(Terry and I are hosting our college age/young professionals small group in our home for a few weeks. This will be our ‘outline’ for those sessions)
Celebration of Discipline
Unless we can make progress in the moral and spiritual realms – we may not even survive.
God has given the disciplines…as a means of receiving His grace.
Do not let the disciplines become law! When the Disciplines degenerate into law, they are used to manipulate and control people. We take explicit commands and use them to imprison others. The result of such deterioration is pride and fear. When we genuinely believe that inner transformation is God’s work and not ours, we can put to rest our passion to set others straight. Everybody things of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.
If we are to progress in the spiritual walk so that the Disciplines are a blessing and not a curse, we must come to the place in our lives where we lay down the everlasting burden of needing the manage others.
Meditation: how do we receive the desire to hear His voice?
In real prayer — we begin to love the things God loves.
We must not be led to believe the Disciplines are for spiritual giants and hence beyond our reach, or for contemplatives who devote all their time to prayer and meditation. Far from it. God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children, who must wash dishes and mow lawns. In fact, the Disciplines are best exercised in the midst of our normal daily activities. If they are to have any transforming effect, the effect must he found in the ordinary junctures of human life: in our relationships with our husband and wife, our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors.
When one’s inner spirit is set free from all that holds it down, that can hardly be described as dull drudgery.
The primary requirement is a longing after God. Psalm 42:1-2 (NIV) As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
Inwardly you have longed to launch out into the deep. Psalm 42:7 (NIV) Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
The Spiritual Disciplines are an inward and spiritual reality and the inner attitude of the heart is far more crucial than the mechanics for coming into the reality of the spiritual life.
The natural motions of our lives produce mire and dirt. Sin is part of the internal structure of our lives. No special effort is needed. No wonder we feel trapped.
The moment we feel we can succeed and attain victory over our sin by the strength of our will alone is the moment we are worshipping the will. Willpower will never succeed in dealing with the deeply ingrained habits of sin.
By dint of will people can make a good showing for a time, but sooner or later there will come the unguarded moment when the ‘careless word’ will slip out to reveal the true condition of the heart. We have no intention of exploding with anger or of parading a sticky arrogance, but when we are with people, what we are comes out. The will has the same deficiency as the law – it can deal only with externals. It is not sufficient to bring about the necessary transformation of the inner spirit.
The inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours.
The Disciplines are God’s way of getting us into the ground; they put us where He can work within us and transform us. God has ordained the Disciplines of the spiritual life as the means by which we are placed where He can bless us. In the Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer made clear that grace is free, but it is not cheap. Once we clearly understand that God’s grace is unearned and unearnable, and if we expect to grow, we must take up a consciously chosen course of action involving both individual and group life. That is the purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines.
Jonathan Edwards lived by a list of resolutions. For example: “Resolved, never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.” This statement shows how serious he was about pursuing holiness. It reveals a man who understood the fear of the Lord and sought to live it.
Yet look at another of Edwards’ resolutions: “Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.”
What marvelous balance! Edwards resolved to fight the sin in his life but recog nized that it would be a slow and painful process, one that would often feel unsuccessful. Defeat didn’t weaken his resolve.
Spiritual Disciplines – What are they?
Do you have to have lot of free time to engage in whatever this is? Is it something you can do with friends? Do you have to be in worship?
Spiritual disciplines are practices modeled by the life of our Lord and in the rhythms of the church dating back to the first centuries.
These practices are embedded in the rich history of God’s story in each century as He is writing our stories. They are simple practices that help create space for God and for you to attend to His Presence.
Life is crazy busy. Each of us needs an anchor to hold us down in the midst of the incredible speed at which our lives move. Some days could feel like they are spiraling out of orbit.
Discipline is defined as “training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior.” Discipline is not part of the sin nature, but it is a natural component of the Christian life. In fact, almost nothing of any significance in our lives is ever accomplished without it.
Spiritual disciplines can be described as those behaviors that augment our spiritual growth and enable us to grow to spiritual maturity. This process of spiritual growth and development begins to take place the moment a person encounters the risen Christ and comes to Him for salvation.
The purpose of spiritual discipline is the development of our inner being, that which has been transformed by Christ at salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17 ).
Redeemed believers have experienced the total renewal of the whole person from within, involving differences in thought, feeling and character that may be slower to be evident in our outward behavior.
This is what Paul had in mind when he spoke of taking off the “old self” and putting on the new, “which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9-10).
By definition, disciplines are (but are not limited to):
- Repetitive actions driven by spiritual decisions rather than natural environmental reactions.
- Deliberately self-induced behaviors that nurture spiritual health and fosters spiritual growth leading to maturity with God.
- Deliberately self-induced actions to alter existing life and thought patterns, thereby breaking the normal cycle of life and breaking the focus on intimacy with God.
