I can't pinpoint the source, but some time over the last year I remember reading somewhere that spiritual disciplines weren't a necessary tool for Christians. And for a moment I was tempted to agree. In fact, I even allowed myself to become lazy in many of my spiritual disciplines, believing there might be some truth to what was being said. After all, why put all this effort into something if it wasn't necessary?
But when I look over my own life now and see how undisciplined it is, I would have to strongly disagree with that statement. I am constantly frustrated with myself for not doing the things I want to do, and avoiding the things that simply waste my time. My spiritual walk does not grow by chance. It grows by choice. It's determined by every choice I make. And then only by the grace of God will it flourish as I walk the path He laid out for me.
My choices either help me move forward, or cause me to step back. Having a relationship with God requires growth, and growth only comes from making specific decisions to feed and nurture the relationship. It's a discipline, not an accident. When I notice my disconnect from God, it's because I left the disciplined life for a life of chance. You know, kind of letting the cards fall where they will.
So, why is it necessary to live a life with spiritual disciplines?
- To deny the flesh. If there is one battle that I fight everyday, without fail, it's the battle of the flesh. And it's worse when I don't have a plan in place; when I don't practice discipline. To read and memorize the Word helps me battle the flesh with the spirit of Truth. Regular Bible reading and memorization are absolutely necessary spiritual disciplines for a Christian. I don't know how anyone can face each day without feasting on God's Word and allowing it to penetrate their heart.
- To know God. Regular practice of reading the Word, praying, worshiping with music, memorizing scriptures--how else are we to know God and grow in relationship with Him if we do not discipline ourselves to do so? Some disciplines will take much more effort and much more denial of self than others.
- To redeem the time. God gives us the gift of time. Putting spiritual disciplines into place helps ensure we are using our time wisely. We are all given the same amount of time. I don't know about you, but I don't want to waste it on useless endeavors.
- To equip my life. I need Jesus. It's as simple as that. Disciplining myself to know Him more and live for Him better is the best way I know of to equip myself in this life. He makes the promises and He's the provider. He's the Bread of Life and Living Water. Without daily partaking, I am left weak and without hope.
If these disciplines are done as merely habit, ritual, or tradition and lack heart and desire to further grow, they will be of no value to your walk with Christ.
Furthermore, if you believe doing these things will make you right with God, you will be walking in legalism and believing a lie. There is only One who makes us "right" with God and it's Jesus Christ.
However, the Bible talks specifically about working out your salvation with fear and trembling. In other words, don't take the gift He's given you lightly. We need to walk worthy of the calling we have received.
What spiritual discipline would help you grow closer to God this year? To know Him in a fresh way?