)

Christ’s command to love God and neighbor gives practice to the doctrine of our salvation.  Therefore, for the local church to maintain a high value of balanced spiritual formation, it must be rooted in the equipping of how to love God and neighbor and creating sacred space to see this flourish and be practiced personally and corporately. A love practiced and seen identifies our formation in Christ (John 13:35, 14:15, 15:9-12). In addition, our love for God and one another is a constant gauge of the love we have received from Christ (1 John 4:7-8).  Chandler summarizes this idea by sharing the following:

Photo by Derick McKinney on Unsplash

Therefore, I advance this definition: Godly love is the essence of God’s character and personality, proceeding from the Father as demonstrated by the Son through the work of the Holy Spirit, which unconditionally upholds the highest good of others and fosters the same altruism and benevolence in human relationships without regard for personal sacrifice. In other words, godly love is the self-giving expression that results from divine initiative and human responsibility in serving God and others in relationality, as evidenced by godly character and ethical living. (Chandler, 20)

In Invitation to a Journey, Robert Mulholland succinctly adds and simplifies spiritual formation and centeredness to the idea of “a process of being formed in the image of Christ for the sake of others” (Mullholland, p.16).  In other words, to love God in such a way that conforms us to the image of Christ that daily manifests this love to others (Luke 10:27)

Next Post: Part 3 The Role of the Church in my Balance Act!

You are Loved!

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