But we all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
2 Corinthians 5:17
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Dallas Willard says, “spiritual formation is like an education, everyone gets one.” But is it a good one or a bad one?
We have all been formed spiritually and we are all being formed by the habits of thought and action we encourage. Thoughts and feelings which are dwelled upon produce routines of action that meld into habits that form what is known as our character. Our character determines what we are prepared to do in any given situation. This is why we often don’t do the good thing we would want to do and immediately do the bad thing we don’t want to do. As Paul put it, “sin dwells within me” (Romans 7:15-20). Thankfully, with God’s help we can prepare to believe, think, feel, and act differently.
The Apostle James tells us that trials and testing can be a positive, character-producing process for the believer,
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kings, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
We are all creatures of habit. We live by rhythms—patterns we have formed throughout our lifetimes. Some are helpful for formation in Christ-likeness, but many are not. The good news is that these old nature habits can be changed. We truly can be transformed into beautiful beings fully expressing the realities and wonders of the with God life. But we all know this transformation does not come easily nor naturally. In fact, it requires daily disciplines that allow us to be changed from the inside out.
The Word of God and the Spirit of God are available to help us morph into people who truly believe, think, feel, love, serve, and choose to habitually live like Jesus. For two thousand years, true Christ-followers intentionally structured their lives according to the way Christ lived. So much so that others called them “followers of the way.”
In ancient times they developed what they called a regula vitae—a “Rule of Life.”
This rule (think ruler measuring inches, not rules and laws) gave the early believers a way to begin to prepare their inner self for a Christ-like life. This rule of living regulated their thoughts and actions. It was not a man-made attempt to impress God, nor was it to be some tactic to control others. Believers simply chose a pattern of living that was baptized (immersed) in Christ and they found that as they followed this way their lives were formed into Christ-likeness. Though we don’t use these words today, we understand that this is the purpose and the spirit of the spiritual disciplines in Christ.
Throughout the Scriptures we see men and women who through faithful, intentional, even habitual practice of a godly patterns of life, were able to resist temptations, overcome obstacles. and do great things with God. Hebrews chapter eleven is often called “the faith chapter” because so many verses start with “by faith ….” so and so did this or that. But the faith they had in the reality and presence of God and his Spirit also allowed them to live faithfully, consistently, in preparation for the big challenge that eventually came their way.
Didn’t Abel prepare differently than Cain? Yes.
Didn’t Noah faithfully prepare for seventy plus years for the coming storm? Yes.
Didn’t Abraham live a life of faith prior to being asked to sacrifice Isaac? Yes.
Didn’t Moses spend forty years learning lessons in the wilderness before leading God’s people out of Egypt? Yes.
Didn’t Daniel and his three friends commit to a daily pattern of faithfulness before their trials and testing in Babylon? Yes.
The same is true of the Apostles, disciples, and early Christians who faced great persecutions, trials, and temptations. And because they followed the way of Christ, they were spiritually powerful and their testimony (something could be said about the first four letters of that word), changed the Roman world.
So, when you hear your church leader complaining about the spiritual weakness of their congregation, perhaps you should ask them to reconsider what they’re teaching. If we start with a gospel about forgiveness alone and heaven when you die, and leave out the with God life it brings today, we shouldn’t wonder about the spiritual anemia of so-called believers caught up in the world today.
If we really believe that Jesus is a Master of Life worth following, then we should commit to following the way he lived. Jesus practiced spiritual disciplines. He read and memorized Scripture. He lived sacrificially. He fasted, lived frugally. He gave and lived charitably. He spent time in solitude and silence. He worshiped God, celebrated with the faithful, prayed and submitted Himself to the Father’s will. All of these are examples of the spiritual disciplines that we too can practice.
Many years ago, I read an article titled, How to Create a Rule of Life Based on the Six Streams by Chris Webb, published by Renovaré. This interesting article challenged me to consider what my rule of life actually was and gave some instructions on how to reorder it to better facilitate a Christ-like life. Following the six streams of Christian discipleship described in the book Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster, I prayerfully outlined my regula vitae which by God’s grace I have attempted to follow ever since. (No, I haven’t mastered any of them yet, and often fail to follow the rule of life I so desire).
