Can We Practice Ourselves into Transformation?

That question may be a little confusing but allow me to offer some light.

A few weeks ago we looked at a couple of the publications from Renovare. First, A Spiritual Formation Workbook and then Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups. Today I want to offer a few sentences from another Renovare publication, Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines, that addresses the relationship between spiritual practices, spiritual formation and spiritual transformation.

Sometimes we are confused about spiritual practices and think they create spiritual transformation. These words from Richard Foster and Emilie Griffin in the introduction to Spiritual Classics bring clarity to that relationship.

“The spiritual disciplines are pointed toward spiritual formation – and transformation. Spiritual formation involves a fundamental choice, Choosing to live for Jesus Christ may mean adopting a certain style of life, or perhaps more properly, a rule of life. We take on a series of spiritual practices that will open us to God’s work in our lives.

“At the same time we need to remember that spiritual transformation is a work of grace. It is what God does in us. What we do counts, because we must choose to enter into, and pursue, our friendship with Jesus Christ. This choice, which we hope will become more and more pure and single-hearted, may have to be made over and over again…. We always want to remember that the power of God undergirds our efforts and leads us along the way.

“Perhaps we could think of spiritual formation as a pattern, a series of concrete actions that will gently move us toward transformation in Christ. The disciplines themselves, however, are not transformative. The transformation in us is God’ work. It is a work of grace. That deeply transformative grace comes to us not through our own doing but as pure gift.

“And yet something is demanded from us: the free gift of ourselves, our submission, our willingness to change, our assent to God’s grace. In the end our yes is what’s required. In our own words and in your own way, we need to say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” We need to say, “Be it done to me according to your will.”

“One more thing to remember: spiritual formation is ongoing. We need not be impatient; we need take no measurements.” (pp xiii – xvi)

I trust this lengthy quote was not so long as to confuse more than clarify the relationship between spiritual practices/disciplines, spiritual formation, and spiritual transformation. In my own thinking, I find it helpful. I trust you may also.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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