- Spiritual exercises to develop “Sacred Rhythms” to engage in intentional spirituality in the pursuit of intimacy with God.
Why they are called disciplines — They are not the natural intuitive thing to do.
You need to make a conscious choice to engage in them; they are not something you would do of your own accord.
There will times where you don’t feel like doing what is necessary for your spiritual health. However disciplines provide stability and structure in order to carry you through those times you wish to ignore your spiritual health.
Spiritual Disciplines are a personal choice—only you can choose to undertake them at your own pace, but if done correctly you will feel closer to God than ever before. This is something you may need to think about carefully because it is a long journey which will not be easy to undertake.
When we become Christians, we have to develop our faith over time. There are spiritual disciplines that help us become stronger in our faith. Unlike the spiritual gifts, which are provided to us by the Holy Spirit, spiritual disciplines are more like finely honed tools that aid us in our spiritual walks. Yet each of the spiritual disciplines takes time to develop and effort to incorporate into our daily lives.
How Do Spiritual Disciplines Work? A spiritual discipline is a good habit that allows you to remain open to God and develop yourself spiritually. Discipline is one of the hardest things for us to learn. Think of some of our finest athletes. Most of them have a strong sense of discipline, because they have to build up strength, endurance, and skill to be good at a particular sport.
Surgeons spend years developing their surgical skills and learning the human body so that they are able to skillfully fix what is malfunctioning in the body. Our favorite writers have the discipline to sit down every day to write, edit, and re-write until the story is right. They hone their language skills and their ability to see a final product in all of the chaos of storytelling.
That’s what spiritual disciplines are to our faith.
Spiritual disciplines exercise our spirit, mind, and emotions so that we become closer to God. They help us see His will for our lives more clearly so that we can live the life He desires for us. The more we practice these disciplines, the better we get at them, and the stronger we make our faith.
Types of Spiritual Disciplines — There are two types of spiritual disciplines – those that are PERSONAL and those that are corporate. The personal disciplines are those that each individual should develop for him or herself, while the corporate disciplines are one that the entire church body can do together.
Disciplines of Personal Development (Inward)
- Prayer – communicating with God (Matt. 6:9)
- Meditation – focusing on God and his will (Phil. 4:8)
- Fasting – a reminder of the source of all nourishment (Luke 5:35; Matthew 6:16-18)
- Bible Study – careful attention to the reality that God reveals to us, especially through Holy Scripture (Luke 2:46)
- Chastity—1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Disciplines of Service to the Body of Christ (Outward)
- Simplicity – seeking God’s Kingdom first (Matt. 6:33)
- Submission – placing God’s will above one’s own (Luke 22:42)
- Solitude – withdrawing from the world to spend time with God (Matt. 14:23)
- Service – supportive action toward others (Mark 10:45)
- Evangelism — (Matt. 28:18-20)
- Stewardship — (1 Cor. 4:1-2; Luke 10:25-28; 1 Cor. 16:1-2)
Disciplines of Service with the Body of Christ (Corporate)
- Confession – acknowledging one’s sin with and to others in the community of faith (James 5:16)
- Seeking Guidance – giving and receiving direction from others along the journey with Jesus (Acts 15:8)
- Celebration – taking joy is what God has done (1 Cor 5:8)
- Worship – giving God glory through attitudes and actions (1 Cor. 14:26)
Examples of How Real Change Happens
The Disciplined Christian can know God’s ways though study…He or she spends time soaking in Scripture, becoming intimately familiar with its message, learning the history of God’s church, and gaining understanding of the practical implications of theology.
The Disciplined Christian is reminded of the source of all blessing and sustenance through fasting…Abstaining from food, time commitments and distractions, from anything that takes focus from Jesus brings clarity, focus, and humility.
The Disciplined Christian can slow down through simplicity…
Seeking the kingdom of God first ultimately causes the believer to cast aside anything that is not holy. The pursuit of wealth and power are the antithesis of the kingdom that Jesus models.
The Disciplined Christian can hear God’s voice more clearly through solitude…Alone time with God helps provide room for silence, waiting on God, and hearing the sometimes still, small voice of his Spirit.
The Disciplined Christian is grieved by sin through confession…Personal and corporate confession provide a way to confront, admit, be convicted of, and deal with sin in the context of a supportive community and ministers of grace.
The Disciplined Christian puts God in the highest place through worship…The believer joins with others in praise and thanksgiving, placing Jesus in the supreme place of honor in his or her life.
These spiritual disciplines help to combat the sinful nature and our naturalistic world view. They can bring the believer into a mental, emotional, and spiritual state of higher awareness of God, his nature, and his kingdom. These tools are one way for individuals and communities to begin to bring their focus back to the Holy One and seek His will.