I am really excited about my sermon series coming for Lent because it keeps leading me to re-read some great stuff! Some of it I can't wait to share and some I don't know if the idea or quotes will even make the cut yet. Having the time to work on sermons ahead of the week seem to make the experience not only more fun for me but also give ‘birth’ to much better sermons in the end.
In this case, I find myself jumping into writings and texts around the true self/false self construct in spiritual formation. I have a number of thoughts on this to come later. Today however, I am researching and reflecting on what seems to me to be foundational tenet to any Christian understanding of spiritual formation; namely, for formation to take place in us, Jesus Christ must dwell in us.
Duh! Well, maybe but have you ever taken something for granted, like say, your tires being fully inflated or that your teenager filled up the gas tank the last time the drove it? It is the same idea, but more significant and very different from alternative ideas of spiritual formation that assume YOU are doing the brunt of the work. This is not how the Christian faith views this as Dr. Bob Mulholland reminded me when he wrote,
“The indwelling presence of Christ in us is not merely a theological concept, it is a vital, intimate, relational reality at the very core of our being. Paul stresses this profound reality incessantly.
Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you… (Rom 8:9-10)
He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. (2 Cor. 13:3)’’
Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? (2 Cor 13:5). (pg 89, from “The Deeper Journey”)”
There are more scripture references which Mulholland gives but they lead ultimately to one key point of Christian spiritual formation. He goes on to say, “Perhaps the most profound expression of the mystery of the indwelling presence of Christ is in Jesus’ word: ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them’ (Jn 6:56) (pg 90, ibid).” It is one thing to say, “I believe Jesus is in me,” yet not know it nor know why you even would want Jesus in you! What God intends for us is to manifest Christlikeness to the world and being formed in the image of Christ is a work done by Jesus Christ in us. Apart from Christ, I am nothing, and I know it.