These six words of Jesus in Matthew 7:17 summarize the result of spiritual formation in the Bible:
- “A good tree produces good fruit”
After receiving the invitation to enter into God’s covenant, becoming “formed” into a good tree that produces good fruit automatically is what awaits you.
It’s evident in the passages below and many more that the road, the path is not easy.
“Science” continues to affirm, opposite to what our western minds believe, that freedom, skills, creativity, and more do not emerge from a linear path.
Does that work with your savings account?
It can, but if it does, it is because of a ridiculous amount of “formation,” not an automatic or passive result.
Why do we think, because you prayed a perfect prayer of “salvation” that you would be “formed” without effort, spiritually?
Formed (“to fashion, train, or develop by instruction, discipline, or precept: formed the recruits into excellent soldiers.”)
It is, as you already know, three steps forward, two steps back. A spiral is also a helpful image.
To transform into a good tree that produces good fruit requires years, decades, of consistent, purposeful effort.
How do you get there?
By capturing the vision, shown in the first two sections of scripture below, and then “not in fits and starts, but steadily” Ephesians 4 The MSG.
In the post:
- Two clear examples of spiritual formation in the Bible
- Multiple additional passages from scripture for further reflection
The Clearest Spiritual Formation “Stages” from Scripture
The spiritual formation steps from 2 Peter 1:2-10 reveal a process of spiritual transformation, the “cities” necessary to conquer in your life to enter the “land flowing with milk and honey,” this side of heaven.
Here are verses five through eight with lists added to make the formation, purposeful spiritual transformation in the Bible “stages” more apparent.
“But to obtain these gifts, you need more than faith; you must also work hard to be good, and even that is not enough. For then you must learn to
- Know God better and discover what he wants you to do. Next,
- Learn to put aside your own desires so that you will become patient and godly, gladly letting God have his way with you. This will make possible the next step, which is for you to
- Enjoy other people and to like them, and
- Finally, you will grow to love them deeply.
The more you go on in this way, the more you will grow strong spiritually and become fruitful and useful to our Lord Jesus Christ. (TLB)”
“Going on in this way” is where a few spiritual disciplines enter the picture.
The Greatest Biblical Example of Spiritual Formation
Below are many passages of spiritual formation in scripture, “how and what” scriptures. In addition to a glimpse of the process above from 2 Peter, seeing the story of the Israelites conquering the promised land has encouraged me to stay the course in a new way.
Willard lays this out plainly when discussing “Israel and Us” in Renovation of the Heart.
The descendants of Abraham became a distinct people in the furnace of Egyptian slavery… By an active intervention into their deadness (Deuteronomy 11:1-7) he brought them (and later us) to a new life of interactive (covenant) relationship to him.
This interactive, covenant relationship is eternal life (John 17:3.) It is what it means to have been “born from above” — which Nicodemus, as a teacher in Israel, was supposed to have understood, but could not because he had only “the mind of the flesh” and so could only think in terms of “the natural.”
But this eternal kind of life is not a passive life.
Passivity was for the Israelites, and it is for us one of the greatest dangers and difficulties of our spiritual existence.
The land promised to them was one of incredible goodness — “flowing with milk and honey,” as it is repeatedly described. But it still had to be conquered by careful, persistent, and intelligent human action, over a long period of time.
In the beginning of the conquest of the promised land, the walls of Jericho fell down, to make clear God’s presence and power.
Welcome to the Kingdom!
But that never happened again. The Israelites had to take the remaining cities through hand-to-hand warfare, always still with Divine assistance.
What was then true of the promised land of the Israelites was then and is now true of individual human beings who come to God.
The Israelites were saved or delivered by grace just as surely as we are.
But in both cases “grace” means we are to be, and are enabled to be, active to a degree we have never been before.
Paul’s picture of grace is “and God is able to make all grace abound to you, so they’re always having all sufficiency and everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
We therefore live in “Hot Pursuit” of Jesus Christ.
