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Spiritual Formation: The Way On

the way on

John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement, had a saying: The way in is the way on, by which he meant the very actions and attitudes that empower the miracle of new birth in Jesus are the same actions and attitudes that empower spiritual growth. In much of the North American church, however, the saying could be changed the phrase, “the way in is all there is.”

I once attended a meeting of pastors who were planning a “city-wide revival.” The pastor of a respected and growing church opened the meeting with these words: “God is only going to ask each of us two questions when we get to heaven: ’Do you know my Son?’ and ‘How many others did you bring with you?’” It was a memorable opening because it was short, dramatic, and wrong. The record of the first century church, preserved for us in the book of Acts and the letters written to newly-planted churches, reveals a profound concern for a spiritual transformation – the way on – that flows from a decision to follow Jesus.

Consider the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the people of the church in Colosse:

Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1: 9-14)

Paul prayed for the spiritual transformation of people who already knew Jesus. This prayer lays out at least three priorities each follower of Jesus. Perhaps we can discover the way on through Paul’s prayer.

The Way On

1. We need to be filled.

Paul asked God to pour “the knowledge of his will” into the believers in Colosse. The next step after coming to Jesus as Lord is to be filled with the knowledge of his will. It requires something more than mere human intellect–it requires spiritual wisdom and understanding. I believe Paul prayed these words because he understood our tendency to apply the old way of living life to our new life in Christ. The problem is, we were “born again” into a new kingdom. How many babies know how to find their way around their new environment? If we take the image of the new birth seriously we should realize there’s a whole new life ahead. The new life ahead requires something beyond our old resources. It requires seeing things–and understanding them–from God’s perspective.