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Spiritual Disciplines are simply ways for Jesus’ disciples to train and become more like Him. They facilitate honesty, grace, and Mind & soul transformation. Jesus used spiritual practices to cultivate His intimacy with the Father. The Apostles, the Psalmists, and many of our Bible heroes model the importance of using spiritual exercises as a from of worshiping God and “grow in grace” (2 Peter 3:18).

The spiritual disciplines are those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are habits of devotion, habits of Christianity that have been practiced by God’s people since biblical times. I describe them with six key aspects.

1. Personal and Corporate

First, the Bible prescribes both personal and interpersonal spiritual disciplines. There are those spiritual disciplines that we practice alone and those that we practice with other Christians.

We are to practice both because Jesus practiced both. So we don’t want to think of spirituality and the spiritual disciplines just as something we do by ourselves. We are to also engage others in the practice of the spiritual disciplines.

2. Doing and Being

A second characteristic of spiritual disciplines is that they are activities; they are not attitudes. Disciplines are practices. Spiritual disciplines are things you do. They are not character qualities. They are not graces. They are not the fruit of the Spirit. They are things you do.

So you read the Bible. That is something you do. You meditate on Scripture. Your pray, fast, worship, serve, learn, and so forth. These are activities. Now the goal of practicing any given discipline is not about doing as much as it is about being: being like Jesus, being with Jesus. But the biblical way to grow in being more like Jesus is through the rightly motivated doing of the biblical, spiritual disciplines.The key verse in all this is:

"Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly."
1 Timothy 4:7

3. Modeled in the Bible

A third descriptor of the spiritual disciplines is that we are talking about things that are practices taught or modeled in the Bible. The reason that is important is otherwise we leave ourselves open to calling anything we want a spiritual discipline. So someone might say, “Gardening is a spiritual discipline for me,” or “Exercise is one of my spiritual disciplines,” or any other hobby or pleasurable habit they could call a spiritual discipline.

But one of the problems with that is that mindset could tempt someone to say, “Maybe meditation on Scripture works for you, but gardening does just as much for my soul as the Bible does for yours.” Virtually anything being a spiritual discipline is one problem.

The other problem is that it leaves it to us to determine what will be best for our spiritual health and maturity rather than accepting those things God has revealed in Scripture as the means of experiencing God and growing in Christlikeness.

4. Promoted in the Scriptures

A fourth characteristic of spiritual disciplines is that those found in Scripture are sufficient for knowing and experiencing God and for growing in Christlikeness. We are told in the famous verses 2 Timothy 3:16–17 that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” — including the good work of pursuing the purpose of godliness, the good work of growing in Christlikeness. The Scriptures are sufficient for that.

5. Derived from the Gospel

A fifth description of spiritual disciplines is that they are derived from the gospel, not divorced from the gospel. Rightly practiced, the spiritual disciplines take us deeper into the glories of the gospel of Jesus Christ, not away from it as though we have moved on to some advanced level of Christianity.

“The gospel is the ABCs. Now let’s get into the really deep things of God: the spiritual disciplines.” No, the spiritual disciplines are derived from the gospel, not divorced from it, and they only take us deeper into an understanding of the gospel.

6. Means, Not End

And the last characteristic of the spiritual disciplines is that they are means and not ends. The end — that is, the purpose of practicing the disciplines is godliness — is to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7 NASB).

And so we are not godly just because we practice the spiritual disciplines. That was the great error of the Pharisees. They felt by doing these things they were godly. No, they are means to godliness. Rightly motivated, they are the means to godliness.

 

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