Christianity 201

March 5, 2020

Surpassing Righteousness in Spiritual Disciplines

by Clarke Dixon

People who pray are righteous, right? People who give to people in need are good people, correct? We will be considered righteous if people see us fasting, worshipping in church every Sunday, reading the Bible regularly, and practicing all the spiritual disciplines, correct? According to Jesus, not necessarily:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 6:1 ESV

We have previously considered a deeper kind of righteousness, a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness Jesus saw in the scribes and Pharisees:

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20 NIV

We do not reach this deeper righteousness by merely being meticulous about the rules, a skill the scribes and Pharisees excelled at, but through a transformation of our character.  It is not so much “do this, don’t do that,” but rather “become the kind of person who . . .” Previously, we looked at examples Jesus used for morality and love in Matthew 5:21-46, which we might summarize as; become the kind of person who does not harm others, gives their spouse and marriage their best effort, is honest and has integrity, handles offence with grace, and who extends grace and love to everyone. Whereas in these things Jesus was teaching about the kind of people we should become in our ethics, in Chapter 6 Jesus is now speaking to the kind of people we should become in our spiritual disciplines:

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standingc in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-6 NIV

Jesus is not giving us new rules here to get all legalistic about. We are not to be Christian versions of the scribes and Pharisees and so apply these rules in a legalistic manner. If we did there should be no more prayers during church services, and prayer meetings would all be cancelled. I think we would benefit from more prayer in worship, not less, more prayer meetings, not fewer! Instead, we are to become “the kind of people” who do spiritual and religious activities in a way that honours God. What is that way which honours God?

Jesus calls us to be a people who engage in spiritual disciplines for the right reasons. Drawing attention to ourselves is not the right reason and does not honour God! Jesus calls those who do this “hypocrites” which is a term for “actors” who put on masks in order to appear to be one thing while actually being another. Jesus is picking on the scribes and Pharisees here who were the prime examples of those who loved to flaunt their righteous activity in front of others to be seen and praised by them. Jesus calls us to have a righteousness that surpasses theirs. According to Jesus, their reward was the praise they received from others. They did not look forward to reward from God. In contrast, God rewards those whose religious activity is done in secret.

What about the idea of reward? Isn’t reward still the wrong reason to practice spiritual disciplines? For example, should we not give alms for the sake of people in need rather than for our own reward? Perhaps we don’t have the best idea of reward here. Our minds may jump to a final judgement-seat scenario when we hear the word “reward.” However, the idea here is more “wages” for your work, the consequence of your efforts. If our purpose in practicing spiritual disciplines is to receive praise from others, we will get that. If our is purpose is to draw closer to God and grow in character, that will happen. If our focus is on God, the practice of spiritual disciplines will be rewarding indeed and we will be happy to practice them quietly without drawing attention to ourselves. Others may not be impressed, but will benefit.

In conclusion, let’s not be that guy; the person who has a need to appear religious, spiritual, righteous, or better than everyone else. That person is like the scribes and Pharisees who often put on a good show. We are to be a people who practice a better kind of righteousness in our spiritual disciplines. The spiritual life in Christ is not a show, it is an opportunity to grow in Christ and become a difference maker in the world.


Clarke Dixon is a minister with the Canadian Baptists denomination. For a limited time, the full sermon can be heard at https://podpoint.com/calvary-baptist-church-cobourg-podcast)

May 5, 2019

A Look at Fasting

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

As some missionary friends reminded me earlier, “The evening of May 5 is the start of Ram*adan, the Mus*lim month of fasting (from sunrise to sundown) and prayer.” I thought we’d look at the topic from a Christian perspective today, and if you arrived here via a search engine and are not a Christian, take a minute to get a very short glimpse as to how we interpret the practice.

We haven’t covered this subject much here at C201. Everything below, but above the double line was sourced one way or another via this page at BibleStudyTools.org. which begins by telling us that:

Fasting is essentially giving up food (or something else) for a period of time in order to focus your thoughts on God. While fasting, many people read the Bible, pray, or worship. Fasting is found throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, over fifty times!

Let’s start with a longer definition from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary:

Fast, Fasting

Abstinence from food and/or drink as an element of private or public religious devotion. Fasting is nowhere commanded in the Torah and, in fact, is never attested earlier than the time of the judges of Israel (cf. Judges 20:26 ). The fact that Jesus and the disciples sanctioned it by their own example ( Matt 4:2 ; Acts 13:2-3 ), however, is sufficient justification for its practice in biblical times and, in fact, in modern times as well…

…As a whole, however, fasting appears to be a private matter in the Bible, an expression of personal devotion linked to three major kinds of crisis in life: lamentation/penitence, mourning, and petition. Without exception it has to do with a sense of need and dependence, of abject helplessness in the face of actual or anticipated calamity. It is in examining these situations that the theological meaning and value of fasting are to be discovered.

