The Theme of this long Psalm 119 invariably relates to the WORD of God – the writer has repeatedly term such as: testimonies, precepts, ordinance, statutes, Word and commandments. I have been doing some research on the topic of “Spiritual Formation” – it basically boils down to sanctification working in the life of the believer; years ago we would have called it discipleship. With in Spiritual Formation is the premise of incorporating such things as fasting, prayer, bible reading , reflection and solitude. All this doesn’t sound like anything new. So why the new emphasis? Because while people are doing those things, their lives are not changed. Anyone can read and get head knowledge; but there should be a change in behavior. While I was doing my doctoral work and project, I had to remind myself of the tangible results I wanted to see in people after the project was done. Three things specifically I was looking for were cognitive learning, affective or change in the person, but finally a lasting behavioral change which indicated the incorporated what was learned into part of their lives. As Church people go – we can read and learn plenty of facts and stories of how God changed people or events; and at the same time miss completely the affect/effect it is supposed to have on us. The Psalmist continually talks of reading, meditating and incorporating the Word of God into his life. More than a ritual or routine approach to the Bible. The Word of God is powerful, it does have a divine effect on our souls when it is read and folded into our daily practice/living of life.
While it is wonderful to read how the Psalmist garnered the Word of God; depended on it for soul sustenance; I am not so sure that happen today in our hectic fast paced world. Do we read the bible, learn of God’s working; yet fail to see the significance the Word should have in our walk in this world.
Spiritual Formation has been called a movement; even has a Latin name attached to it lectio divina – “divine reading.” A Benedictine philosophy for spiritually nourishing the soul. When investigating the Spiritual Formation one finds that while it presents a “normal spiritual growth process” it becomes almost like a monastic style of living without the monastery. I don’t mean to be critical of this “movement” but shouldn’t we already be doing these things?
I work and have a great interest in Church Revitalization, often in churches that are declining, drifting or dying one can find there is a “coldness” towards what the bible says and a desire to do what the Church says. I have written in one of my bibles, this book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book! This pretty much sums up the Believer’s life. Even pastors must be cautious not to just read the scriptures for a “message” and to spend time for personal growth and discipline.
James 1:22 admonishes the believer not to be just a hearer but a doer also. To read the bible and not ask “what does this mean to me, and what changes is the Word indicating I must make;” is like Paul says “we look into a mirror and when we turn away, we forget what we look like.” In preaching classes, the preacher is always reminded tell the hearer what scripture says, but be sure to communicate what you want them to do – application in other words. If over the course of time the Church/individual has only read the Bible without applying it, hasn’t this become nothing more than a futile exercise of religion? The Believer is to have “Christ fully formed in them” – the Life of Christ is the difference maker for the sinner and the believer – His life [Jesus] being lived out Through Me – Galatians 2:20. If a person is trying to live the Christian Life without the power of the Living Christ in him/her – can’t do it. Only Jesus can live the Christian life!
The believer has been given the Written Word, the Spoken Word and the Indwelling Word. All three are essential to the Spirit Filled life. SO why is the movement of “Spiritual Formation” catching on with Christians? For the first time the are being “formed into the Son of God by the power of the Word and sanctification process. More of Jesus in more of me!