Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 3)

Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 3)

This concludes the three part examination on Spiritual Disciplines as practices every Christian should do in order to grow closer in his 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 articles, the Spiritual Disciplines of Bible Reading, Bible Study, Scripture Meditation, Scripture Memorization and Prayer were first examined.  Secondly, the Spiritual Disciplines of Worship, Fellowship, Service, Frugality and Fasting were discussed. 

These first ten spiritual disciplines are fairly easy to understand, but the last five become more difficult to understand and practice.  If Christians don’t see or understand tangible increases of knowledge, it’s easy for Christians to get discouraged with practical Spiritual Disciplines as bearing much fruit.  However, just the opposite is true. It’s like spending time with a friend.  Usually spending more time increases the love between two friends and the same is true with these last five.

Solitude: This is spending time alone with God to know and understand Him, while avoiding contacts other people. It is withdrawing from the world to seek the Lord alone.  This is completed by silence and is very difficult to practice, because it is hard to measure.  How do you know how well you’ve done, or if you’ve done enough, or if you want to do it again?  There is nothing material to measure.  But there is something to measure and that is the joy (settled assurance that God is in control) of a growing relationship with the Lord and knowing that when you encounter Jesus, you can’t help but enjoy His presence. Solitude is critical for those in ministry, because the ministry drain is so difficult to measure and it creeps up on servants of the Lord, like Elijah (1 Kings 19).  Solitude is one of the best ways to refresh the spirit and restore freshness for ministry. Solitude can make you feel naked or like you are in a vacuum, yet that is when God may expose true things about you and His mercy will tenderly lead you through any valley and onto a mountain top of fresh air (Ps. 23:2-4).  Solitude often helps God become more real than other spiritual disciplines. Jesus went to a solitary place to be alone with God the Father in prayer (Mark 1:35).

Silence: This is refraining from speaking or even singing to quiet your mind and soul in God’s presence. Silence includes both not speaking and singing, but also shutting down outside noises in order to concentrate (Ps. 46:10). This spiritual discipline goes along with solitude, but can be practiced at other times like when having fellowship listening to a friend in need.  Often in silence, sorrow can rise up, because of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work (Ps. 39:2).  Silence is certainly what happens to a Christian who is enjoying the awesome presence of the Lord (Mark 4:39). Silence is sadly a lost commodity, because of all the white noise of television, radio, cell phones and electronic games.  Silence helps a Christian go deeper in seeking after the infinity of God. Silence is the best way to listen to the “still silent [small] voice” of God (1 Kings 19:12) speaking through Scripture to understand conviction and God’s purposes.

Submission: This is the action of humility before the awesome sovereign presence of God (1 Pet. 5:6).  It is practiced in not asserting self before the authority, power and wisdom of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:19-21).  It is visibly seen in submission to a person as you would unto Jesus Christ, like a wife to a husband or employee to an employer.  It is coming under the authority of one as a visible manifestation of submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a form of abstinence, because it denies self the power and privileges it would want to express or enjoy. Jesus submitted to the Father’s will from His opening mission statement (Luke 4:17-19).  Paul recorded that Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on the cross (Phil. 2:7-8).  Jesus acknowledged that He did nothing on His own, but only what He saw the Father doing (John 5:30; 6:38; 12:50). Jesus, as the King of kings and Lord of lords, even submitted to people (Luke 2:51). Submission is practiced by not forcing an agenda, but trusting God to work His will through people.  It is welcoming criticism from others as opportunity for learning and to bless those who curse (2 Pet. 3:8-10).  Submission will allow others to make decisions that you would want to make.

Reflection: This is paying attention to your inner self in thoughts and feelings in order to understand how to grow more closely with God and others (Pro. 27:19).  It is not for the purpose of loving self more, but examining self to consider what hinders your relationship with God and others. It is always using Scripture as the mirror rather than a physical mirror (Jam. 1:22-25).  Reflection is the chewing of biblical truth to extract principles and application in order to determine application and implementation of truth to life.  Reflection requires slowing down in life in order to examine areas of life that are always in motion or often not considered, but may encumber relationships.  Solitude and Silence often go with Reflection, however they are not required.

Sabbath Rest: This is resting in the Lord rather than working to fix things in life. In the Old Testament it was one of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20: 8). In the New Testament it refers to a moment by moment rest in the Lord (Heb. 4:1-11).  It is not working in your flesh, but your flesh may be diligent about what it is doing.  It is allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you to accomplish God’s will and leaving the results up to God.  It is not a particular day as much as a particular way of trusting God with what is done and pursuing that rest by trusting what God will do through you.  Thereby, you are refreshed, because you know that God has been working through you.

This concludes this examination of Spiritual Disciplines.  There are excellent books written on the subject.  The key is practicing these by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit according to God’s Word, so that God is glorified and you grow in a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him.  These principles of spiritual disciplines can all be applied to marriage in similar ways to grow more closely with your spouse.
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Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 2)

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.

Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 1)

Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 1)

Spiritual Disciplines 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.

            There are many lists of spiritual disciplines and several authors have written books regarding spiritual disciplines.  Some authors become almost mystical, but most are very practical.  Here is a list of spiritual disciplines that every believer should consider pursuing and putting into practice for their daily walk.  Again, in and of themselves, spiritual disciplines do not produce merit before God, but when done in faith by the power of the Holy Spirit seeking to know our God of Scripture, they are very helpful.

Active Disciplines

Bible Reading: This is probably the most widely known and easiest to do, because you have Scripture to read and focus your attention in order to connect with God.  Scripture is a treasure like none other. Scripture makes a man wise for salvation and life (2 Tim. 3:15-17).  Proverbs tells us wisdom bears far greater fruit than silver or gold (Pro. 3:14; 8: 19).  Jesus confronted temptations quoting Scripture (Luke 4:1-11).  It is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12).  The humanity of Jesus grew learning Scripture (Luke 2:52) and used it to press forward to accomplish God’s will (Luke 22:42).

Bible reading should be done daily, because it is more valuable than food (Matt. 4:4).  When you open Scriptures, tell God, “Your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:9-10).  Read Scripture to learn, to grow and to become stable.

Bible Study: This is a much more focused time of analysis, comparison of Scripture with Scripture and acquiring the context of what is written. Bible study is learning the thread through all of Scripture and learning the flow from the books of Genesis to Revelation.  It’s learning how the books of the Old and New Testament are organized.  It’s taking the time to learn, so that you will be ready to teach others also (Matt. 28:20).  Bible study ensures that the text is not taken out of context, so that it becomes a pretext for what you want.  Bible study ensures you study what God has to say rather than man (Is. 55:8-9).

Scripture Meditation: This is thinking deeply about a particular passage of Scripture that you may be studying.  It is interacting with the text and allowing God the Holy Spirit to examine your life, your feelings and your prayers for the purpose of teaching, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).  It is through meditation that a person slows down enough to hear how the Holy Spirit is leading with conviction and life change. It is a drawing near with the heart in order to know the Lord Jesus Christ, not know about Him, but know Him.  Meditation should be on Scripture as the focus of our attention all day long (Ps. 119:97).  It is the means by which a believer can bypass his teachers in wisdom (Ps. 119:99).  Meditation is sweet to the Lord, because it declares how we are spending our time—our most valuable resource (Ps. 104:34).

Scripture Memorization: This is a commitment of Scripture to memory, especially whole sections, chapters or books of Scripture.  The Psalmist writes, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!” (Ps. 119:11)  There are many ways to memorize Scripture.  Going over and over the text is similar to the way Ezra studied Scripture (Ezra 7:10).  Meditating on passages can set Scripture to memory through associations of concepts.  The time of memorizing is a great tool for the Holy Spirit to set our lives apart to Jesus Christ.  Memorizing passages can give great hope in crises.  For example, memorize James 3:1-12 to learn control of the tongue, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 to learn the spectrum of love and what constitutes sin when not practiced, Ephesians 1 to gain an understanding of God’s eternal plan and His sovereign control of history, Phil. 4:6-9 to fight against worry and gain a foothold so the peace of God reigns in your life, or Psalm 23 as a passage of comfort and hope in trouble, or Philippians 3:7-14 for a passage on motivation to pursue Jesus Christ, or Psalm 1 for a great passage teaching children what to delight in and what to avoid, or 1 John 1 for a passage on walking in the light with God.

Prayer: This is talking with God about what we are experiencing and doing together in life.  Prayer is the vertical relationship in life.  It is the trust and dependence on the God of the Universe.  It is not as easy as some people say, because it is often developed as other spiritual disciplines are learned. Jesus often went out to pray alone (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; 9:18; 11:1). He has a praying life rather than a prayer life. There are great prayers in Scripture like morning prayers of Psalm 3 & 4 and the evening prayer of Psalm 5. The Lord’s Prayer is found in John 17.  Paul’s greatest prayer is Ephesians 3:14-21. 

Prayer often can follow the ACTS or the CAST pattern, where the respective letters stand for Adoration; Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.  The CAST acrostic is given for those who insist that confession should be done first.   Prayers using Scripture are very wise, because that keeps you focused on God’s desires. Prayer partners often support and hold accountable prayer requests and can rejoice at answered prayers. Prayer walks are helpful to gain focus and allow the beauty of creation or a circumference boundary to receive the indirect artillery of prayer.

            These are merely the first five spiritual disciplines.  Succeeding descriptions will follow regarding the spiritual disciplines of:

Solitude; Submission; Silence; Fasting; Service; Worship; Fellowship; Reflection; Sabbath Rest; and Frugality.