Next, some key scriptures: (the link takes you to 40 verses)

Acts 14:23: “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.”

Daniel 10:3: “I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.”

Esther 4:16: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Exodus 34:28: “Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.”

Joel 2:12: “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Luke 2:37: “and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”

Luke 4:2-4[Referring to Jesus] “where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

In his article, What Christians Need to Know about Fasting, Sam Storms talks about the different ways Christians fast from food or drink:

There is a regular fast which consists of abstaining from all food and drink except for water (Matthew 4:2–3; Luke 4:2). Apart from supernatural enablement, the body can function only three days without water.

partial fast is when one abstains from some particular kind of food as in the case of Daniel while in Babylon (Daniel 10:3; cf. 1:8, 12).

As noted above, a liquid fast means that you abstain only from solid foods. Again, most who choose this path are sustained by fruit juices and the like.

A complete or absolute fast that entails no food or liquid of any kind (Ezra 10:6; Esther 4:16; Acts 9:9) should only be for a very short period of time. For anything longer than three to five days, seek medical advice.

There is also what can only be called a supernatural fast, as in the case of Moses (Deuteronomy 9:9), who abstained from both food and water for forty days (enabled to do so only by a miraculous enabling from God).

You may also wish to fast from all food for only a particular meal each day. In other words, you may choose to skip lunch for a day or two or a week, or dinner, or even breakfast. All such forms of partial fasting are entirely appropriate.

There are also different types of fasts. This may be determined by a length of time, or a fast which is intermittent, for example, on a particular day of the week.



There’s a particular passage that is worth a longer look today:

This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

You might recognize that as KJV English, the words are from Matthew 17 and the story is repeated in Mark 9. But some translations recognize that Matthew 17:21 isn’t found in earlier manuscripts and the Mark 9 passage is usually rendered without the words ‘and fasting.’

Rather than toss out the passage entirely, back in the day when Bible commentaries were based on the KJV (because there were fewer other options, and earlier manuscripts had not been found) some, like Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, contained words similar to what follows. The principle certainly applies.

—The words imply degrees in the intensity of the forms of evil ascribed to demons amounting to a generic difference. Some might yield before the energy of a human will, and the power of the divine Name, and the prayers even of a weak faith. Some, like that which comes before us here, required a greater intensity of the spiritual life, to be gained by the “prayer and fasting” of which our Lord speaks. The circumstances of the case render it probable that our Lord himself had vouchsafed to fulfil both the conditions. The disciples, we know, did not as yet fast (Matthew 9:14-15), and the facts imply that they had been weak and remiss in prayer.



We only really covered fasting here once, and it was half of an article on Devotional Poetry. That article contained a link to a passage from Isaiah 58, which we’ll include here for the first time, since we didn’t quote it at the time.

1 Shout loudly; don’t hold back;
    raise your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their crime,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
    desiring knowledge of my ways
    like a nation that acted righteously,
    that didn’t abandon their God.
They ask me for righteous judgments,
    wanting to be close to God.
“Why do we fast and you don’t see;
    why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?”
Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want,
    and oppress all your workers.
You quarrel and brawl, and then you fast;
    you hit each other violently with your fists.
You shouldn’t fast as you are doing today
    if you want to make your voice heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I choose,
    a day of self-affliction,
    of bending one’s head like a reed
    and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes?
    Is this what you call a fast,
        a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
    releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
    setting free the mistreated,
    and breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
    and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
    covering the naked when you see them,
    and not hiding from your own family?
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
    and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
    and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
9a Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.”

 

January 9, 2016

The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

For several years I received a devotional booklet in the mail from James MacDonald and Walk In The Word called Our Journey. After making inquiries with a local Harvest Bible Chapel, I discovered that the devotional is now an online resource, and after checking it out, I read this devotional which you can read at source by clicking the link below.

And When You Fast

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6, ESV)

“And when you fast,” Jesus said, before teaching a few, practical pointers on the subject (Matthew 6:16). His first words raise a basic question, though: When should you fast? Every other Tuesday? When your friends do? When you feel bored? No, fasting isn’t a spiritual whimsy; it’s a spiritual discipline, and the Bible gives some clear outlines to the practice. According to Isaiah 58, you should fast . . .

When you are caught in a sinful pattern. God said, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness” (Isaiah 58:6a)? When you are caught in a sinful pattern, fast. Authentic fasting gives God an open channel to show you how you’re held captive by bad behavior or even by good behavior that’s out of control. Fasting reveals and breaks sinful patterns.

