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To God Be The Glory – A Personal Testimony

2 Peter 1:4-7 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

There’s a subtle teaching penetrating the evangelical churches, undetected by many. Spiritual Formation is the term for a movement that is threatening God’s church and deceiving believers to settle for teaching in stark contradiction to the Word of God. The movement is gaining popularity in evangelical colleges and consequently, sweeping the academic world into its steely grip. For many Christians its message and practice of alternate methodologies of sanctification are causing alarm. There is an urgency to confront the spiritual formation movement head on and expose its opposition to Biblical truth.

Forming a basic definition of spiritual formation is no simple task. It’s a fluid concept, with a wide range of accepted meanings and applications. (That in itself should send off alarm bells). At the core, spiritual formation encourages adherents to practice a wide range of spiritual disciplines that the Holy Spirit works through to bring about spiritual growth in the believer’s life. Some of these practices are grounded in the Word of God, personal and corporate Bible study, worship, prayer and service.

However, other practices are questionable. Many elites in the spiritual formation movement advocate the need for more intuitive interpretations of spirituality. They encourage believers to incorporate a wide variety of extra-biblical spiritual practices, such as contemplative prayer, imaginative prayer, silence and meditation, labyrinth walking, chanting, creative expression, daily examen, and lectio divina, to name a few. Some of the most popular methods of spiritual formation have their roots in ancient monastic practices, Roman Catholicism and new age mysticism. 

1 Peter 4:11 that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

For the past 6 years I have worked as a Spiritual Formation Director with an Evangelical Bible college. A Spiritual Formation Director is one who employs and advocates these disciplines to help the student listen to God with the ear of their heart and enter into a more intimate relationship with Him. These practices are the pathways the Spirit speaks through so that the believer is transformed into the likeness of Christfor the sake of others. I often wondered why this latter term did not sit right with me. Scripture reinforces that we are being made into the image of Christ for the ‘glory of God’. Serving others is a secondary focus, however, this is not the prime end in spiritual formation. Opening oneself up to the Spirit through these practices is paramount to the methodology of the movement, and hearing what God has said to the student personally through the employ of these disciplines, is the primary task. The student is seeking fresh revelation from the Spirit.

Such practices can lead to subjectivity and personal interpretation. The student’s feelings, experience and sense of God is their prime assessment of what God is like. This opens the student up to make subject assessments of God’s nature and character through experience and emotion. Dangerous territory. Any kind of subjective spirituality that draws our focus away from the Lord and His truth can have disastrous results, derailing our spiritual growth and severing us from God’s plan for sanctification.

Over the past few months, it was becoming more difficult to reconcile what I have been reading and hearing in the Word of God, with these disciplines I was participating in and encouraging students to do as well. God has graciously opened my heart to the false teaching of spiritual formation. He has revealed to me that all spiritual growth starts with and ends with the preeminent role of God’s Word in our lives. Scripture alone is enough for spiritual maturity, without the addition of extraneous practices or doctrines of men.

2 Timothy 3:16-17  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

The God-breathed Scriptures are enough. There is no need to add extra. God did not leave anything out. His divine power has granted to us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness and through these means alone, we can bring glory to God and will be equipped to serve our neighbor. If we are to add anything to our faith, it is not a list of external practices, but instead virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity. (2 Timothy 1:5-7). These are the practices that will sanctify our life in God and will glorify Him.

I shudder to think how this subtle teaching of man has deceived me for so long into a means of seeking God that is so far removed from His Word. I have drifted into dangerous territory for long enough (and to my shame and sorrow) encouraged others to drift into that erroneous ground too. I feel like the proverbial frog who has been placed in warm water only to shrivel and suffocate as the temperature increases. Praise God for His goodness and grace towards those who, like myself, have been led back to His Word and the true ministry of His Spirit.

We must be conscious of “the deceitfulness of sin”(Hebrews 3:13). It is little wonder why Scripture says:

1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

Spiritual formation methodologies encourage the student to create a rule of life, or a set of daily, weekly and yearly practices that can be woven into their lifestyle. The emphasis is always on what the student can do to get a hold of the Spirit more. Warning bells ringing again. Paul cautioned the believers in Corinth “not to go beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6), a warning that I for one, did not follow. The rule of life became the means of which I felt assured that I was doing what pleased God and contributed to my own efforts of spiritual growth.

The Holy Scriptures are the only rule of faith and obedience. Prayerfully reading and studying them and then being obedient to the teaching therein, is rule enough. God speaks to us through the Scriptures and if our intention is to hear the voice of God, this is the best place to start and finish!

The amazing transformation that the Spirit is doing leaves me overwhelmed with gratitude and in awe of what God can do when we surrender to Him. The Holy Scriptures, and the teaching of the Creeds and Confessions of our Reformed forefathers, have become my daily bread. And God has revealed the beauty and accuracy of expositional teaching of the Word line by line. I simply can’t get enough. Now I have one primary urge and that is to glorify our God is who is doing a glorious work in me.

For those who read this and are involved in the teachings of the spiritual formation movement, I implore you to ask God to reveal the truth to you. Be willing and obedient to what He reveals in the Word. John 16:13 says that ‘when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth’. May the Holy Spirit, our wise Counselor and Guide, lead us in the truth and set us free from all else.

Heavenly Father, please open my eyes to the truth of the Scriptures and may Your desire be known to me as I meditate upon them and listen to Your Spirit. I yield myself to You today and long to know Your ways more clearly. Show me where I am being deceived and misled. Thank you. Amen.’

About Jennifer Woodley

Jennifer is an Australian freelance writer who lives in a small rural town in sunny Queensland. She is passionate about encouraging others on their journey with Christ through writing and mentoring. Jennifer is a school chaplain, wife, mother of three adult sons and loving grandma of one adorable grandson. More of her writing can be found at www.inhisname6.com and www.faithwriters.com.

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2 comments

  1. Jennifer,
    Thank you for an outstanding article and testimony, filled with knowledge and heart.
    Being moved and walking in the Spirit is essential to our growth and depth of development, and as we bathe ourselves in the Word of God, we invariably will grow and gain access in ways we never would have otherwise.
    Happy Christmas Dear Friend,
    God Bless~

  2. thanks jennifer’

    I am reading holiness by jc ryle

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