Since we are focusing on getting into the scriptures this summer, I thought it would be helpful to say something about what the disciplines are in the life of the Christian and to give a warning regarding them.
We were created in God’s image to rule the world on his behalf, but this has been tainted due to sin. God is on a mission to restore the world by redeeming the image in us through the person and work of Jesus.
The disciplines are a way of knowing Jesus better so that we would look more and more like him (the true image of God) in the way we treat others and interact with creation. They aren’t an end in themselves. They aren’t something we simply do to check off a box, to prove ourselves to others, or to get something from God.
They are a way of putting us in the pathway of grace so that we would be transformed day by day. We use these to help us be reminded of the gospel and have that be applied to our life. They can’t be ignored in the life of a Christian. They are so important that even Jesus practices them.
What are they? The disciplines can include different things. Brian Hedges in his book, “Christ Formed in You” gives a very helpful list below.
So what could be wrong with these? They seem like great things!
They are, until we use them to achieve something from God. As if God is impressed with our spiritual exertion and piety. And we think God is in our debt, as if he now owes us something.
But as Hedges writes,
The Pharisee in Luke 18 has two disciplines nailed down. He thought he had achieved much. But Jesus contrasted this man with a humble and broken tax collector, who wouldn’t even life his eyes to heaven, but pleaded for God’s mercy. His focus wasn’t on his achievements, but his deep need.
Beware of using the spiritual disciplines to achieve something with God! They are about receiving, not achieving.
We always come to God as needy… for breath and life, for grace and faith to see Him as he is and give him worshipful praise, and so much more.
The moment we relate to God in any other way, we are proud and not seeing reality as it is.
So don’t give up your Bible reading plan! Don’t stop fasting and praying. Don’t stop meditating on the Word. Don’t stop giving and serving. And as you do so, come to God with empty hands ready to receive his grace and mercy. Plead for eyes to humbly see your need and then rest in the sufficiency of Christ for you.
A week ago I started volunteering at the Manhattan Soup Kitchen in town. I to help make my community a better place for those marginalized and less fortunate. I want to interact with and love others as though Jesus were here. As I learn more about God’s radical love and grace for me in the Bible, I feel compelled to do something to help others experience that love in some diluted way.
It has been a joy and I pray God is using my small effort in a bigger way.
At the end of the day, this is what the disciplines are all about. We want to encounter Jesus so that we become more like him in how we live and interact with others.
Hedges finishes the chapter saying,
True Christlikeness is measured not by the breadth of your knowledge or the length of your prayers, but the depth of your love for others.
May the Spirit of God use the Word of God in our lives to make us more like the Son of God so that others would see and give all glory to the Creator God.