When you have a heavy burden. Back to Isaiah 58:6b: “Is not this the fast that I choose . . . to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” Do you have a heavy burden you have been carrying for a long time? Then fast. For example, skip lunch for a week. Give the time you would have spent eating to prayer. And let the gnawing in your stomach heighten your hunger for God.

When you are oppressed by the enemy. Consider again the fast “to let the oppressed go free” (58:6b). Many believers feel burdened for someone who’s not walking with God. Names may immediately flood your mind. Perhaps you’ve prayed consistently for them. Add fasting. You can fast and pray about the oppression, asking God to tear the veil of darkness with His light.

When you want to give to someone else. Is [the fast] not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh” (58:7)? When we share our bread, homes, clothes, and blankets—not the extra items we don’t need or want anymore, but the stuff we consider ours—that’s a form of fasting pleasing to God. Fasting teaches us how to be generous not only with the surplus God provides, but also with the principal God provides.

When you need an answer to prayer. “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am’” (58:9). Fasting not only clarifies our prayers, but it also opens our eyes and ears to see and hear God’s answers. When our hunger for God is elevated, the stuff keeping us from sensing His presence will be removed, and we will know that when He says, “Here I am,” He means it.

When you need direction. Here’s another outcome of fasting: “And the Lord will guide you continually” (58:11). Who doesn’t want God’s guidance? Yet how often do we actually demonstrate our desire by fasting and waiting attentively on God?

When you need to be spiritually restored. Through fasting, God restores us. “And the Lord will . . . satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (58:11). What a stark picture of what our lives look like. God offers water for our scorched souls.

When you need to be revived. As long as you’re alive, you are under renovation—you’re not finished, and God isn’t finished with you. However “ruined” you see your life today, God can rebuild and use you. “And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in” (58:12). Your best days can still be ahead.

Journal

  • We began by asking, “When should you fast?” Let’s make that question more personal. When should you fast?
  • During a time of prayer and fasting this week, go back over this rich passage from Isaiah 58. What do these verses mean, and what does God promise in regard to fasting?

Pray
Lord God, when should I fast? Help me to hear Your answer to that question. How do You want me to apply what I am reading and learning? Fasting heightens my hunger for You. Through fasting, You refine me, restore me, and awaken me. Thank You for the ways the spiritual disciplines set us free. In Jesus’ name, amen.

February 21, 2015

Devotional Poetry

Today you have a choice of two devotionals; you can choose one or read both.

 

CEB Luke 5: 29 Then Levi threw a great banquet for Jesus in his home. A large number of tax collectors and others sat down to eat with them. 30 The Pharisees and their legal experts grumbled against his disciples. They said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do…

Last year at this time we visited the blog Scripture4You. Because they take more of a poetic approach to scripture and the readings are shorter than what we do here, I thought we would include two of their most recent posts. As always, click the titles to see these at source, along with some beautiful illustrations.  (I wish I had the font that they used as well!)  The scripture verses are all links as well, today we’ve used the Common English Bible for all of them.

Scripture4You

Levi’s Dinner Party

Jesus called Levi, the tax collector, to follow.
Jesus was an equal opportunity employer.
Levi was so excited about his new career…
 …he gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.

 

Levi invited all of his friends who also just happened
 to be in the financial field.
So was this one of the first fund raiser events.
Did Levi see that if Jesus was to spread his message
some additional funds might be necessary?

 

Jesus chose to place himself in the company
 of every kind of person imaginable.
He did not concern himself with a person’s
sinfulness social or economic status.
Jesus came for everyone.

 

Imagine for a minute if Jesus
had only chosen fine upstanding members
of the community for his followers.
Would the greatest of sinners given him any notice?

 

Jesus purposely went out of his way to encounter
 all aspects of the human condition.
No one repulsed him… no one was rejected by him…

 

“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, 
but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous 
to repentance but sinners.”

 

Today we believe in annual
visits to our physician for our well-being.
Jesus was focused on the well-being of the soul.
We have many ways to maintain the health
 of our soul through the sacraments.

 

When Jesus walked among us
 he was the preview of all of the sacraments.
Jesus restores and repairs all things;
those whom he called came to witness this first hand.