“My soul follows hard after thee,” Psalm 63:8, and Paul’s panting cry was “that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, in order to participate in the life of his resurrection.” Philippians 3:10-11.
The work of spiritual formation in Christlikeness is the work of claiming the land of milk and honey and which we are, individually and collectively, to dwell with God.
But the real Jordan, the spiritual “Jordan,” is not physical death, as has usually been supposed.
We need not and must not wait until we die to live in the land of milk and honey; and if we will only move to that land now, the passage in physical death will be but one more day in this life we have long since begun.
This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said, ” if anyone keeps my words he shall never see or taste death ” John 8:51.
Renovation of the heart Chapter 2 ends with these words “In this chapter I hope we have taken significant first steps toward a clarity that can serve as a foundation for the effectual practice of Christian spiritual formation.”
The rest of the book reveals steps to take, building from that foundation.
If interested, you can check out my Spirit of the Disciplines review here.
Some Scriptures on Spiritual Formation:
Planning a full day or two of solitude and silence to read and reread these passages will likely prove useful.
Another beneficial approach would be to take one of these sections of scripture to read each morning or other time for a week or so until you receive an “aha” for that day. That may occur after only a few verses. Then contemplate the inspiration or challenge you are experiencing.
This method of Bible reading was and still is, my most favorite.
Here are some of the many scriptures that demonstrate the goals, processes, and outcomes of spiritual formation in the Bible.
1 And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.
3 As God’s messenger I give each of you God’s warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you. 4-5 Just as there are many parts to our bodies, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of it, and it takes every one of us to make it complete, for we each have different work to do. So we belong to each other, and each needs all the others.
6 God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, then prophesy whenever you can—as often as your faith is strong enough to receive a message from God. 7 If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. 8 If you are a preacher, see to it that your sermons are strong and helpful. If God has given you money, be generous in helping others with it. If God has given you administrative ability and put you in charge of the work of others, take the responsibility seriously. Those who offer comfort to the sorrowing should do so with Christian cheer.
9 Don’t just pretend that you love others: really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. 10 Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.
12 Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful always. 13 When God’s children are in need, you be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.
14 If someone mistreats you because you are a Christian, don’t curse him; pray that God will bless him. 15 When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. 16 Work happily together. Don’t try to act big. Don’t try to get into the good graces of important people, but enjoy the company of ordinary folks. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. 18 Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible.
19 Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Don’t take the law into your own hands.[a] 20 Instead, feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be “heaping coals of fire on his head.” In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you. 21 Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.
1st Corinthians 13
1 If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do? Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love. 3 If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever.
4 Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, 5 never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. 6 It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. 7 If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.
8 All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever. Someday prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge—these gifts will disappear. 9 Now we know so little, even with our special gifts, and the preaching of those most gifted is still so poor. 10 But when we have been made perfect and complete, then the need for these inadequate special gifts will come to an end, and they will disappear.
11 It’s like this: when I was a child I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I became a man my thoughts grew far beyond those of my childhood, and now I have put away the childish things. 12 In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face-to-face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.
13 There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
2 Corinthians 3:12 – 7:1
12 Since we know that this new glory will never go away, we can preach with great boldness, 13 and not as Moses did, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelis could not see the glory fade away.
14 Not only Moses’ face was veiled, but his people’s minds and understanding were veiled and blinded too. Even now when the Scripture is read it seems as though Jewish hearts and minds are covered by a thick veil, because they cannot see and understand the real meaning of the Scriptures. For this veil of misunderstanding can be removed only by believing in Christ. 15 Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings their hearts are blind and they think that obeying the Ten Commandments is the way to be saved.
16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord from his sins, then the veil is taken away. 17 The Lord is the Spirit who gives them life, and where he is there is freedom from trying to be saved by keeping the laws of God.[a] 18 But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.
