In the last post we started talking about spiritual disciplines. Dr. Donald Whitney, in his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, says the spiritual disciplines are, “those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth.” We will begin to explore just two: Bible intake and prayer.
Why pursue spiritual disciplines? What purpose does all the effort that we would put into these practices accomplish? To persevere in the rigors of the spiritual disciplines, we must begin by reminding ourselves of the purpose of the spiritual disciplines. 1 Timothy 4:7 says, “…train yourself for godliness.” Dr. Whitney writes: “Whatever the Discipline, its most important feature is its purpose. Just as there is little value in practicing the scales on a guitar or piano apart from the purpose of playing music, there is little value in practicing Spiritual Disciplines apart from the single purpose that unites them. That purpose is godliness. The Spiritual Disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness.”
We must keep the purpose of godliness in mind as we commit to practice the spiritual disciplines. God is promising to use our efforts in pursuit of spiritual disciplines to cause us to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and thereby “beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another,” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Do not grow weary by either forgetting this great purpose or by adding your own purposes that may or may not be promised in Scripture. For example, do not practice the spiritual disciplines because you hope that they will guarantee a life without trials, difficulties or sins. You will quickly quit when pressures to not soon disappear. However, if we practice the spiritual disciplines with a view to growing in Christ-likeness then we can expect to draw upon the presence of Christ to sustain and strengthen us in our daily walk. Nevertheless, this also means that the closer we draw unto the Lord Jesus Christ, the more we will be aware of our own sin and selfishness. But persevere; the process leads to godliness. Do you want godliness? Spiritual disciplines are the way to get it. The way to get it, as T. M. Moore says in Disciplines of Grace, “Not in huge leaps and bounds but slowly and gradually—and certainly.”
Underscoring the need to keep the true purpose in mind, Dr Whitney concludes, “Discipline without direction is drudgery. But the Spiritual Disciplines are never drudgery as long as we practice them with the goal of Godliness in mind.” In fact, T. M. Moore warns, “When our disciplines become mere routines, they lose their power to bring us face to face with the Lord in life-transforming ways.” These routines, he writes, are, “mindless, effortless, fruitless undertakings that placate our sense of duty but do nothing to equip us.”