 

We are Blessed today because Jesus
is the Divine Physician
for the body and soul.
~~~Peace~~~

14 At that time John’s disciples came and asked Jesus, “Why do we and the Pharisees frequently fast, but your disciples never fast?”

15 Jesus responded, “The wedding guests can’t mourn while the groom is still with them, can they? But the days will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they’ll fast.

Fasting Beatitudes

Today’s message highlights the pitfalls
and the beauty of fasting.
Fasting is a spiritual practice designed
to bring us closer to God.
We do not fast to let others think more highly of us.
A time of fasting is not to pretend we are a better
person because we are not eating.
Fasting is a practice to remind ourselves of our dependence on God.
It is God who sustains us in all our needs.

 

We fast for blood work, we fast because it is prescribed
by our religious beliefs.

 

Fasting is not so much about what we do or don’t eat.
Fasting is more about our mindset.
We must ask ourselves what is our motivation for fasting.

 

God reveals to Isaiah what amounts to
the Beatitudes of Fasting.
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.

 

Yours will be a clean heart…entrance into the kingdom.

 

…your wound shall quickly be healed…

 

If while you are fasting you focus on the care of others;
your own ills will be healed…
your heart will be cleansed…
you will be forgiven…
Your fasting will not be in vain…for all the wrong reasons.

 

The wounds of our soul are healed
when we reach out to care for God’s children.
The wounds of our soul from years past
will be filled in smoothed over with the grace of God.

 

If you choose to fast do so with a loving heart…
for even if you are not aware of the wounds of your heart
healing will occur.

 

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn…

 

Fasting is not about being sad and gloomy.
Fasting is about surrendering our will to doing God’s will.
It is in fasting where we can come to know
 what hunger for God truly is…
Our hunger for God is our hunger to be made
whole again to be with him in heaven.

 

Blessings may come in restricting you food intake,
but not by ignoring the needs of the poor.
~~~Peace~~~

December 9, 2011

Devotion or Discipline?

I’ve often said to acquaintances that I appreciate this particular opportunity because it forces me to spend a fixed amount of time either in God’s word, or in areas where others have been contemplating aspects of Christian doctrine or Christian living in the light of scripture.   But I no sooner use the word forces and I realize that word is laden with baggage.  It implies something that I must do, but will only do if forced because it is contrary to my will.

I also know that some people have issues with the approach of author Richard Foster in the book Celebration of Discipline.  They find the term discipline too formal, almost constricting.  These things  — prayer, Bible study, etc. — should be the product of delight not duty.  I love my wife, but I don’t have to set aside times to show this, I try to do this in many ways throughout the day.  (Emphasis on try if you happen to be reading this honey.) For many, an emphasis on the word discipline comes with a belief in performance based religion; we achieve standing before God on the basis of the things we do. They don’t want to embrace a faith that scores points on the basis of hours spent in Bible study or on one’s knees in prayer. They don’t want to feel compelled to do these things, but rather, to do them naturally, organically.

But didn’t Paul tell us that he knows what he wants to do is not always the same as what he does? While we want to spend more time with God, we often need structure to bring that desire into actual activity. While we may not be double minded in the sense that James defines it, we do live in two worlds.  We need to discipline ourselves so that our intentions are actually carried out.

If you’re new to this journey of Christ-following, you may wish a refresher on what the particular disciplines are that we’re referring to.   Donald Whitney reiterates these in his book Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life.  The blog Protheist lists them using the word priorities, which is softer than disciplines, as long as we understand we still need to make priorities.  Here’s the summary:

Spiritual Disciplines

1. Bible Intake

We should strive to read and study the Bible on a daily basis. This helps us to aim our thoughts, desires and lives toward God, thereby drawing closer to him (James 4:8) so that we can walk more fully in his will. During our times of Bible intake, we should seek to memorize, meditate on and apply God’s word. Perhaps this means we only get through one or two verses as a result; but in the end, it is not about the quantity, but rather the quality of your time in the word.

2. Prayer

As Christians, all prayer is heard and all prayer is answered, even though God may not always answer the way we want him to. While sometimes prayer helps us to align our will to God’s, it is also an event where we can thank (Col 4:2), confess (1 Jn 1:9), worship (Heb 12:28-29) and invite (Or beg) God to intervene in a crisis in our lives (Phi 4:6). Though the Bible teaches that God is sovereign, it also teaches that our prayers greatly affect the outcome of events (Luk 11:9-10; Jam 4:2). To get a response from God, we do not have to speak award winning prayers, but he does want us to come in reverence (Heb 5:7) and humility (2 Chr 7:14); expressing our needs, fears, desires and concerns with him.

3. Worship

The act of responding to and focusing on God is to be done by the power of the Spirit by the word of truth (Jhn 4:24). We are encouraged to do this in both private (Rom 12:1) and public (Col 3:16) settings, and is not limited to singing. But rather our lives are to be an act of worship to God as we seek to glorify him and his name in all we say and in all we do (1 Cor 10:31); whether that is through work, play, art, study or speech.

