– Akin Akinrinmade
This Ain’t No Makeup Session
On a trip to Las Vegas a number of years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a musical on the Vegas strip. The show was a celebration of the musical genius of Elvis, Michael Jackson, and some other departed icons of pop and rock n roll. We were transported into a dizzying display of musical artistry, dancing, singing and choreography. Right before our very eyes, was Elvis Presley, with his trademark hair and blue suede shoes, whipping up the crowd with his hypnotizing dance moves and silky, sultry voice. Following closely after him was Michael Jackson (yes, this was after he had died) in his white socks, white gloves, jerry curled hair, he belted out his famous hits and did his renowned moon walk and back slide. After the show, we were allowed to greet the cast and crew. *The display we had just witnessed was simply a matter of makeup, costume, and make believe! There was no Michael Jackson or Elvis present. They copied temporarily the appearances and likeness.
Romans 12 (New Living Translation)
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Spiritual formation is not like that. Spiritual formation is a metabolic transformation. The word Metamorpho describes the more permanent organic change that occurs for example in the biological process a caterpillar goes through on its journey from a wriggly worm into a beautiful butterfly.
The Apostle Paul elaborates on this further:
2 Corinthians 3 (International Standard Version)
18 As all of us reflect the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, we are becoming more like him with ever-increasing glory by the Lord’s Spirit.
The template of our transformation is not some outward standard of behavior which has been created by an expectation which originates from the physical or outward observations or experiences of this world. The template or pattern that we use is the person of Christ. He is our model, our example, our template. We become changed progressively into what we consistently behold. As we see an unfiltered image of Jesus and keep our attention and pre occupation on him within our inner consciousness, we continue to be organically transformed into his likeness.
Hebrews 12 (New Living Translation)
2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
How do we keep our eyes on Jesus? How do we template his example? We do this by focusing our every desire, every faculty, every attention on the primary agent of spiritual growth, the Word of God. You see, the very nutrient which fuels spiritual growth is the undiluted, unflinching, uncompromising word of God.
James 1 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works–this person will be blessed in what he does.
To be grounded, established, strong and well developed like a champion athlete or body builder, you have to be dogged, persistent, unapologetically committed to consuming, digesting, metabolizing and applying the nourishment of large, copious volumes of scripture. Not only that, you must develop the tenacity and toning property of strength training by doggedly practicing the word of God regardless of situation and circumstance.
This is not simply about reading the bible, neither is it just being familiar with its contents in a general way. This goes beyond the old Sunday school rhyme: “read your bible and pray every day if you want to grow”. No. I am talking about being schooled in the word, being voracious in its consumption, being methodical in its study, being exhaustive in its research, being receptive to its training, being amenable to its correction, being submissive to its instruction, being pliable to its suggestions, celebrating and rejoicing at the discovery of its nuances, its inflexions and its subtle inferences. I am referring to being pedantic about its tiniest insinuations and being unrepentantly dogged in the continuous unabated intensity of its application in every detail of our human experience on a daily minute by minute basis.
This is not a flippant acknowledgement of the existence of bible verses. Spiritual formation celebrates the centrality of the scriptures as the sine qua non in our spiritual growth and development. YOU MUST BE SCHOOLED IN THE WORD. This involves, reading it, memorizing it, meditating upon it, muttering it to yourself, committing it to heart, reflecting over it, celebrating it, speaking it, letting it guide behavior and discourse and being totally consumed by it. God’s word must become your singular obsession, your hearts utmost desire, your waking aspiration and your sleeping consolation.
Psalm 42 (JPS Tanakh 1917)
1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, So panteth my soul after Thee, O God.