Spiritual Formation and Devotional Intimacy - Lesson 1

True Transformation (Part 1)

This lesson focuses on the concept of spiritual formation, which is the process of growing in one's relationship with God and becoming more like Christ. You'll learn about the role of historical figures such as Perpetua and Francis of Assisi in spiritual formation, the importance of more than just belief in doctrine, the need to cooperate with God and surrender to his will, and the challenges and opportunities of spiritual formation.
Gary Thomas
Spiritual Formation and Devotional Intimacy
Lesson 1
Watching Now
True Transformation (Part 1)

I. Concept of spiritual formation

A. Explanation of the process of growing in one's relationship with God and becoming more like Christ

B. Importance of spiritual formation in becoming all that God intends us to be

II. Role of Historical figures in spiritual formation

A. Discussion of Perpetua and Francis of Assisi as examples of individuals whose lives were transformed by God

B. How their transformation had an impact on the church and culture

III. Necessity of more than just belief in doctrine

A. The idea that spiritual transformation requires more than just belief in doctrine but also living out our faith in a way that transforms us and impacts the world around us

IV. Importance of cooperating with God and surrendering to his will

A. How cooperating with God and surrendering to his will is essential for true transformation in our lives

V. Challenges and opportunities of spiritual formation

A. The idea that spiritual formation is not only challenging but also freeing and fulfilling as it's about God's faithful pursuit of men and women

VI. The call to spiritual formation

A. Encouragement to pursue spiritual growth and development in order to become all that we can be in Christ.

  • This lesson focuses on the concept of spiritual formation, which is the process of growing in one's relationship with God and becoming more like Christ. You'll learn about the role of historical figures such as Perpetua and Francis of Assisi in spiritual formation, the importance of more than just belief in doctrine, the need to cooperate with God and surrender to his will, and the challenges and opportunities of spiritual formation.
  • This lesson discusses the distinction between static and dynamic holiness. You will learn about the importance of being available to God and the potential for transformation in one's relationship with him.
  • In this lesson, Gary Thomas discusses the societal pressure to conform to a certain physical standard and how this can lead to insecurity and self-doubt. He contrasts this societal view with the Christian view of the body, which holds a respect for the aging process, and acknowledges that our bodies have a purpose because they were created by God and that God incarnated himself in human form in Jesus Christ and how our bodies will also be raised on the last day.
  • This lesson focuses on the transformation of our physical bodies to become spiritually alive, and the idea that worship is not limited to singing and music, but encompasses all aspects of our lives. An example of Madame Galen Jean, a historical figure who lost her physical beauty but found spiritual depth and wrote books that inspired others, is used to illustrate the idea that surrendering oneself to God can lead to spiritual growth. The class also suggests that individuals can bring Jesus to others by approaching them with love and understanding, and by focusing on bringing Jesus to others rather than personal ambition and people pleasing.
  • The lesson highlights that God desires a personal and intimate relationship with each individual and that different people will have different ways of relating to him. It is emphasized that there is no one right way to connect with God, and that we should be open to exploring different ways that resonate with us personally. Throughout scripture, various forms of worship are celebrated and it's encouraged to find the way that works best for us.

