Spiritual Formation is a Gift of Grace
Christ-likeness of the inner being is not a merely human attainment, of course. It is, finally, a gift of grace. Nevertheless, well-informed human effort is indispensable. Spiritual formation in Christ is not a passive process. Grace does not make us passive. Divine grace is God acting in our life to accomplish what we cannot do on our own. It informs our being and actions and makes them effective in the wisdom and power of God. Hence, grace is not opposed to effort (in actions) but to earning (an attitude).
Paul the Apostle, who perhaps understood grace as none other, remarks on his own efforts for
Christ: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” The supernatural outcome that accompanies grace-full action stands out.
Before turning to some details of Christian spiritual transformation in the various dimensions of the human being, we need to be clear about the general pattern that all effective efforts toward personal transformation—not just Christian spiritual formation—must follow. Because we are active participants in the process, and because what we do or do not do makes a huge difference, our efforts must be based on understanding.