1 It is God himself, in his mercy, who has given us this wonderful work of telling his Good News to others,[a] and so we never give up. 2 We do not try to trick people into believing—we are not interested in fooling anyone. We never try to get anyone to believe that the Bible teaches what it doesn’t. All such shameful methods we forego. We stand in the presence of God as we speak and so we tell the truth, as all who know us will agree.
3 If the Good News we preach is hidden to anyone, it is hidden from the one who is on the road to eternal death. 4 Satan, who is the god of this evil world, has made him blind, unable to see the glorious light of the Gospel that is shining upon him or to understand the amazing message we preach about the glory of Christ, who is God.[b] 5 We don’t go around preaching about ourselves but about Christ Jesus as Lord. All we say of ourselves is that we are your slaves because of what Jesus has done for us. 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made us understand that it is the brightness of his glory that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us[c]—is held in a perishable container, that is, in our weak bodies. Everyone can see that the glorious power within must be from God and is not our own.
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. 9 We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. 10 These bodies of ours are constantly facing death just as Jesus did; so it is clear to all that it is only the living Christ within who keeps us safe.[d]
11 Yes, we live under constant danger to our lives because we serve the Lord, but this gives us constant opportunities to show forth the power of Jesus Christ within our dying bodies. 12 Because of our preaching we face death, but it has resulted in eternal life for you.
13 We boldly say what we believe, trusting God to care for us,[e] just as the psalm writer did when he said, “I believe and therefore I speak.” 14 We know that the same God who brought the Lord Jesus back from death will also bring us back to life again with Jesus and present us to him along with you. 15 These sufferings of ours are for your benefit. And the more of you who are won to Christ, the more there are to thank him for his great kindness, and the more the Lord is glorified.
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. 17 These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever! 18 So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.
1 For we know that when this tent we live in now is taken down—when we die and leave these bodies—we will have wonderful new bodies in heaven, homes that will be ours forevermore, made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 How weary we grow of our present bodies. That is why we look forward eagerly to the day when we shall have heavenly bodies that we shall put on like new clothes. 3 For we shall not be merely spirits without bodies. 4 These earthly bodies make us groan and sigh, but we wouldn’t like to think of dying and having no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will, as it were, be swallowed up by everlasting life. 5 This is what God has prepared for us, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
6 Now we look forward with confidence to our heavenly bodies, realizing that every moment we spend in these earthly bodies is time spent away from our eternal home in heaven with Jesus. 7 We know these things are true by believing, not by seeing. 8 And we are not afraid but are quite content to die, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 9 So our aim is to please him always in everything we do, whether we are here in this body or away from this body and with him in heaven. 10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged and have our lives laid bare—before him. Each of us will receive whatever he deserves for the good or bad things he has done in his earthly body.
11 It is because of this solemn fear of the Lord, which is ever present in our minds, that we work so hard to win others. God knows our hearts, that they are pure in this matter, and I hope that, deep within, you really know it too.
12 Are we trying to pat ourselves on the back again? No, I am giving you some good ammunition! You can use this on those preachers of yours who brag about how well they look and preach but don’t have true and honest hearts. You can boast about us that we, at least, are well intentioned and honest.
13-14 Are we insane to say such things about ourselves?[a] If so, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Whatever we do, it is certainly not for our own profit but because Christ’s love controls us now. Since we believe that Christ died for all of us, we should also believe that we have died to the old life we used to live. 15 He died for all so that all who live—having received eternal life from him—might live no longer for themselves, to please themselves, but to spend their lives pleasing Christ who died and rose again for them. 16 So stop evaluating Christians by what the world thinks about them or by what they seem to be like on the outside. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, merely as a human being like myself. How differently I feel now! 17 When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!
18 All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him. 19 For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. 20 We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God. 21 For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!
1 As God’s partners, we beg you not to toss aside this marvelous message of God’s great kindness. 2 For God says, “Your cry came to me at a favorable time, when the doors of welcome were wide open. I helped you on a day when salvation was being offered.” Right now God is ready to welcome you. Today he is ready to save you.