  • The lesson discusses the idea that spiritual growth does not happen by accident and that it requires purposeful and intentional effort. The main focus is on humility and gentleness as two important qualities necessary for spiritual growth. The lesson cites Proverbs 3:34 and James 4:6 as biblical references to the idea that God opposes those who let pride reign in their lives, and that humility is not thinking less of oneself but thinking less about oneself and putting others first, and gentleness is the way of being like a mother caring for her children.
  • This lesson delves into the idea of spiritual formation, discussing three paths through which one can grow: practicing virtues, experiencing difficulty and suffering, and practicing spiritual disciplines. One of the virtues discussed is thankfulness, which is counterintuitive to the way the world thinks, and that maturity in faith is marked by being malleable in God's hands and surrendering our own desires. It is emphasized that when difficult times come in our lives, it is a opportunity to grow spiritually, but it can also be used as an opportunity by Satan to create bitterness and resentment in our souls. The lecture also provides several suggestions for books that can help deepen the understanding and practice of spiritual disciplines in one's life.
  • Marriage can be a powerful tool for spiritual growth and holiness as it can help reveal and work through one's sin and selfishness. However, we need to understand and accept that all people stumble in many ways, and that it's important to adopt God's agenda for our marriages rather than trying to impose our own expectations and desires on it. This way we can have a healthy and fulfilling marriage.
  • In this lesson, it is discussed how marriage and parenting can be used by God as tools for spiritual growth and personal development. It is shown that by putting the needs of others first, as in caring for a spouse when they are sick or teaching and guiding children, individuals can learn to become more like Jesus Christ and grow in their faith. The speaker emphasizes that despite the challenges and mistakes that may come with these roles, they present opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.
  • This lesson covers the historical development of Christian spirituality including the Desert Experience, various forms of prayer, Eastern Orthodox approach and challenges for Western-minded Christians.
  • The lesson covers historical movements in Christianity, including monasticism, Puritanism, and Pentecostal/Charismatic, and their emphasis on asceticism, scripture, and the Holy Spirit.

In this class, you will learn about the process of spiritual formation and the importance of developing a deep devotional intimacy with God. The lesson will explore the biblical foundations of spiritual growth, the role of the Holy Spirit, and the individual's personal responsibility in their own spiritual development. You will also delve into various spiritual disciplines and practices that help foster a closer relationship with God, such as prayer, meditation, Scripture reading, worship, and fellowship. Finally, you will examine common obstacles and challenges faced in the journey of spiritual growth and discover strategies to overcome them.

Dr. Gary Thomas
Spiritual Formation and Devotional Intimacy
True Transformation (Part_1)
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:10] Now, I don't know, amongst this community and in Vancouver how popular baseball is. But are you familiar with Little League Baseball? United States. When you had kids in there or participated it. Those are you have may be aware of those coaches middle-aged men about my age who sort of build their personality by creating these unbelievably talented Little League baseball teams. They find the most unbelievable players, you know, nine-year-old pitchers who need to shave practically anything. Where did they find them? And they put together these teams that just destroy all these other teams in their path. Well, when my son was about eight or nine, just getting into Little League baseball, my best friend and I put together a team. And because we hadn't been coaching for a long time, we got sort of all the leftover players. As you could imagine. We didn't know who to draft, we didn't know who to train. And so we came up against one of these unbelievable teams and the result was about what you would expect. If we had kept score, it probably would have been 50 to 0. We never got a player past first base. They were getting dizzy, running around the bases. They were just scoring at will. And here's how clueless our team was. After this complete slaughter. We're putting our bags and balls and bats into the canvas bags that we used to carry out. And I'm kind of looking at my friend and sort of like, Well, it's one of those life experiences and our little right fielder named Tyler came up to me. He looked me, had this huge smile on his face. I couldn't understand what he would be smiling about after we'd just been drubbed for an hour and a half.

[00:01:54] And he looked at me, said, Coach Gary. I said, Yeah, Tyler, did we win? Winners will usually have to score a run to win or keep the other team below 25 runs. But I always had a soft spot for Tyler because he and I had something in common. We were both miserable baseball players growing up. I loved sports. I tried really hard. I practiced diligently, but I just lacked the natural ability to excel as an athlete. So I was the sort of guy that could make the team but would rarely play like in basketball when they empty the bench. In the last 30 seconds, that was me running out to hope to get my one shot and that was what I was there. And I remember if any of you have been in that place that really looking on those guys who were just so naturally talented, who had more athletic ability in their little finger than I had in my entire body, and who would never really use it. Maybe it was a lack of character, maybe it was a lack of desire. Maybe they just never really applied themselves to their game. But I would look at these naturally talented men and think what I wouldn't give to have half their talent and how they just squander it and don't really become what they can become athletically because they don't apply themselves to develop their gifts. And I think with that athletic background, by the time I got into college and university, I really didn't want to do to my faith what I saw some athletes do to their athletic ability. I want to be everything that God could allow me to be. And in one sense, that's what points us toward Christian spirituality.

