“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5 English Standard Version ESV). I have been reflecting on this specific scripture for a long time. I recently sought insight from a trusted source. I asked my five year old, “where were you before you were born?” she instinctively understood the question and responded in a conspiratorial whisper, “I come from heaven, from a cradle next to the Lord. He took me and placed me in my mummy’s tummy”. The prophet Jeremiah and my five year old testify that the Lord before He formed you in the womb, He knew you. As you come from the Father, from heaven, it is to heaven, through the redemptive plan of the Gospel that you return, because you return to the Father, to the place that he first thought of you and from where He gave creation intent to your life purpose.
Spiritual formation is about being aligned to this creation intent. It is about intimacy, about “knowing” and being known. Jesus said that eternal life is to know the Father, and to know the Father is to know the Son. Spiritual formation therefore is about being heaven minded but living today in eternity, it is about knowing the Father by knowing Jesus. Richard Foster says that spiritual formation is about knowing Jesus as Saviour, Lord, teacher and friend. The method, he explains, is found in the shared traditions of 2000 years of Christian discipleship. The building blocks of which include prayer, the Word, the Spirit, Holiness and social justice. It is about the incarnational reality of living eternally now, with the mind of Christ, character of Christ, love of Christ, doing what the Father intended us to do. To be His mind, eyes, hands, feet, heart and hope.
The outcome of which is that we get to love him with all our heart soul and mind and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves and in so doing fulfills the greatest of the commandments.
It also means that we get to contribute towards the great commission of the Gospel and to further the Kingdom of God. There is in my mind nothing more significant than this which is why spiritual formation is so important. The practical method of which begins when we are intentional about constructing our daily, weekly, monthly, yearly cycles of devotion in which we build rhythms, repetition and routine.
Discipleship is about discipline which is built upon form which follows function and structure which follows strategy. The calibration between grace and action creates for an intimate partnership with the Holy Spirit. Thus repetition while at risk of being religious, offers our minds vast opportunity for renewal and transformation.
It seems that from the very point of conception, life purpose is covered by a redemptive plan of the Gospel. The intent of which is to experience not only being the beloved of the Lord but also to be His servants and to accomplish that which we were created to do. The climatic end is to escape the seat of judgment with no heavenly record of our sin, but to appear before the seat of appraisal, the place where we are held accountable for what we have done with what we have been given. Our work is assessed and reward apportioned. Within the context of this truth and in response to His love we are therefore called to a strategic alignment of our lives.
The alignment thus starts from the place of creation intent and ends in our place and position in heaven. The challenge in ensuring this alignment is our participation in keeping various prophetic threads together. In which the thread of the Alpha and the Omega, Jesus has come and will come again is included.
We are born within a prophetic time frame that requires us to know the “times” that we are in. There is the thread of the nations, international patterns and relations, located within the political economy in which issues of Justice, morality and ethics are shaped, the outcomes of which impact on the daily lives of billions of people. Then there is the national thread, where our nationality is shaped and where our social mission is located. We also have threads that relate to our city, neighbourhood, community, Church, work domain, family and friends, household and home. Generational issues playing out their full force, redemption! Then there are relational threads, some of which are covenantal. In these spaces daily decisions are made, acts of selfishness and acts of kindness and generosity of spirit, evoked, attitudes of the heart shaped, choices made between fears and faith, insecurities and maturity demonstrated, all of which impacting on each other’s life purpose, diminishing the light within or encouraging the light on the hill. In this place we search for meaning and love and turn helplessly to power, wealth, influence and significance, only to find that the rot is internal. We are forced to face the truth that despite our theology, doctrines and understanding of grace, we are not up to the task assigned to us. We cannot live the life to which we are called at the standard for which it is intended. In time, we all who travel on this path, come to a place of bankruptcy, where a sign is placed in our window which says, “Character under-liquidation”, “new management sought”.
We realise that despite being “born again” and “spirit filled” we seem set not to be able to achieve our life purpose and are faced with our own mediocre levels of spirituality from which we seem set on a slow trajectory for failure with destruction and unnecessary pain marking the road along the way. The question is whether this is the intended Christian experience? Does the Master have a path on which we can walk? Is it a new path for a new age or is it an ancient one? Perhaps one that is well traveled by others, other weary travellers like us.
Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16 English Standard Version (ESV)