General Pattern of Spiritual Growth
The following system is derived from Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart. It’s a general pattern for growth for spiritual formation, and how to be continually changed into the likeness of Christ over time. It’s a three-part system, consisting of Vision, Intention, and Means (VIM).
- Vision - Vision of the Kingdom of God: life now and forever in the range of God’s effective will, the partaking of his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:12)
Intention - Intent to live in the kingdom of God by obeying the precise example and teachings of Jesus: to trust in Him.
An intention is brought to completion only by a decision to fulfill or carry through with the decision. If genuine intention is there, the deed reliably follows.
Robust intention with inseparable decision can only be formed and sustained upon the basis of a forceful vision. Integrity is imperative for this.
Means - the means for spiritual transformation, for the replacing of the inner character of the “lost” with the inner character of Jesus: his vision, understanding, feelings, decisions, and character.
If there is an intent to obey Jesus Christ, then one must intend and decide to become the kind of person who would obey Jesus. To change the inner being until it is substantially like Christ’s, characterized by his thoughts, feelings, habits, and relationship to the Father.
Where there is no will, there is no way. If you do not intend to be inwardly transformed so that obedience comes naturally, you will not be.
Training off the spot — study and meditation about the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, understanding the word. Reflecting on the nature of the world versus the nature of the kingdom, practicing sacrificial actions in smaller ways, actively intending to seek first the Kingdom, and praying for the inner transformation. There are numerous ways to begin to transform.
The vision that God gave us first came on stone tablets: words of goodness and righteousness. But God gave us a vision that we could touch and see with our own eyes as the “Word became flesh” (1 John 1:14). God in his entirety made himself visible, for Jesus is the “image of the invisible God … For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Colossians 1:15-19). Jesus himself is the vision — the manifestation of the kingdom of God, the King of Kings. When we have a vision of Him, we have a vision of the kingdom life. And hence we too, must become that vision, through his supernatural life flowing through us and transforming us from the inside out. “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” was Paul’s lesson to the Corinthian church, and his mode of discipleship to the world. And ultimately, the only imprint we can leave on the next generation is who we have become. Christ did not leave us with methods and formulas and plans and strategies — he left us with his personhood.