“Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!” Psalm 119:1–5 NIV
What is Spiritual Discipline
Discipline is defined as training expected to produce a particular pattern of behavior. Discipline is not part of the sin nature, but it is a natural element of the Christian life. Without discipline, nothing significant in our lives is ever accomplished.
Now, spiritual disciplines can be described as those behaviors that improve our spiritual growth and allow us to grow to spiritual maturity. The purpose of spiritual discipline is the development of that part of us which is transformed by Christ at salvation. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17)
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)
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 integrate into our daily lives.
By practicing spiritual disciplines we keep our eyes focused on God more often. When we focus on God, we stop letting other things get in our way or cloud our vision. Our lives find clarity when we become more disciplined in 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 those that the entire church body can do together.
- Bible Study
- Seeking Guidance
Becoming more disciplined in our faith is a good thing. Although, we do risk getting so caught up in developing these disciplines that we can lose sight of why we started developing them in the first place.
When it becomes more about memorizing verses than learning what they mean or when it becomes more about fasting than talking to God in our times of sacrifice, we’re not using our disciplines to really develop our faith.
In all that Jesus did and taught, He conveyed that our spiritual life takes place in our physical reality as well as in the heart. If we believe what He said about the spiritual life, it only makes sense we should do what He did.
The Rewards of Spiritual Discipline
The practices of Jesus have been recognized for centuries as the core activities of the spiritual life. In the same way a runner is equipped to compete in a marathon by the discipline of physical training, so training through spiritual disciplines frees us to live each day with the “easy yoke” and “light burden” of which Jesus spoke. (See Matthew 11:30)
We are not granted favor with God or any measure of spiritual success through the practice of spiritual disciplines. They are exercises which prepare us to live fully and freely in the present reality of God, as He gives us the grace to learn and grow.
When we feel we cannot possibly be good enough Christians without those disciplines, then we lose sight of what spiritual disciplines are supposed to do. Instead, when we focus on the spiritual disciplines found in Scripture they will promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Through these disciplines, we are enabled to obey God’s command “…to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12–13)
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