3 We try to live in such a way that no one will ever be offended or kept back from finding the Lord by the way we act, so that no one can find fault with us and blame it on the Lord. 4 In fact, in everything we do we try to show that we are true ministers of God.
We patiently endure suffering and hardship and trouble of every kind. 5 We have been beaten, put in jail, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, stayed awake through sleepless nights of watching, and gone without food. 6 We have proved ourselves to be what we claim by our wholesome lives and by our understanding of the Gospel and by our patience. We have been kind and truly loving and filled with the Holy Spirit. 7 We have been truthful, with God’s power helping us in all we do. All of the godly man’s arsenal—weapons of defense, and weapons of attack—have been ours.
8 We stand true to the Lord whether others honor us or despise us, whether they criticize us or commend us. We are honest, but they call us liars.
9 The world ignores us, but we are known to God; we live close to death, but here we are, still very much alive. We have been injured but kept from death. 10 Our hearts ache, but at the same time we have the joy of the Lord. We are poor, but we give rich spiritual gifts to others. We own nothing, and yet we enjoy everything.
11 Oh, my dear Corinthian friends! I have told you all my feelings; I love you with all my heart. 12 Any coldness still between us is not because of any lack of love on my part but because your love is too small and does not reach out to me and draw me in. 13 I am talking to you now as if you truly were my very own children. Open your hearts to us! Return our love!
14 Don’t be teamed with those who do not love the Lord, for what do the people of God have in common with the people of sin? How can light live with darkness? 15 And what harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a Christian be a partner with one who doesn’t believe? 16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For you are God’s temple, the home of the living God, and God has said of you, “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” 17 That is why the Lord has said, “Leave them; separate yourselves from them; don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you 18 and be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.”
Having such great promises as these, dear friends, let us turn away from everything wrong, whether of body or spirit, and purify ourselves, living in the wholesome fear of God, giving ourselves to him alone.
Galatians 5:22 – 6:10
22 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control; and here there is no conflict with Jewish laws.
24 Those who belong to Christ have nailed their natural evil desires to his cross and crucified them there.
25 If we are living now by the Holy Spirit’s power, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Then we won’t need to look for honors and popularity, which lead to jealousy and hard feelings.
1 Dear brothers, if a Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help him back onto the right path, remembering that next time it might be one of you who is in the wrong. 2 Share each other’s troubles and problems, and so obey our Lord’s command. 3 If anyone thinks he is too great to stoop to this, he is fooling himself. He is really a nobody.
4 Let everyone be sure that he is doing his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work well done and won’t need to compare himself with someone else. 5 Each of us must bear some faults and burdens of his own. For none of us is perfect!
6 Those who are taught the Word of God should help their teachers by paying them.
7 Don’t be misled; remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows! 8 If he sows to please his own wrong desires, he will be planting seeds of evil and he will surely reap a harvest of spiritual decay and death; but if he plants the good things of the Spirit, he will reap the everlasting life that the Holy Spirit gives him. 9 And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up. 10 That’s why whenever we can we should always be kind to everyone, and especially to our Christian brothers.
Ephesians 4:20 – 6:20
20 But that isn’t the way Christ taught you! 21 If you have really heard his voice and learned from him the truths concerning himself, 22 then throw off your old evil nature—the old you that was a partner in your evil ways—rotten through and through, full of lust and sham.
23 Now your attitudes and thoughts must all be constantly changing for the better. 24 Yes, you must be a new and different person, holy and good. Clothe yourself with this new nature.
25 Stop lying to each other; tell the truth, for we are parts of each other and when we lie to each other we are hurting ourselves. 26 If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly; 27 for when you are angry, you give a mighty foothold to the devil.
28 If anyone is stealing he must stop it and begin using those hands of his for honest work so he can give to others in need. 29 Don’t use bad language. Say only what is good and helpful to those you are talking to, and what will give them a blessing.
