A personal reflection on Spiritual Disciplines.
After experiencing the new birth, our lives must be yielded to the growing power of the Holy Spirit that indwells within us. This transformation calls us to a place of commitment, dedication, and consecration that will positively affect the way we live and how we daily interact with our Savior, and with other people. One of the best-known scriptures in the Word of God is Romans 12:1–2, and deservedly so, for we find a succinct description of the believer’s response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom 12:1–2, KJV). Paul’s challenge is not only theological, but it also gives some very practical applications.
Author Douglas Moo elaborates on Paul’s passage, “This offering of ourselves to God constitutes our ‘spiritual act of worship.’ We offer ourselves to God as his sacrifices when we understand his grace and its place in our lives … we offer ourselves willingly … this is the worship that pleases God.” Moo further asserts, “When a person comes to Christ, sin still affects the believer … although we belong to the new, we still live in a world strongly influenced by sin and ungodly ways of thinking and behaving.” Thomas Schreiner believes that Paul is not merely concerned that believers will outwardly conform to this present world. He is especially worried that their adaptation to this world will shape them in every dimension of their lives.
How can a believer pursue holiness and righteousness, becoming more like Jesus Christ? There must be an unshakeable strong, commitment to spiritual disciplines. Peter declared to give all diligence to spiritual growth and development (2 Pet 1:10). In his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney believes that spiritual disciplines such as prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, fasting, journaling, among others, all serve for the purpose of godliness and holiness.
Serving the Lord with faithfulness ought to be a way of life for every believer. When it comes to the spiritual disciplines in a believer’s life, the disciplines are not meant to be a drudgery but a lively activity. In fact, spiritual disciplines are meant for the purpose of holiness and godliness. After the new birth conversion, godliness leads the process of transforming believers into spiritual maturity. Paul tells Timothy, “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly” (1 Tim 4:7, NIV). This passage urges self-discipline and is implied in the comparison of godliness with physical training. Godliness is not passive but active. In essence, Paul was telling Timothy, and ultimately the church, is that it pays to live godly. Furthermore, Paul is exhorting believers not to mix heathen and pagan practices that are rooted in witchcraft with their spiritual disciplines.
Paul proclaims there is a great reward to living godly, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim 4:8, NIV). Whitney explains his concept of spiritual disciplines. He points out that when a believer is living a life of godliness and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in their lives, they are pursuing God’s holiness. Whitney says, "These are some holy heartbeats in all those in whom the Holy Spirit resides. Consequently, when the Holy Spirit indwells someone, that person begins to prize and pursue holiness. Thus, as we have seen in Hebrews 12:14, anyone who is not striving for holiness will not see the Lord. And the reason he or she will not see the Lord in eternity is because he or she does not know the Lord now, for those who know Him are given His Holy Spirit, and all those indwelled by the Holy Spirit are compelled to pursue holiness."
He also believes that spiritual disciplines are a part of God’s plan and will for Christian believers. He purports, “Think of the Spiritual Disciplines as ways by which we can spiritually place ourselves in the path of God’s grace and seek Him, much like Zacchaeus placed himself physically in Jesus’ path and sought Him.”
Spiritual disciplines put the believer in a place to receive direction from God. Furthermore, spiritual disciplines allow us to have His mind to guide us. Paul writes, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5, KJV). When a believer has put on Christ, receiving His Spirit, the spiritual disciplines not only allow for godliness and holiness to govern their lives, but also, they will be able to conqueror temptation and trials of the world. John writes, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4, KJV).
Whitney notes, "There is an invitation to all Christians to enjoy God and the things of God through the Spiritual Disciplines. All in whom the Spirit of God dwells are invited to taste the joy of a Christ-centered, gospel-based, Spiritual Disciplines lifestyle. Any discipline without direction is drudgery. But the Spiritual Disciplines are never drudgery as long as we practice them with the goal of godliness (that is closeness to and conformity to Christ) in mind … Engage in the Spiritual Disciplines given by God in Scripture so that you are continually shown your need for Christ and the infinite supply of grace and mercy to be found by faith in Jesus Christ."
Not only is this invitation a call to enjoy the Spiritual Disciplines, but also it is an invitation to deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a daily, renewed invitation to be diligent concerning every aspect of our relationship with the Lord.
I firmly believe that the spiritual discipline of prayer is the nuts and bolts of who I am. Along with prayer, a daily intake of the Word of God is so vital to my relationship with my Saviour. Prayer and reading the Word of God cannot be separated; both disciplines are intertwined. Both must be exercised daily and given a place in my journey of faith. My relationship with God is of utmost importance because He speaks to me through His Word, and I speak to Him when I pray.
Daniel Segraves righty says, “Christians must fill their minds with the Word of God.” J. Mark Jordan adds, "The value of the Word of God is inestimable. Each chapter, each verse, each word possesses an eternal message for us, a message we must not gloss over or ignore. Our relationship with God dictates the primacy of the Word of God in our lives. The more intimate our relationship, the more important His Word is to us … not only does our relationship to God makes His Word valuable to us, but it also informs us how we must relate to the Word of God. Reverence for God translates into reverence for His Word."
When reading the Word of God, at times, may be a drudgery for some. But I like Whitney’s assertion, “The reality is that you may not be the problem at all. The problem may simply be your method.” There have been times when reading the Word of God, the words of Scripture go through my mind, but I did not fully comprehend what I was reading. Whitney’s chapters regarding the Word of God did hit home. Like Ezekiel, I need to consume the Word of God, digest it, memorize it, repeat, and use His Word for nourishment, strength, and power. I need to become more intentional and submit my flesh, through prayer, to hear what God is trying to say to me through the discipline of reading the Word of God.
I have always had a plan of action for intentional Bible reading, but there is always room for improvement. The 119th Psalm is one of my favorite passages to read on a weekly basis. I have broken down that chapter into reading 25–26 verses a day. In addition to reading a Psalm, I read a Proverb that corresponds to the date of the month as well as reading various passages from the Old Testament and New Testament. When I am planning to minister, either preaching or teaching, for an upcoming service, I go into prayer with my Bible. I cannot give His people the wisdom of men, but I must give His people what He wants them to know and understand. For me, it requires a lot of prayer, intensive studying, and rightly dividing His Word. It does not come easy for me; it never has. But I always seek to give something fresh and new from God when I minister to His people. In other words, and in the simplest terms: I just need His anointing.
Thanks for reading. Be blessed.
Johnston, Robin, and Karen Myers, eds. Spiritual Disciplines: Essential Practices of the Christian Life. Weldon Spring, MO: Word Aflame Press, 2017.
Jordan, J. Mark. Every Day Jesus: Growing Daily In Your Relationship With Jesus. Weldon Spring, MO: Word Aflame Press, 2018.
Liefeld, Walter, L. 1 & 2 Timothy/Titus. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999.
Moo, Douglas J. Romans. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. Kindle edition.
Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 2nd edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018.
Segraves, Daniel L. Insights for Christian Living. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1988.
Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Rev. ed. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014.