THE JOY AND POWER OF THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES
Michael Lee | FEB 19, 2018 | 8 MIN READ
The spiritual disciplines - reading the Bible, praying, and going to church - have a bad reputation these days. People don't think they work, they’re seen as boring, and worst of all, they cause guilt trips. But how did this happen?
We have developed a wrong view of the Spiritual Discipline because we have forgotten the “why”.
In order to understand the "why" of the spiritual disciplines, we need to understand two foundational realities of our lives.
What are the greatest longings of your heart? Would it be intimacy, security, meaning, pleasure, or comfort?
The reality is these are all desires that can only be satisfied in a real love relationship with Christ (John 4:13-14). You were made through Christ and for Christ (Romans 11:36). Your heart longs and thirsts for Him (Psalm 42:1; Psalm 63:1).
What is God's greatest will and work in your life? It's not for you to live a comfortable, peaceful life here on Earth, but rather to transform you into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.
God wants to transform you into a person who is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). He works all things in your life for the very purpose of transforming you into the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29), and therefore Christlikeness should be the greatest priority and ambition of your life.
Because of our propensity to ignore these realities, we must practice the spiritual disciplines to remind us of them. They are the primary means to enjoying Christ and being transformed into the image of Christ. This is the ultimate purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines and the very essence of what they are.
The spiritual disciplines are not practices that bring salvation.
One important truth to remember is that God's love for you does not depend on how well you are doing the spiritual disciplines, but rather it is based on Christ and what He has done for you (2 Corinthians 5:21). You are saved by grace, through faith, and this is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This means you practice the spiritual disciplines to grow in the enjoyment of Christ and to become more like Him in all that you desire, love, think, say, and do. The Gospel gives you the freedom and peace to joyfully pursue the spiritual disciplines, knowing that God will lovingly help you in your weaknesses, and rejoice with you in your victories.
Practicing the Spiritual Disciplines
Every spiritual activity must be grounded in scripture, prayer, and community. Knowing why these actions are important will help us to have a solid foundation in practicing the spiritual disciplines.
Scripture is the Word of God. Everything in Scripture is true, showing us ultimate reality and giving us a proper worldview. In Scripture, we see how the world we live in came to be, why it came to be, the problem with the world, and God’s solution.
Finally, the purpose of Scripture is ultimately to show us who God is so that we may come to know Him and enjoy Him. Knowing this, we can ask the right questions as we read. Who is God? What is He like? Who am I in relation to Him?
Prayer is our response to God’s Word. In Scripture, God tells us that He is sovereign, and so in prayer we respond with cries for help, questions, praises, or petitions. God also tells us that He is love, and so in prayer we respond with thanksgiving. Through prayer we experience intimacy with Him as we pray to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Practicing the spiritual disciplines is not a solitary act, but we do them together, learn from one another, encourage each other, and provide accountability. We need each other in the Christian life (Romans 1:12).
When we fall into our dry spells, burnouts, and discouragements, we need people who are able to love us and pick us back up. We need people to teach us. We need examples of Christians who strive hard after God. We become godly individuals together as the body of Christ.
Most of us are so busy with life that we often forget what life is really all about. But we must never forget that we were made to enjoy Christ and to become more like Him in all that we desire, love, think, say, and do. He is our soul’s satisfaction, and in His presence we find infinite joys and pleasures (Psalm 16:11).
Let us remember that the spiritual disciplines are the means to enjoying Christ and to transform into the image of Christ! They are glorious practices that can change us and the world forever.
Michael Lee is the pastoral intern and missions administrator at Living Hope Community Church in Brea, CA. He is currently a student at Talbot School of Theology, working towards a Master of Divinity in Pastoral and General Ministries.