4. Evangelism

Even though we may not all have the spiritual gift of evangelism, we are all called to evangelize in both word and deed (Matt 28:18-20). While we may be afraid of the hearer’s rejection of the Gospel, we must be sure that we measure our success by the careful accurate delivery of the message (1 Cor 3:10), not the recipient’s response (1 Cor 3:6-7). For we are but a postal service that delivers important information, and must not see failure in their rejection of the message but in our refusal to deliver. If you know enough about the gospel to be a Christian, then you know enough to share it with others.

5. Serving

When God calls us, he does not call us to park our cars in idle, but to drive forward with a mission and purpose (Matt 28:18-20)! We are slaves to Christ, who has set us free from our slavery to sin (Rom 6:17-18, 22); and as servants of Jesus, we are workers, not sleepers (1 Cor 4:1). We do not work in an effort to earn our salvation, but we work because it has already been given to us. God has rescued us from the grip of Satan which we so grossly loved, and the depths of Hell which we so badly deserve. How do we repay him? We can’t (Rom 3:19; Gal 2:16). How do we respond? With our lives (Rom 12:1; Eph 4:1).

6. Stewardship

Your time cannot be regained. Each moment that passes is lost forever. While we may not care much now, every moment on earth will be far more valuable at the moment of our death. So as Christians, who have been rescued from our lives of sin, how are we to use our time, our money, our gifts, our talents, our possessions and our knowledge? By understanding that they all ultimately belong to God (Ps 24:1-2; 1 Cor 6:19-20), we give them back to God, the church, our family and our community (Col 3:23-24; Jas 1:27) out of the joy (Rom 14:17; 15:13; Gal 5:22) that God has granted us for the purpose of worshiping the Lord and raising up a generation of Christ followers.

7. Fasting

This is an expected (Matt 16:16) voluntary abstinence from food for private spiritual purposes and not for public declaration (Matt 6:18). We do it to strengthen our prayer lives (Ps 35:13), seek guidance (Acts 13:2), express mourning (Joel 2:12), request deliverance, express repentance, show humility, minister to others, display concern for the work of God, overcome temptation and most importantly, love and worship God. We do not do this as a form of self-inflicted punishment but as a method of communicating sincerity and hope that God will answer our request as we desire.

8. Silence and Solitude

There are many great purposes to getting away by ourselves on a regular basis. Some of these include, following Jesus’ example (Luk 16:12), hearing God’s voice better, worship God, seek restoration, get clear spiritual perspective, pursue God’s will and to help us control our tongue. We are far too addicted to the noise and the sound of our voice. Miniature getaways force us to temporarily mute both to connect with God on a deeper level.

9. Journaling

Do not do this if you are not concerned with spiritual growth; as it is a powerful tool that does just that. It helps us record progress in our Christian life, evaluate ourselves, meditate on matters, express thoughts, clarify insight and track the amazing things that God is always doing in our lives. As Francis Bacon once said, “If a man writes little, he must have a great memory.”

10. Learning

Just as Jesus grew in wisdom (Luk 2:52), so should we seek to do the same. We should be humble and teachable (Col 3:12-13), as we attempt to love God with our mind (Matt 22:37); while seeing our learning as a discipline to live out and not a hobby to play with. For if we are seeking to become more like Christ, we must know what Christ is like, which is why we should seek knowledge as we pursue Christ.

Closing

Of all the disciplines we hold ourselves to, the spiritual disciplines are priceless tools that we can use to greatly enhance our relationship with God. While some are expectations of us, others are simply time tested recommendations.

If you feel stuck in the moment, are not sure how to grow in your walk with Christ, of if you want to read a more thorough explanation of each topic, pick up Whitney’s book on Spiritual Disciplines…

We’ll give the last word on this to Bonhoeffer, via the blog Euangelion:

In his exposition of Jesus’ words in  Matthew 6:16-18 in Nachfolge (“Discipleship”), Bonhoeffer has this to say about the importance of practicing spiritual disciplines such as fasting:

Jesus takes for granted that disciples will keep the pious practice or exercise of fasting. The life of a disciple requires the strict practice of austerity. The only purpose of such practices is to make disciples more willing and more joyous in following the designated path and doing the works required of them. The selfish and lethargic will, which resists being of service, is disciplined; the flesh is chastened and punished. The practice of austerity makes me fell the estrangement of my Christian life from the world. A life which remains without any ascetic discipline, which indulges in all the desires of the flesh as long as they are “permitted” by the justitia civilis [civil order], will find it difficult to enter the service of Christ. Satiated flesh is unwilling to pray and is unfit for self-sacrificing service (158)

Click here for more on this … (more…)