The greatest call each of us has is not to transform nations. Instead, our greatest calling is to be like Christ (Romans 8:29). As we approach the season of Lent, we need to remember and pursue our highest calling, which is to know and seek God (Philippians 3:6-12).
Below are the seven characteristics necessary for spiritual transformation:
1.Allow God to work in your life. This has to do with the rhythms of your life. We’re so busy, and we need to establish habit patterns that we do not cross, or else we will be led astray with our activities. We must ask ourselves these questions:
- Do we prioritize regular scripture reading, prayer, and contemplation?
- Do we attempt to walk in the presence of God throughout the day?
- Do we take time alone for silence, solitude, and contemplation?
- Are we allowing ourselves to be in group settings that enable us to grow in hearing what God is saying and doing?
2. We need to understand that only God can transform us; we cannot transform ourselves. No matter how much we intentionally desire to change, we cannot change without the Holy Spirit’s help. Understanding this will take the psychological pressure off us and prioritize time with God to see a transformation.
- The key is Jesus must increase, and then we will decrease (John 3).
3. We must understand that marriage and family are meant to make us holy, not happy. Marriage is one of the primary vehicles that crucify the flesh. Marriage only gets more intense after children are born.
One of the main reasons marriages fail is that people enter into marriage with the wrong assumption. Many think (based on teachings equating love with mere feelings) that they were supposed to get married because they fell in love with somebody. They fail to consider things like common goals, views regarding religion, politics, and the number of children they desire.
When marriage is solely based on feelings, a person will be greatly disillusioned and eventually want to divorce. They will keep looking for the feeling of love all over again with somebody else. This is why many arranged marriages have fewer instances of divorce than those in the West, as many Western marriages are based on a superficial, narcissistic need-based feeling of romance.
I am not minimizing the feeling of love. However, what keeps marriages together is agape, unconditional love. This love is based on the intent of our will, not our emotions.
4. How we respond in a crisis illustrates how much spiritual formation we have. It is not when we are in a time of peace but when we are in a time of war that reveals if we are trusting and resting in God. On the road to spiritual formation, we have to honestly assess how we respond to our stimuli.
5. When we are criticized, second-guessed, or strongly disagreed with, our response is a window into our soul. It will reveal that how we truly are doing in our quest to be like Jesus. If we are defensive, unforgiving, or filled with anger, we can conclude that we have not developed into emotionally mature beings. True spirituality and emotional maturity go hand-in-hand.
6. Are we functioning with and through the local Church?
Scripture teaches us that the Body of Christ is built up onto the fullness of the measure of Christ when each member of the Body does his part and edifies each other (Ephesians 4:13-16).
If we have an individualistic mindset of seeking God, it will significantly limit our spiritual development. As a result, God will intentionally hold back certain things from us since He wants to provide much of what we need through the Church.
Consequently, we need to have a solid practical ecclesiology if we are serious about pursuing God for spiritual formation.
7. Do we major in love or truth?
Jesus is the Way, frames His approach to the truth (John 14:6). Spiritually immature people are more focused on being right and winning arguments than they are on winning people. When Jesus met people, His way was initially one of empathy. Being kind to people enabled Him to present His truth to them. When we look at the beginning of Jesus’ sermon on the mount, we see that empathy and mercy are necessary (along with the pursuit of righteousness) to qualify believers as the “salt of the earth and light of the world” (Matthew 5:1-16).
In conclusion, it is vital that we continually reset our lives (especially after all of the political and civil unrest) to focus on being like Christ.
The more the Church is Christlike, the less division we will have in our congregations. As a result, the Church will become more effective in evangelization as it impacts our communities with the love of Christ.