Spiritual disciplines. They were a major part of the discussion in most Christian denominations for a couple of centuries, but they have become less known in the consciousness of the modern day Christian. Spiritual disciplines are the tools that we have to use that enable us to grow and mature spiritually. Dallas Willard, a well respected Christians author and speaker explains discipline in this way: “it is an activity within our power–something we can do–which brings us to a point where we can do what we at present cannot do by direct effort.” He goes on to write: “The principle of discipline is even more important in the spiritual life…Spiritual disciplines are not primarily for the solving of behavioral problems, though that is one of their effects…The aim of disciplines in the spiritual life–and, specifically, in the following of Christ–is the transformation of the total state of the soul. It is the renewal of the whole person from the inside, involving differences in thought, feeling and character that may never be manifest in outward behavior at all.”
Dallas wrote a fantastic paper on spiritual disciplines that can be read here: http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=57 if you are interested in reading everything he has to say. It is very worthwhile.
The point is, like professional weight lifting or being an award winning author or a celebrated musician, you cannot reach the heights of spiritual growth without discipline and disciplines (they are two different things). The first is the internal motivation to stick with something in order to get better at it. I can’t learn to play guitar without the internal discipline to keep at it. The second are the tools I would use to get better. Both are required in our spiritual walk.
So here are the basic spiritual disciplines that are laid out for us in scripture (disciplines Jesus practiced by the way):
1) solitude and silence
3) scripture memorization
4) regular prayer
There are other disciplines one can employ (like sacrificial giving, acts of service, meditation, practicing Sabbath) but the above four are the basics of what we need as tools to deepen our spiritual pool, if you don’t mind the metaphor. Please understand that these are not magic. They are the activities of one who wants to deepen their spiritual life and grow toward the maturity in Christ that Paul talks about. We still need the work of the gospel and the Holy Spirit in our lives, but the Holy Spirit cannot do the work of the disciplines in our lives. We have to choose to do these things in order to gain their benefits.
Why am I mentioning this? God ordains several holy days for Israel to follow in Leviticus 23, days set apart as worship to God. Days when they are to practice spiritual discipline. They are to abstain from regular work, they are to practice self-denial. They are to spend time exclusively in God’s presence, seeking his forgiveness for sin and bringing praise for his provision. The ordination of these holy days was intended to create space in the regular rhythms of life in order to focus on God. That is what the spiritual disciplines are intended to do.
Really, that is one of the core reasons I laid this challenge out before you. Carve time out of your day to allow God to speak through the scriptures to deepen your spiritual maturity.
Yes, it is true that the practice of the spiritual disciplines takes time, energy, commitment and sacrifice. But you won’t regret any of that, I promise.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Leviticus 24-25