Spiritual Discipline

Posted in christian habits, discipleship, spiritual disciplines by Nathan Creitz on September 23, 2009

a-prayer-for-times-like-theseSpiritual discipline doesn’t sound very exciting. Many Christians shy away from the disciplines because it sounds like work at best and legalism at worst. However, spiritual discipline is simply a name for the spiritual habits that a true follower of Jesus forms as he or she becomes more like Him. We want to follow Jesus and we know that He meditated on Scripture, spent time in prayer, and shared the Gospel with others, just to name a few. There are other disciplines that we can glean from the Bible that are important to consider as well.

But for the most part, these disciplines go neglected by the majority of church attenders. Does that make their Christianity suspect? No, it probably means that no one helped them to see the positive aspect of a disciplined life of faith. When we form regular habits, we need accountability. It’s the same thing when we form spiritual habits.

As a child I learned that I needed to brush my teeth, make my bed, not eat dirt, etc. No one would think my parents unfair or cruel for making me obey. Those were habits that my parents helped me form when I was a child. The disciplines are habits and we need help forming them in our lives. Not too many people have the inherent motivation to form a strong habit for themselves. As a child we had our parents help in showing us the habits that needed to be formed and the habits that needed to be broken. In our spiritual habits, we have the Body of Christ to help us but it takes initiative and responsibility on our part to come alongside immature believers and help them move toward spiritual maturity.

Pastors play a large role in equipping the saints and part of the equipping process should be the formation and spiritual growth of new believers. In order to be effective at fostering a Biblical understanding of the disciplines, the church leaders should first of all teach about them in a positive way. Secondly, leaders should model the disciplines and coach others in the process. Third, we should encourage accountability and fellowship in the Body so that there is a consistent venue for people to talk about their progress or lack thereof in a safe and open setting. Finally, we need to talk about the perils of not engaging in the disciplines. Dallas Willard talks about the cost of NONdiscipleship (rather than Bonhoeffer’s ‘Cost of Discipleship’). When we reject the foundational habits and activities of the Bible, we forsake the abundant life that Jesus has promised us.

So, we need to talk about spiritual disciplines, model them, hold people accountable to do them, and contrast the difference between a disciplined and an undisciplined spiritual life so that people can understand that these are not legalistic endeavors, but that they are helpful and fulfilling as we diligently follow our Master.


4 Responses

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  1. Melodie Fleming said, on September 26, 2009 at 1.10 pm

    Amen, Nathan! A great challenging book about this concept is Richard Foster’s classic Celebration of Discipline. I read it last year. Now I need to go through it again and actually develop the disciplines! One thing I’ve found key to helping me get motivated to stay faithful to read my Bible and pray is to reallize how much I NEED it. I know I should (guilt based) and sometimes I do it because I want to (need based). Both are legitimate motivators to get me to Scripture. But when I realized how desperately I need time with the Lord each day if I’m going to live in his ways with his joy, then I’m more consistent in my spiritual disciplines.

  2. Melodie Fleming said, on September 26, 2009 at 1.12 pm

    Oops, made a mistake above. I meant to say that “should” is guilt based and “want” is love based. Both are great and Biblical motivators. For me, the childlike attitude, however, is need based. I need God. I need his Word.

  3. Jorge Bessa said, on October 4, 2009 at 4.00 pm

    Great post! It’s specially unique by the fact that it covers a wide spectrum of spiritual discipline. We have to fight a daily fight, but even to do so, we must be disciplined.

    Great aide-memoire. Thanks!

  4. Pat W. Kirk said, on October 4, 2009 at 5.22 pm

    In this day of Spiritual nonsense for the Christian body, we can’t neglect Spiritual discipline. If it didn’t do anything else (and I know it does a lot more) it sharpens discernment. It’s so good to know what the Bible says when those around you are saying something completely different.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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