Renovation of Our Souls
Recently we have to do some massive renovation to my father’s garden. My father’s house is built on hill slope. After about 10 years, we discovered that the soil in his garden was beginning to shift down the slope. The contractor took a look and shook his head. There was however a gleam in his eyes which may mean that he is thinking; now he can afford to buy a brand new Mercedes! He told us that the soil shifting is due to an inadequate barrier below the house.
What he suggested was that we dig a deep trench around the outer perimeter of the garden. Then he was going sink about a few hundred tree trunks (about 8 feet long each) vertically into the trench. Next he would tie these wooden stakes together with iron bars. Finally he will pour concrete into the trench to fix the whole structure. That should hold the garden in place, he declared. I am sure it will hold the garden in place. It sounds like I am building a fortress.
We would not have been aware that the soil in the garden has shifted if not for a one inch gap appearing at the base of the perimeter wall of the garden. It may be the same for our spiritual life. We come to church regularly to worship and think everything is going well. We think the hymn “It is well with my soul” is describing our spiritual lives.
Some of us may have been Christians for so many years that we have become too comfortable in church. We may not be aware of an inner shift in the soil of our inner spiritual life away from God. Maybe we have been praying less and do not attend prayer meetings anymore. We find less and less time to read the Bible. Where once there was an urgency to share about Jesus with our non-Christian friends, there is none now. We find ourselves putting less and less into the offering bags.
It may even have been years since we regularly examine our lives to see whether we are living a life glorifying to God. We share less and less with each other about what God is doing in our lives. Our emotions are more often full of anger than of gratitude. Anger is a sign that we are not content with what we have. If that is so, we may need to do some renovation in the garden of our souls.
Francis A. Schaeffer writing in True Spirituality (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983) offers some insights,
“The true Christian life, true spirituality, does not mean just that we have been born again. It must begin there, but it means more than that. It does not mean only that we are going to be in heaven. It does mean that, but it means much more than that. The true Christian life, true spirituality in the present life, means more than being justified and knowing that I am going to heaven.
It is not just a desire to get rid of taboos in order to live an easier and looser life. Our desire must be for a deeper life. And when I begin to think of this, the Bible presents to me, the whole of the Ten Commandments and the whole of the Law of Love.
True spirituality, the true Christian life, is not just outward, but it is inward- it is not to covet against God and men.
But it is even more than this: it is positive; positive inward reality, and then positive in outward results. The inward thing is to be positive and not just negative; and then sweeping out of the inward positive reality, there is to be a positive manifestation externally. It is not just that we are dead to certain things, but we are to love God, we are to be alive to him, in this present moment of history. And we are to love men, to be alive to men as men, and to be in communication on a true personal level with men, in this present moment of history” (p.16, 17)
Renovation of garden of our soul starts inwards. We need to shore up the foundations of our lives with the Word of God, the love of God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Our spiritual lives must be in continual movement; vertically in a relationship with God and horizontally in relationships with other people. It must be happening now and always. As Schaeffer said, “in this present moment of history”.
This continuing process of interacting with God and with men as we deepen our inner spiritual life is known as spiritual formation. Dallas Willard explained it better in his book, Renovation of the Heart (Colorado Springs: NavPress 2002)
“Spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes the inner being of Christ himself…The result is that the ‘outer’ life of the individual increasingly becomes a natural expression of the inner reality of Jesus and his teachings. Doing what he said and did increasingly becomes part of who we are” (p.22, 159)
If our spiritual life is continually being involved in the process of spiritual formation, then we need not fear that we will slip and fall. Our inner life becomes the life of Christ himself! There is no more solid foundation than Jesus Christ. It is worrying to hear that only 3 out of 10 Christians finished well. It is a good reminder for us not to be complacent but to be continually intentionally involved in the spiritual formation of our souls.
Soli Deo Gloria