[00:03:43] Because when I looked into the scriptures to see what the Bible says, we can become in Christ, it's staggering to me to realize just what the Bible promises. As if you have your outlines. You can begin by looking at first Peter or I'm sorry, second Peter. Chapter one verses three through four, second Peter, Chapter one, verses three through four. Peter says this His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him, who called us by his own glory and goodness. And I want to pause right there because Peter is telling us that there isn't a single person in this room. As long as you are in Christ that lacks anything for a life of power and godliness. In one sense, we can all, if I can use this phrase and offend someone, I hope by the end of the day it won't. In one sense, we can excel at Christianity, not because of who we are, not because of anything inherent in us, but because of what God makes available to us through Christ, through a relationship with Jesus. None of us needs to be those athletes like I was that wishes we could be more than we could be, that in fact, we can fulfill what God has called us to be because it's rooted in who Jesus is. He goes on to say this Through these He has given us his very great and precious promises. And I want to pause again, because precious isn't a word that guys like to use very often. And I know this has been translated from Greek, so it's a little bit different in all of that. But I think of the word that Peter chose there and where I think gives it extra emphasis, particularly for what we're addressing, is that for Peter, this isn't mere theory.

[00:05:44] He remembers no doubt what he was before the power of Christ came into his life. He remembers it at times. He could jump ahead intellectually and say something so stupid. The Jesus would say, Get behind me, Satan. He remembers how he could sell out his Lord himself for somebody as unimportant to him as a milkmaid whose name he didn't even know. And yet he didn't have the courage to stand up in front of her and say, Yes, I'm with him. He denied. Even knowing his Lord, he remembers the weak man he was. And now, near the end of his life, he sees the transformation that has taken place where he would eventually be willing to not only be crucified, but insist on being crucified upside down. And so he says, you know, I see this transformation is taking place. This isn't just there. This is precious to me. This has been lived out in my life. When I think of what a life in Christ has done for me. And so I read the testimony of a man that is, he's a full believer. He's all in. He embraces this as a glorious truth. Then he goes on to say this through these he's given us his very great and precious promises. So that through them. Now, here we go. You may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. He has the boldness to say that we may participate or partake in another translation in the divine nature. Now, if I wasn't reading the words of Scripture, I'd almost think that's some type of New Age philosophy that it's going on. But here is Scripture itself. Now, we know from other scriptures that Peter's not talking about releasing the inner deity or the God within us.

[00:07:44] Christian spirituality is very clear. God is always God. Humans are always humans. The two never meet. But he's talking about a transformation that is so real, a presence that is so effective that in Christ, not through anything we have, but to the ongoing uniting work of the Holy Spirit, foreign to us, but working very effectively within us. We exhibit the divine nature that in some ways we bring God to this world and this whole sense of partaking in the divine nature. I want to say to start. That's what Christian spirituality is. What does it mean to be moved by God? To be used by God, to be marked by God, to be transformed by God? In many ways, that's the study of Christian spirituality. It's not man seeking God, it's God changing man. God using man, God making himself known to man. It is very much a God-centered, God-energized work. So in Christian spheres, I would say, what does this mean to be partakers of the divine nature now? One of the benefits we have living in this day and age is that we can look through the pages of history and see how this took effect. Yes, Peter gives us sort of the theory. He tells us what's possible when we read the pages of Christian history. We can decide how people have to live this out. We can see examples. And throughout history there are plenty examples of how God is so powerfully used, women and men, that the world has been changed. One of my favorites is Perpetua, a young woman who lived in the early third century in North Africa. She was everything. A young woman growing up in North Africa would want to be at the time she was born into the right class.