30 Don’t cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who marks you to be present on that day when salvation from sin will be complete.[b]
31 Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.
1 Follow God’s example in everything you do just as a much loved child imitates his father. 2 Be full of love for others, following the example of Christ who loved you and gave himself to God as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, for Christ’s love for you was like sweet perfume to him.
3 Let there be no sex sin, impurity or greed among you. Let no one be able to accuse you of any such things. 4 Dirty stories, foul talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, remind each other of God’s goodness, and be thankful.
5 You can be sure of this: The Kingdom of Christ and of God will never belong to anyone who is impure or greedy, for a greedy person is really an idol worshiper—he loves and worships the good things of this life more than God. 6 Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible wrath of God is upon all those who do them. 7 Don’t even associate with such people. 8 For though once your heart was full of darkness, now it is full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! 9 Because of this light within you, you should do only what is good and right and true.
10 Learn as you go along what pleases the Lord.[a] 11 Take no part in the worthless pleasures of evil and darkness, but instead, rebuke and expose them. 12 It would be shameful even to mention here those pleasures of darkness that the ungodly do. 13 But when you expose them, the light shines in upon their sin and shows it up, and when they see how wrong they really are, some of them may even become children of light! 14 That is why God says in the Scriptures, “Awake, O sleeper, and rise up from the dead; and Christ shall give you light.”
15-16 So be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to find out and do whatever the Lord wants you to. 18 Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path; be filled instead with the Holy Spirit and controlled by him.
19 Talk with each other much about the Lord, quoting psalms and hymns and singing sacred songs, making music in your hearts to the Lord. 20 Always give thanks for everything to our God and Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
21 Honor Christ by submitting to each other. 22 You wives must submit to your husbands’ leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord. 23 For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of his body the Church. (He gave his very life to take care of it and be its Savior!) 24 So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the Church obeys Christ.
25 And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the Church when he died for her, 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s Word;[b] 27 so that he could give her to himself as a glorious Church without a single spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, being holy and without a single fault. 28 That is how husbands should treat their wives, loving them as parts of themselves. For since a man and his wife are now one, a man is really doing himself a favor and loving himself when he loves his wife! 29-30 No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body the Church, of which we are parts.
31 (That the husband and wife are one body is proved by the Scripture, which says, “A man must leave his father and mother when he marries so that he can be perfectly joined to his wife, and the two shall be one.”) 32 I know this is hard to understand, but it is an illustration of the way we are parts of the body of Christ.
33 So again I say, a man must love his wife as a part of himself; and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband—obeying, praising, and honoring him.
1 Children, obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you. 2 Honor your father and mother. This is the first of God’s Ten Commandments that ends with a promise. 3 And this is the promise: that if you honor your father and mother, yours will be a long life, full of blessing.
4 And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice.
5 Slaves, obey your masters; be eager to give them your very best. Serve them as you would Christ. 6-7 Don’t work hard only when your master is watching and then shirk when he isn’t looking; work hard and with gladness all the time, as though working for Christ, doing the will of God with all your hearts. 8 Remember, the Lord will pay you for each good thing you do, whether you are slave or free.
9 And you slave owners must treat your slaves right, just as I have told them to treat you. Don’t keep threatening them; remember, you yourselves are slaves to Christ; you have the same Master they do, and he has no favorites.
10 Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.
13 So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up.
14 But to do this, you will need the strong belt of truth and the breastplate of God’s approval. 15 Wear shoes that are able to speed you on as you preach the Good News of peace with God. 16 In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. 17 And you will need the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God.
18 Pray all the time. Ask God for anything in line with the Holy Spirit’s wishes. Plead with him, reminding him of your needs, and keep praying earnestly for all Christians everywhere. 19 Pray for me, too, and ask God to give me the right words as I boldly tell others about the Lord and as I explain to them that his salvation is for the Gentiles too. 20 I am in chains now for preaching this message from God. But pray that I will keep on speaking out boldly for him even here in prison, as I should.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. 4 Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing.
