I’ve been reading and thinking on philosophy of ministry for growing authentic followers of Jesus.  I resonate with Dallas Willard and the way he frames things.  Here’s his definition of Spiritual formation:

“a Spirit driven process of forming the inner world of the human self – our ‘spiritual’ side- in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.  In the degree to which such a spiritual transformation to inner Christlikeness is successful, the outer life of the individual will become a natural expression or outflow of the character and teachings of Jesus.  We simply ‘walk the walk’ as we say.”

To increasingly look and act like Jesus, Willard says we must implement the appropriate Vision, Intention and Means. V.I.M.   First, we need to have a VISION of our life in the kingdom as Jesus taught.  It is the vision of life now and forever in the range of God’s effective will.  Meaning, we are partaking of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and participating by our actions in what God is doing here and now, in our lifetime.  Whatever we do, we are doing it on behalf of Christ and giving thanks to God our Father (Colossians 3:17).  This vision relies on the power of God the Spirit working in and through us.   Second, with a Vision of this kingdom living it is possible for us to intend to live in the kingdom as he did.  We can decide to do this.  We intend to live this life by intending to actually obey the teachings of Jesus.  William Law (1700’s) wrote a book called “A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life”.  This paragraph gets at this vital piece of INTENTION:  “And if you will here stop, and ask yourselves, why you are not as pious as the primitive Christians were, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance, nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it…”

I’m thinking here, why don’t we intend to actually live as Jesus calls us to?  is it because the vision is fuzzy or unclear? Is it because we have a competing vision(s) that minimizes the vision Christ has for us?  life is just too busy?  Whatever the case, the LORD is calling us to weigh carefully our intention to actually love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  And, as this intention to live as Jesus invites us to live settles in, we get to the ‘M’ of V.I.M.

MEANS.  Simply put, the means of grace are activities which open our lives to the action of God in our heart, mind, body and soul, to progressively remake our whole personality.  Means are also referred to as spiritual disciplines.  John Wesley coined the phrase ‘means of grace’.  2 Timothy 4 says, “Train yourself for godliness…godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and the life to come.”

Willard encourages, I think rightly, focusing on even the discipline of solitude and silence – getting away from the noise, having a day of silence, no talking.  Clearing the mind of all the clutter to prepare to hear from the Lord.  After all, this is modeling what Jesus did, he went away to a solitary place.  And the disciplines of study and worship.  Meditating and lingering over passages in the Bible inviting the Lord to press the truths into our hearts, not just for knowledge sake but for worship and service back to him.

I have found myself pleading with people to simply read their Bibles.  Part of what is missing is the enormous vision and benefit of what my life could look like in submission to Christ in his kingdom.  Vision first, then the intention to actually pursue this vision, applying the Means.  Taken from a Dallas Willard paper, “Living a Transformed Life Adequate to our Calling”, found at www.dwillard.org.

Peace, Pastor Scott