[00:09:38] She was wealthy, well-married, had a child. All of the things that mattered to the culture of her day she had. And yet she had made a public witness that she was willing to give it all up because the emperor at the time had decreed that anybody who didn't offer a sacrifice to him as if he were a God, would be thrown to the animals for sport in one of the amphitheaters. And she had explained that as a believer, she couldn't possibly do that. And so she was paid a visit by her father, who played with his daughter. And first he tried to use the father-daughter things as, Look, don't do this to me. I've given my life to you. I've given my name. You don't bring this shame onto your family. And then he tried to appeal to her personally. What about your child? What about your husband? How can you do this? Don't throw your life away like this. And finally, after not being able to convince him, she pointed at a ceramic pitcher that was on a table in the room and she pointed. She said, Father, what do you call that? He said, That's a pitcher, too. Can you call it anything else? He goes, No, that's what we call we call a pitcher. She said, So I cannot be called anything other than what I am, and that is a Christian. And so her fate was cast. The emperor emperor very frustrated that this young woman would stand up to his decree out of spite and malice, decreed that she would be torn apart in attack by bulls. Now, the reason there's malice behind, there's there's other animals they could choose that could kill a Christian with one swipe of their paw, one, you know, just ending the life immediately.

[00:11:16] A bull was a particularly difficult death because it was death by a dozen gauze, so to speak. And they brought her out. And the spectacle was as grisly as you might imagine. And it became so grisly that even a bloodthirsty crowd, the kind of crowd that was willing to come to an amphitheater to see what was taking place had had enough. And they appealed to the emperor. Look, end it. This is this is too much. So the emperor decided, fine. He called for the gladiator to come out. Now here is a hardened killer, a giant of a man who had disposed of men three and four times the size of perpetua. But surprisingly, he faltered when he had to slay. We don't know if it was a light in her eyes. We don't know if is her countenance. We don't know what happened. But he struck her and still didn't kill her. Now the crowd was beside themselves. They were sick to their stomachs. Perpetual saw what was going on, so she grabbed the gladiator's sword and guided it to her neck so that he could finish the job. Now, here's what's so amazing here. A young woman being tortured for her faith, actually having empathy for the crowd that was watching her, seeing that they were sick to their stomachs, wanting to relieve them of her suffering. So she helps the gladiator end her life and get it done. And when this testimony went out to the early church that not only was she courageous to the point of death, but that she had empathy for a crowd who had come to see her death. They saw the depth of her faith. She was held in such high esteem that the early church fathers had to issue decrees not to treat her journals and writings as scripture.

[00:13:05] That's how highly she was esteemed. And Augustine began preaching a sermon later, obviously, because it just came later on the anniversary of her death, commemorating her great example. Now, Perpetual lived really at the dawn of the age of the martyrs, and her example set the tone for many Christians that would follow on how to face death in a way that honors God and that inspires the church. She was transformed, and her transformation not only built up the church, but had a huge witness to the world at large. Now let's go forward a thousand years, give or take a century or two. Now we're in the 13th century, the time of Francis of Assisi. And the cultural situation is night and day different than it was and perpetuates time and perpetuates time to be a faithful Christian is to be martyred or persecuted in Assisi. Time. Francis's time. The best way for power, the best way to wealth was to be a church leader. It was a time of affluence. The most influential people, the wealthiest people who lived in the best houses. They were the church leaders. Francis, reading his Bible, read of a Christ who lived in simplicity and poverty and humility. And that's how he wanted to live. Some of the older people. How many of you ever seen that movie? Brother, son, sister Moon lit commemorated. I always they show a scene where he literally throws all of his father's wealthy clothes out into the street and he walks out of Assisi stark naked, which is why we we thought they should have titled the movie Brother Moon Sister son. But that's another issue. But here he was saying is in a time of affluence. How transformational he was to his culture.