5 Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, 6 who, though he was God, did not demand and cling to his rights as God, 7 but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men.[a] 8 And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross.[b]
9 Yet it was because of this that God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name which is above every other name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Dearest friends, when I was there with you, you were always so careful to follow my instructions. And now that I am away you must be even more careful to do the good things that result from being saved, obeying God with deep reverence, shrinking back from all that might displease him. 13 For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you do what he wants.
14 In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing 15 so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of people who are crooked and stubborn. Shine out among them like beacon lights, 16 holding out to them the Word of Life.
4 Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do. Remember that the Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. 7 If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.
8 And now, brothers, as I close this letter, let me say this one more thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.
Colossians 3:1 – 4:6
1 Since you became alive again, so to speak, when Christ arose from the dead, now set your sights on the rich treasures and joys of heaven where he sits beside God in the place of honor and power. 2 Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t spend your time worrying about things down here. 3 You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person does. Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God. 4 And when Christ who is our real life comes back again, you will shine with him and share in all his glories.
5 Away then with sinful, earthly things; deaden the evil desires lurking within you; have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires; don’t worship the good things of life, for that is idolatry. 6 God’s terrible anger is upon those who do such things. 7 You used to do them when your life was still part of this world; 8 but now is the time to cast off and throw away all these rotten garments of anger, hatred, cursing, and dirty language.
9 Don’t tell lies to each other; it was your old life with all its wickedness that did that sort of thing; now it is dead and gone. 10 You are living a brand new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ who created this new life within you. 11 In this new life one’s nationality or race or education or social position is unimportant; such things mean nothing. Whether a person has Christ is what matters, and he is equally available to all.
12 Since you have been chosen by God who has given you this new kind of life, and because of his deep love and concern for you, you should practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others. Don’t worry about making a good impression on them, but be ready to suffer quietly and patiently. 13 Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
14 Most of all, let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony. 15 Let the peace of heart that comes from Christ be always present in your hearts and lives, for this is your responsibility and privilege as members of his body. And always be thankful.
16 Remember what Christ taught, and let his words enrich your lives and make you wise; teach them to each other and sing them out in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing to the Lord with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, and come with him into the presence of God the Father to give him your thanks.
18 You wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, for that is what the Lord has planned for you. 19 And you husbands must be loving and kind to your wives and not bitter against them nor harsh.
20 You children must always obey your fathers and mothers, for that pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, don’t scold your children so much that they become discouraged and quit trying.
22 You slaves must always obey your earthly masters, not only trying to please them when they are watching you but all the time; obey them willingly because of your love for the Lord and because you want to please him. 23 Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, just as though you were working for the Lord and not merely for your masters, 24 remembering that it is the Lord Christ who is going to pay you, giving you your full portion of all he owns. He is the one you are really working for. 25 And if you don’t do your best for him, he will pay you in a way that you won’t like—for he has no special favorites who can get away with shirking.
2 You slave owners must be just and fair to all your slaves. Always remember that you, too, have a Master in heaven who is closely watching you.
2 Don’t be weary in prayer; keep at it; watch for God’s answers, and remember to be thankful when they come. 3 Don’t forget to pray for us too, that God will give us many chances to preach the Good News of Christ for which I am here in jail. 4 Pray that I will be bold enough to tell it freely and fully and make it plain, as, of course, I should.
5 Make the most of your chances to tell others the Good News. Be wise in all your contacts with them. 6 Let your conversation be gracious as well as sensible, for then you will have the right answer for everyone.
1 Peter 2:1 – 3:16
1 So get rid of your feelings of hatred. Don’t just pretend to be good! Be done with dishonesty and jealousy and talking about others behind their backs. 2-3 Now that you realize how kind the Lord has been to you, put away all evil, deception, envy, and fraud. Long to grow up into the fullness of your salvation; cry for this as a baby cries for his milk.[a]
4 Come to Christ, who is the living Foundation of Rock upon which God builds; though men have spurned him, he is very precious to God who has chosen him above all others.