My Rule of Life focuses on these main arenas of spiritual warfare. The items in italic are my personal intentions and aspirations. Each asks a question that I must answer.
How do I intend to be open to and immersed in the presence of God? It affects my prayer life and how I worship.
I will seek a personal and intimate relationship with God through daily prayer both morning and evening including, confession, intercession, thanksgiving, and meditation. I will set aside one day a month for solitude and silence. I will set aside one week a year for sabbatical.
How do I intend to put on Christ? To develop and cultivate habits of living that align with his holiness. It affects how I face temptation.
I will fast until evening one day every week. I will practice the discipline of not having the last word (tough for me). I will remember to present my body as a living sacrifice daily. I will practice taking every thought captive by thinking through every conversation and action.
How do I listen to, hear, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit?
I will acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s presence in my body. I will surrender to his control, my will, mind, and body. I will submit to his authority and obey his directives. I will allow him to produce within me his fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
How can I act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with my God?
I will remember that every person I meet is a person God created and a person for whom Jesus died. I will remember the lessons of the Divine Conspiracy. I will carry myself with the confidence that God is at work in the world extending his kingdom and I am his ambassador.
How am I allowing God to speak to me and work through me as I engage with and express the truths and realities of Scripture?
As the Spirit directs I will share the availability of life with God with each person I meet, in the way I live, in the things I say and do. I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it holds the power of God for salvation.
How can I know the extraordinary grace of God through the common details of everyday living?
I will allow the Holy Spirit to use God’s Word to transform me daily in my heart (will), mind (thoughts & feelings), body (power), social relationships, and soul. I will die to myself daily, so that I can live for Jesus.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This is my Regula Vitae, my Rule of Life. I choose to live the Way of the Master of Life freely, without pretense before men and without expectation of merit with God. Jesus said he is the Way to life eternal and he lived that life as my example.
I will follow him.
This post originally appeared at: Regula Vitae: From Death to Life — The Bonhoeffer Project
Because of the importance of intentionality in disciple making, we at Discipleship.org are going to emphasize this skill set and mindset over the next four months. Please join with us and seek to share understanding, insight, and practical tools so that you can become skilled at intentionality in relational disciple making and you can help those on your team or in your leadership group to do the same. There are four ways in which we are emphasizing intentionality to help you in the next four months.
- Discipleship.org City Tour Forums – our four City Tour Forums are designed to help you and your team both understand and develop an intentionality posture. The tour is comprised of one day, high impact forums where there will be teaching and round table discussions. Every attendee also gets a copy of Brandon Guindon’s new book, Intentional: Living Out the Eight Principles of Disciple Making.
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Take the FREE Individual Disciple Maker Assessment – we designed this assessment with a team of national and international disciple making leaders to help each individual be able to evaluate their disciple making mindset and skill. Just by taking this assessment, you will gain an appreciation for the value of intentionality, along with a sense of how you can increase your own level of intentionality. Click the image below to take the assessment.
- Read the short FREE book, Becoming a Disciple Maker: The Pursuit of Level Five Disciple Making – Bobby wrote this short eBook with statistician Greg Wiens to help you understand the mathematical and practical impact of one person’s disciple making efforts and skills.
Click the image below to download this free eBook.
- Read Brandon Guindon’s book, Intentional: Living Out the Eight Principles of Disciple Making – Brandon wrote this Discipleship.org book and Zondervan is publishing, because the understanding and practice of disciple making is so crucial. Every attendee at each of our City Tour events (Nashville, Houston, Dallas and Raleigh), as mentioned above, will receive a FREE copy of Brandon Guindon’s book.
Click the image below to order Brandon Guindon’s book from Amazon.com.
Please join with us in this quest to better understand and practice intentionality. It will help us all to become more and more like Jesus, the world greatest disciple maker.
Please join us for the 2024 National Disciple Making Forum!
Join 1,300 disciple-making leaders and practitioners to learn, share insights, and connect in person.
For two days on May 1-2, Discipleship.org will host disciple making tracks, consisting of hyper-focused teaching, panels and live Q&A sessions that will fuel your disciple-making efforts in 2024 and beyond!
The 2024 Forum will be held at Mt. Pleasant Christian Church. The address is 381 N Bluff Rd Greenwood, IN 46142.