[00:14:53] Say, no, the gospel speaks of poverty. It speaks of simplicity. It's not about amassing political power. It's not about amassing luxuries. It's about speaking the truth of the gospel. Now, the reason I chose Francis and Perpetua a thousand years apart is that a transformed Christian speaks to their culture, whether it's a time of persecution, whether it's a time of affluence, whether it's a time of war, whether it's a time of peace, whether it's an agrarian culture, whether it's an urban culture, whether it's an Asian culture or a European culture that because our God is a creator who works within us, it really doesn't matter what the times are. A transformation on Christian, a transformed Christian lives, a transformational life that challenges our culture, that builds up the church. But they're marked by how they were transformed. The history of the church was changed because Perpetual lived the history of the church was changed because Francis let himself be transformed. And here's a point I'm trying to make this morning. Peter would tell us the same God who transformed Perpetua and Francis wants to transform you and me. They have nothing more available to them than we have. It's not because of who they were. It's because of who God is and the way He can change a heart that they were so transformational. And so Christian spirituality is how do we allow God? How do we cooperate with God? How do we surrender with God so that he can use us as he used them? Because it wasn't inherent in who Perpetua is or inherent in who Francis is. We have the same opportunity to be Christians who impact the church and the culture in the same way that Perpetua and Francis. And that's why it's so freeing that it's not about a heroic pursuit of God.

[00:16:58] It's about God's faithful pursuit of men and women. Now, to get to this place of true transformation, the challenges, this is about a faith that is far more than mere belief. It's far more than just what we believe. Now, I want to stress, I'm not downplaying the importance of belief. Doctrine is enormously important. I believe we. You can be damned for believing the wrong things. That's how important I think doctrine is. What we think matters. Studying Scripture appropriately, dividing scripture that matters. Okay, I'm not denigrating that. But to simply say that Christianity is only about what we believe. Ignoring transformation. That's what I'm trying to challenge. Paul, I believe himself would have taken this on. So often I hear and maybe you and many of you see these bumper stickers on the back of a car that says Christians are like anyone else, just forgiven. How many of you seen that bumper sticker Maybe? Well, a couple of you have. So maybe it's worked its way up north of the border. They were all over in the US. I personally think the apostle Paul, if he couldn't ripped that sticker off one of his church members bumpers, he would remove the bumper to get it off, because I don't think that's what Paul believed. I understand the thought behind it. Christians still sin. We're being transformed. We're all in process. But Paul had a pretty high standard for his followers on how they were actually experientially transformed. Look at Ephesians for 17 and 24. Paul says this. So I tell you this and insist on it in the Lord. Now we know that all Scripture is God-breathed. I believe when Bible speaks, God speaks, and that's a pretty conservative view of Scripture. But that's what I think is true.

[00:18:55] But Paul is even adding an extra emphasis here that he goes, This is not I don't want anybody to be mistaken here to think this is my opinion and I am insisting on this in the Lord. This is a direct revelation. You must no longer live as a Gentiles. Do you know Christ must no longer live? Is those who don't know God, who have no faith. You are called to live differently, He says. You were taught to put on the new self. Here again, same phrase as Peter uses in in just another way created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Is that partakers of the divine nature theme? Again, not just improved humans in one sense, Paul saying, but but God himself becomes a standard. You were created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, where God makes His presence known through you, as you allow yourself to be transformed. You put off the old man, you put on the new one. There is a real true experiential transformation in Christianity. In Titus 116. Paul is very strong about this two young pastor. He talks about those who claim to know God intellectually. They may try to hold on to right beliefs, he says, but by their actions they deny him. So I don't want to put belief against action. I want to say that belief, apart from action, isn't sufficient. They're both essential. And that's what Christian spirituality reminds us. And that's what the point I'm trying to make in this session that I believe in this age of the church could be wrong, but I believe that perhaps God wants to raise the level of expectation for His presence and activity in the life of every believer. I'd like you to consider that challenge for up here in Vancouver.

[00:21:04] Is it possible that in this day and age of the church, God might want it to be the normal expectation for every average believer to experience an increased level of expectation for God's presence and activity in his or her life, that we don't just accept certain beliefs about God, but that we experience his presence, we experience his activity, that we become changed women and men. Well, if that's the case, where do we go? And that's what we're going to spend the rest of the day looking at. I know this is big and some of you might start to feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony, Right? You know what to do. You just don't know where to get started. There's there's so many places where you could go. And that's what we want to look at here.

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