5 And now you have become living building-stones for God’s use in building his house. What’s more, you are his holy priests; so come to him—you who are acceptable to him because of Jesus Christ[b]—and offer to God those things that please him. 6 As the Scriptures express it, “See, I am sending Christ to be the carefully chosen, precious Cornerstone of my church, and I will never disappoint those who trust in him.”
7 Yes, he is very precious to you who believe; and to those who reject him, well—“The same Stone that was rejected by the builders has become the Cornerstone, the most honored and important part of the building.” 8 And the Scriptures also say, “He is the Stone that some will stumble over, and the Rock that will make them fall.” They will stumble because they will not listen to God’s Word nor obey it, and so this punishment must follow—that they will fall.
9 But you are not like that, for you have been chosen by God himself—you are priests of the King, you are holy and pure, you are God’s very own—all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were less than nothing; now you are God’s own. Once you knew very little of God’s kindness; now your very lives have been changed by it.
11 Dear brothers, you are only visitors here. Since your real home is in heaven, I beg you to keep away from the evil pleasures of this world; they are not for you, for they fight against your very souls.
12 Be careful how you behave among your unsaved neighbors; for then, even if they are suspicious of you and talk against you, they will end up praising God for your good works when Christ returns.
13 For the Lord’s sake, obey every law of your government: those of the king as head of the state, 14 and those of the king’s officers, for he has sent them to punish all who do wrong, and to honor those who do right.
15 It is God’s will that your good lives should silence those who foolishly condemn the Gospel without knowing what it can do for them, having never experienced its power. 16 You are free from the law, but that doesn’t mean you are free to do wrong. Live as those who are free to do only God’s will at all times.
17 Show respect for everyone. Love Christians everywhere. Fear God and honor the government.
18 Servants, you must respect your masters and do whatever they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are tough and cruel. 19 Praise the Lord if you are punished for doing right! 20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong; but if you do right and suffer for it, and are patient beneath the blows, God is well pleased.
21 This suffering is all part of the work God has given you. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps: 22 He never sinned, never told a lie, 23 never answered back when insulted; when he suffered he did not threaten to get even; he left his case in the hands of God who always judges fairly. 24 He personally carried the load of our sins in his own body when he died on the cross so that we can be finished with sin and live a good life from now on. For his wounds have healed ours! 25 Like sheep you wandered away from God, but now you have returned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls who keeps you safe from all attacks.
1-2 Wives, fit in with your husbands’ plans; for then if they refuse to listen when you talk to them about the Lord, they will be won by your respectful, pure behavior. Your godly lives will speak to them better than any words.
3 Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on jewelry, or beautiful clothes, or hair arrangement. 4 Be beautiful inside, in your hearts, with the lasting charm of a gentle and quiet spirit that is so precious to God. 5 That kind of deep beauty was seen in the saintly women of old, who trusted God and fitted in with their husbands’ plans.
6 Sarah, for instance, obeyed her husband Abraham, honoring him as head of the house. And if you do the same, you will be following in her steps like good daughters and doing what is right; then you will not need to fear offending your husbands.[a]
7 You husbands must be careful of your wives, being thoughtful of their needs and honoring them as the weaker sex. Remember that you and your wife are partners in receiving God’s blessings, and if you don’t treat her as you should, your prayers will not get ready answers.
8 And now this word to all of you: You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t snap back at those who say unkind things about you. Instead, pray for God’s help for them, for we are to be kind to others, and God will bless us for it.
10 If you want a happy, good life, keep control of your tongue, and guard your lips from telling lies. 11 Turn away from evil and do good. Try to live in peace even if you must run after it to catch and hold it! 12 For the Lord is watching his children, listening to their prayers; but the Lord’s face is hard against those who do evil.
