Not yet finished it, I already know James Wilhoit’s Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered is going to end up on my 2014 Top Ten Reads.
Regarding our motivation for dysfunction and sin:
Why do I lie? At the level of my soul, it is because I think that something other than God is a quicker way to the happiness I crave. Why do I constantly defend myself and protect my reputation? I do this because I am insecure in my belief that God is for me, and I find a sterling reputation to be an idol I can lean on.
Christians are often unwilling to admit the allure of sin. I remember sitting with a young woman who was tormented by shame and guilt over her sexual adventures and relational dishonesty. She kept wondering aloud why she fell into these defeating patterns, which “are so dumb.” She was shocked when I suggested that “sex works.” It provided her an immediate and tangible, gratifying interlude and gave a short-term answer to her longing for intimacy and being needed. We can begin to get some leverage in dealing with sin when we see that we do it for “positive reasons.” We sin because our longings are so strong that at the operational level—not a the verbal level, where we confess “Jesus is Lord”—we feel that something in addition to Jesus is necessary for our happiness and well-being.
And regarding spiritual formation:
Christian spiritual formation is not primarily about programs or techniques, but it is first and foremost about an approach to life. I have seen this clearly in my teaching ministry. After I became more interested in the spiritual life, I began to teach courses concerning spiritual practices like solitude, prayer, and fasting. I observed that some students took the material and used these classical spiritual disciplines as a space to meet God and be refreshed and healed by his grace. Others used this material to become far more accomplished legalists. What became clear is that our deep theology, our life maps, may make a train wreck of any intentional spiritual formation.