Begin With The End In Mind
The end-state of God’s Sanctifying Grace is our being fully conformed to the image of Christ. On that journey, it is vital that we practice Spiritual Disciplines, cooperating with the Holy Spirit as he renews our minds, and moves us along the Spiritual Formation continuum. The greater our discipline, the wider our aperture to the life God wants for us.
Spiritual Disciplines, A Primer
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. Almost nothing of any significance in our lives is ever accomplished without it. Spiritual Disciplines are behaviors that aid in our spiritual formation, enabling 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 practicing Spiritual Disciplines is to develop our inner being, which was redeemed and transformed by Christ at salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Redeemed believers experience the total renewal of their person from within, involving change in thought, feeling and character (spiritual formation / sanctification). This is what Paul meant when he spoke of taking off the “old self” and putting on the new, “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him” (Colossians 3:9-10). This renewal may be slower to be evident in our outward behavior.
What activities belong on a Spiritual Disciplines List? There is no complete or one list. Any activity that helps you grow your reliance upon God could make your list.
Spiritual Disciplines, A Prioritized Shortlist:
- The Word
Spiritual Disciplines, A Fuller Explication
Spiritual disciplines are typically organized into two categories: the disciplines of abstinence (self-denial or letting go) and the disciplines of activity (engagement or Christ in community).
Disciplines of Abstinence (Letting Go)
These are ways of denying ourselves something we want or need in order to make space to focus on and connect with God.
Solitude: Refraining from interacting with other people in order to be alone with God and be found by him. Solitude is completed by silence.
Silence: Not speaking in order to quiet our minds and entire being and attend to God’s presence. Also, not speaking so that we can listen to others and bless them.
Fasting: Going without food (or something else like social media, sex, etc.) for a period of intensive prayer. Fasts may be complete or partial, and for short or longer periods. Feeling the pain of an empty stomach, and depending on God to fill us with His grace.
Sabbath: Doing no work and resting solely in God’s person and provision. God designed this for one day a week. We can practice it for shorter periods too.
Frugality: Living a simple, focused life. Learning to live with less money and still meet our basic needs. Before buying something new, choose to go without or pick a less expensive alternative that will serve our basic needs.
Sacrifice: Choosing to give our time or finances to the Lord beyond what you normally would. Giving of our resources beyond what seems reasonable reminds us of both our dependence on Christ, and that we are only stewards of the things we have.
Humility: Not making our good deeds or qualities known in order to let God or others receive attention, and to find our sufficiency in God alone (Matthew 6).
Disciplines of Activity (Engagement)
These are ways of connecting with God and other people, conversing honestly with them in order to love and be loved.
Study: Implementing a regular (daily) time and a place to feed from the Word of God, and from the wisdom and devotional writings of great Christians. Trusting the Holy Spirit-inspired words of Scripture as our guide, wisdom, and strength for life.
Worship: Praising God’s greatness, goodness, and beauty in words, music, ritual, or silence. God is worshiped both privately and in community.
Prayer: Talking to and listening to God about our relationship with Him and about the concerns of others. Find time to pray to God without the distraction of people or things.
Fellowship: Mutual caring and ministry in the body of Christ. Engaging fellow disciples of Jesus in prayerful conversation, or in other spiritual practices including small groups, mentoring relationships, and in encouraging one another.
Service: Humbly serving God by overflowing with his love and compassion to others, especially those in need. Using our status, resources, or influence for the good of others before ourselves. Also tithing and giving.
Confession: Regularly confessing our sins to the Lord and other trusted individuals. As often as we are aware of sin in our life, confess it to the Lord and to those we may have offended.
Surrender: Humbling oneself before God and others while seeking accountability in relationships. Finding faithful brothers or sisters in Christ who can lovingly hold us accountable for our actions and growth in Christ.