Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 2)
Spiritual Disciplines are practices every Christian should do in order to grow closer in relationship to Jesus Christ. They are exercises designed to orient a believer to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. They, by themselves, do not cause a person to become more spiritual. They, by themselves, do not cause God to be obligated to the believer with favor. They, by themselves, do not propel the believer to spiritual maturity. The disciplines can be functions that an unbeliever can perform and therefore, by themselves, do not produce any merit before God. They would not be categorized by the word “spiritual” in that case. However, practicing spiritual disciplines can help the believer focus on the Word of God, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is set apart by faith in mind, speech and action to become more godly. Spiritual disciplines can increase a believer’s pursuit of or commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the previous article, the Spiritual Disciplines of Bible Reading, Bible Study, Scripture Meditation, Scripture Memorization and Prayer were examined. In this article, active Spiritual Disciplines of Worship, Fellowship, Service, Frugality and Fasting will be discussed. These Disciplines are still fairly easy to understand, but become more difficult to practice.
Worship: This is the practice of praise and adoration before the God of the universe, the One who spoke the word and the universe into existence. It is the active thought and action process whereby our entire being gives “worthship” or value to who and what God is. Because He is, God is worthy to be worshiped. He seeks those who worship Him (John 4:23) and He commands that we worship in Spirit and in Truth from our inner being with all that we have (John 4:24; Matt. 22:27-29). Worship can be done individually in any location through meditation, song, enjoyment of creation, writing a prayer of praise, work, loving others, creating what magnifies His name and in all obedience according to His Word by means of His Spirit. God commands that we assemble weekly to worship Him in a local gathering of saints to exalt His name and edify the saints. We are to spur them to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24-25).
Fellowship: This is the practice of sharing things in common with other saints, commonly called koinonia. It is two or more saints sharing life together, because of their common bond in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:9). True fellowship is with the Father and with the Son (1 John 1:3). It is the Holy Spirit that creates and solidifies that bond (Phil. 2:1). Fellowship is not playing cards, although believers can have fellowship and enjoy games together. Fellowship is not talking about a sporting game, although believers can fellowship together while enjoying a game together, when Jesus is the focus of building bridges to others (Phil. 1:5). Fellowship is not eating a meal together, but believers can fellowship over a meal, when Jesus is the focus. Fellowship occurs because believers walk in the purity of the Light (1 John 1:7). Believers do not have fellowship with unbelievers (Eph. 5:11). That is called evangelism. We see good fellowship in the early church as believers came together to share their lives and resources to help each other grow in the body of Christ (Acts 2:42-47).
Service: This is Christian action to honor God by the overflow of His love and compassion toward others. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It begins by presenting yourself first to God as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). It will be humble actions of prayer support for people to the mundane care of financial concerns (2 Cor. 9:12). It may include a cup of cold water to a prisoner or prophet, and it may be preparing a meal, cleaning a home, giving a ride or watching a single mom’s children (1 Kings 17:10; Matt. 10:42; Mark 9:41). It can include work done in a God-honoring way that honors the Lord (Eph. 6:7), which will also include help to widows and orphans in need (Jam. 1:27). All service must be done in faith in total dependence and reliance upon the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:17).
Frugality: This is the lifestyle of simplicity and abstaining from using money or goods to gratify personal desires or status. It is a life devoted simply to Jesus, rather than fragmented on distractions in the world (2 Cor. 11:3). It is simple trust in God’s provision rather than the wisdom of man (2 Cor. 1:12). It is enjoying the presence of others in the gladness of the Lord rather than the pursuit of opulence and luxury of life (Acts 2:46). It recognizes the things of this world can easily become distractions and sin (1 John 2:15-16). It is not avoiding the things of the world, but using the things of the world for the gospel and God’s purposes (1 Tim. 6:6-8, 17-19). Frugality is wisely using all resources and assets, including money to further Kingdom purposes rather than spending the resources for selfish purposes. It is not being a foolish miser, but a faithful steward (Luke 16:1-10).
Fasting: This is the denial of some resource for the purpose of prayer and/or Bible study; food is the most common fasting tool. It may be a complete denial, or partial denial, in order to focus attention on the Lord’s will and purposes. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34) A key passage to understand fasting is Matthew 6:16-18,
16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
18 “so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matt. 6:16-18)
Understood in this context, fasting is really feasting – feasting on the presence of God the Father. Fasting is not for health purposes, but for prayer or relationship with God. Those who fast should always ensure they drink fluids, so the mind can be alert. Those with medical conditions should consult with a doctor, before beginning. The fasting will often reveal inner sin patterns and immaturity, just as physically your body goes through hunger, fatigue, possible headaches and even frustration. It may reveal that food has become an idol and loved more than Jesus. Start with small steps rather than a 40 day fast.
These are the second five Spiritual Disciplines. The last five Spiritual Disciplines to be discussed will be given tomorrow. They are: Solitude; Submission; Silence; Reflection; and Sabbath Rest. As these will be posted on Resurrection Sunday, a day of great joy, these will hopefully be anticipated with the joy of how they will draw the willing saint into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.