Spiritual Renewal, God's Way

by Pastor Bruce Kotila

Anyone who has been married for any length of time knows that the covenant relationship between a husband and wife takes time, energy and attention.  Yet, when it comes to living out our covenant relationship with God many Christians believe, or at least act as if they believe, it will just happen.  For some, this belief is born of their concern that they not fall into legalism or works righteousness, lifestyles that assume one can find favor with God by keeping the Law of God.  For others, observing the spiritual disciplines of prayer, reading the Scriptures and personal worship are simply viewed as unnecessary or as the domain of the religious professionals.

Both positions betray a misunderstanding of the essential nature of God’s grace and how we experience it.  It is not works righteousness to re-affirm the importance, even necessity, of living a life of obedience as a response to the love and grace that we have already received from God.  Also, throughout church history, Christians have affirmed the essential nature of the historic Christian disciplines that enable us to hear God’s voice, receive His grace and be transformed into the image and likeness of Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit.

In his article “True (and False) Transformation” Pastor John Ortberg wrote in the Summer 2002 issue of Leadership Journal.

Significant human transformation always involves training, not just trying.  Spiritual transformation is a long-term endeavor. It involves both God and us. I liken it to crossing an ocean. Some people try, day after day, to be good, to become spiritually mature. That's like taking a rowboat across the ocean. It's exhausting and usually unsuccessful.

 Others have given up trying and throw themselves entirely on "relying on God's grace." They're like drifters on a raft. They do nothing but hang on and hope God gets them there.

 Neither trying nor drifting are effective in bringing about spiritual transformation. A better image is the sailboat, which if it moves at all, it's a gift of the wind. We can't control the wind, but a good sailor discerns where the wind is blowing and adjusts the sails accordingly.

 Working with the Holy Spirit, which Jesus likened to the wind in John 3, means we have a part in discerning the winds, in knowing the direction we need to go, and in training our sails to catch the breezes that God provides.  That's true transformation.

Jesus has promised us abundant life, an experience of the Kingdom of God that is supernatural in both our understanding and our experience.  However, the transformed life that we all seek will not happen by our trying harder, nor will it happen by accident.  Substantive life change takes place by God’s grace as we meditate upon the Word of God, seek Him in prayer and worship and live communally with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

With these truths in mind I will be patterning our upcoming silent retreat weekend, November 9-12, 2017 at the St Benedict Center in Schuyler, NE after Richard Foster’s book The Celebration of Discipline.  The framework of the book will provide the backdrop for each the meditations for the weekend and will naturally lead us through a personal time of spiritual renewal that comes through training ourselves to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.

There are several companion books that I would also recommend that will further help prepare you for the retreat or your own personal growth.  For those who have the additional time and interest I would suggest the following:  Celebrating the Disciplines: A Journal Workbook to Accompany Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and Kathryn Yanni, Richard Foster’s Study Guide for Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines edited by Richard Foster and Emilie Griffin.

I have personally read, and used devotionally, each of these works, and have found them to be immensely helpful as I have sought to grow in my relationship with Christ.  I have taught the book Celebration of Discipline many times and each time those who attended the course expressed their appreciation for the insightful, and practical, nature of Foster’s work, now considered by many to be a contemporary Christian classic.  When Christianity Today published their review of all the books published in the 20th century, they considered this work to be in the top 100 of all books published in that 100 year period, which is high praise indeed. 

All this to say, I believe you too would profit immensely by joining us for retreat November 9-12, 2017.  You can register by going to our website.  If you have any questions email me at bruce@godslivingstones.org, otherwise I look forward to seeing you in November.