The spiritual life is a response to God’s call to us through the Holy Spirit. As our lives are formed in Christ we learn more of God’s way in the world, we experience closeness to God that enriches life and service, and we find guidance as to how our lives are to be lived in relationship to the needs and joys of the world. For Reformed Christians the spiritual life is one of gratitude.
Study and service bring us closer to God and allow for opportunities of growth but like the proverbial stool, there needs to be a third leg in order to have stability. That third leg is spirituality. One can start anywhere with any one of the ‘legs.’ Some find the study of Scripture, theology, even church government opens the door to a deeper knowledge of God and God’s ways. Others find they come closest to God when hammering at a Habitat housing site, or providing counsel and comfort after a disaster, or singing a great hymn, or marching in support of justice. For Reformed Christians spiritual growth does not come in isolation and does not come outside of some precipitating experience, however small or surprising that experience may be. Spiritual growth is a gift from a loving God. Wherever the journey begins, before it is over one must deal with what John Calvin calls ‘the marks of the Christian life,’ public worship, private study of Scripture, works of justice and mercy.
There are a variety of spiritualities in the world. Many of them have their roots in Eastern religions. Some look for a pay-off contending that spirituality is important for balanced personal growth, centering of life in what is truly important, renewal, stress relief, even congregational vitality. All those are possible and many will give testimony to how their lives have been changed by a structured program of spiritual growth. If we engage the concept of spiritual development simply to earn the rewards of a renewed and enriched life then we will have missed the point.
There are a variety of Christian spiritualities and within that universe there is a specific Reformed spirituality. A Reformed spirituality is marked by what are called the historic marks of Reformed piety – union with Christ, trust in God’s initiative through grace, the inner witness of the Spirit, God’s providence, and social compassion and justice – to name a few. We engage in spiritual formation so we can listen and respond to God. Reformed spirituality is centered in Christ, finds its foundation in the Bible, and is experienced in community. One grows spiritually in order to worship God and to focus life in God’s will.