13 Usually no one will hurt you for wanting to do good. 14 But even if they should, you are to be envied, for God will reward you for it. 15 Quietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord, and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way.
16 Do what is right; then if men speak against you, calling you evil names, they will become ashamed of themselves for falsely accusing you when you have only done what is good.
2 Peter 1:2-10
2 Do you want more and more of God’s kindness and peace? Then learn to know him better and better. 3 For as you know him better, he will give you, through his great power, everything you need for living a truly good life: he even shares his own glory and his own goodness with us! 4 And by that same mighty power he has given us all the other rich and wonderful blessings he promised; for instance, the promise to save us from the lust and rottenness all around us, and to give us his own character.
5 But to obtain these gifts, you need more than faith; you must also work hard to be good, and even that is not enough. For then you must learn to know God better and discover what he wants you to do. 6 Next, learn to put aside your own desires so that you will become patient and godly, gladly letting God have his way with you. 7 This will make possible the next step, which is for you to enjoy other people and to like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply.
8 The more you go on in this way, the more you will grow strong spiritually and become fruitful and useful to our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But anyone who fails to go after these additions to faith is blind indeed, or at least very shortsighted and has forgotten that God delivered him from the old life of sin so that now he can live a strong, good life for the Lord.
10 So, dear brothers, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen, and then you will never stumble or fall away.
1 John 4:7-21
7 Dear friends, let us practice loving each other, for love comes from God and those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God, and that they are getting to know him better. 8 But if a person isn’t loving and kind, it shows that he doesn’t know God—for God is love.
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into this wicked world to bring to us eternal life through his death. 10 In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God loved us as much as that, we surely ought to love each other too. 12 For though we have never yet seen God, when we love each other God lives in us, and his love within us grows ever stronger. 13 And he has put his own Holy Spirit into our hearts as a proof to us that we are living with him and he with us. 14 And furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now tell all the world that God sent his Son to be their Savior. 15 Anyone who believes and says that Jesus is the Son of God has God living in him, and he is living with God.
16 We know how much God loves us because we have felt his love and because we believe him when he tells us that he loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him. 17 And as we live with Christ, our love grows more perfect and complete; so we will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the day of judgment, but can face him with confidence and joy because he loves us and we love him too.
18 We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us. 19 So you see, our love for him comes as a result of his loving us first.
20 If anyone says “I love God,” but keeps on hating his brother, he is a liar; for if he doesn’t love his brother who is right there in front of him, how can he love God whom he has never seen? 21 And God himself has said that one must love not only God but his brother too.
8 No, he has told you what he wants, and this is all it is: to be fair, just, merciful, and to walk humbly with your God.
12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you except to listen carefully to all he says to you, and to obey for your own good the commandments I am giving you today, and to love him, and to worship him with all your hearts and souls? 14 Earth and highest heaven belong to the Lord your God. 15 And yet he rejoiced in your fathers and loved them so much that he chose you, their children, to be above every other nation, as is evident today. 16 Therefore, cleanse your sinful hearts and stop your stubbornness.
17 “Jehovah your God is God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great and mighty God, the God of terror who shows no partiality and takes no bribes. 18 He gives justice to the fatherless and widows. He loves foreigners and gives them food and clothing. 19 (You too must love foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.) 20 You must fear the Lord your God and worship him and cling to him, and take oaths by his name alone. 21 He is your praise and he is your God, the one who has done mighty miracles you yourselves have seen.
A Way of Grace and Rest
“Spiritual formation is, in practice
- the way of rest for the weary and over-loaded,
- of the easy yoke and the light burden, (Matthew 11:28-30)
- cleaning the inside of the cup in the dish, (Matthew 23:26)
- of the good tree that cannot bear bad fruit. (Luke 6: 43)
And it is the path along which God’s commandments are found to be not heavy, not burdensome. (1 John 5:3).” Dallas Willard in Renovation of the Heart.