Two of Jesus’ greatest messages on spiritual formation are recorded in Matt. 5-7 and Matt. 23. One positive. One negative.
Both are introduced with words that remind us of the personal benefits of spiritual formation. Jesus speaks of the “blessed” nature of authentic life with God in Matt. 5-7. He speaks of the “woeful” nature of the opposite kind of life (Matt. 23). There are certainly many personal benefits that come through a whole-hearted pursuit of God.
But the bulk of these speeches is dedicated to the social benefits of spiritual formation. On the positive side, Jesus promises that those who are dedicated to life with God will have such a positive impact on the people around them that those people end up as worshipers of God. On the negative side, Jesus warns that those who are satisfied with superficial and hypocritical religion will have such a negative impact on the people around them that those people may wind up as far from God as possible.
We don’t pursue spiritual formation or a deeper life with God solely for ourselves. We pursue these things for the sake of others. It’s not just the quality of our lives at stake. It’s the quality of the lives of others as well.
How have you seen this at work?