Spiritual Disciplines

 

There are many and various lists of the Spiritual Disciplines.  Here is a collection of 21 disciplines, along with a short decription of each one.  For more information, check out Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. 

 

Disciplines of Abstinence:

 

· Solitude – Getting away from it all for the purpose of prayer, meditation, or silence…just being alone with yourself and with God.  In our age, avoiding distraction is very hard. It is practiced less now than in any other age in history.  Solitude breaks our unhealthy dependence on others.

 

· Silence – Like solitude, this is much harder in our age than any previous time.  Having true silence is a pre-requisite for focused thought and focused listening.  Most of us don’t know what real silence is.  This practice can help us escape our fear of silence and enable us to engage other disciplines.

 

· Fasting – Refraining from eating helps us to remember that our dependence is on God first, for he is our sustainer and provider.  Fasting has been utilized for spiritual growth, as an outward act of repentance, and as a tool for spiritual focus.  God invites us to fast over our deepest desires.

 

· Frugality – Abstaining from using the material wealth at our disposal for the gratification of our desire for status, glamor, and luxury.  We focus on what we truly need to live the life God has called us to.  This breaks our sinful tendency to identify ourselves by what we own or have at our disposal.

 

· Simplicity – Starting on the inside, this is the act of focusing on unity and whole-ness through truthful speech, release of unhealthy ambition, and relinquishing of ego.  This allows the outward reality of a reduced lifestyle.  Simplicity results in freedom from the attachment of “things” that can own us.

 

 · Chastity – Sexual purity, not mere celibacy or abstinence, is the goal of chastity. It means putting sex in its proper place in our lives, and avoiding the sins of lust, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, and keeping our sexuality from being an idol or a slave master.  It starts as purity in the heart and mind. 

 

· Secrecy – “Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing, so that [what you do] may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matt 6.3-4  The thirst for recognition and our people-pleasing desires are defeated. God alone controls what is known.

 

· Sacrifice – Just as Jesus sacrificed himself for all humanity, we are invited and expected to join him, to take up our cross.  Sacrifice for others puts our love of self in balance with our love of others.  Giving up something we own negates our love of things and puts us in balance with our possessions.

 

· Rest – From Sabbath in the Old Testament to Jesus getting away from the crowds in the New Testament, God’s model for health includes a rhythm of work and rest.  Rest acknowledges God’s work and shows that we trust him more than our exclusive efforts.  True rest is only available in faith.

 

 Disciplines of Engagement:

 

· Study – More than “reading my Bible,” study is the pursuit of God’s Truth.  It involved repetition, concentration, comprehension, and reflection on God’s word, God’s creation, and God’s work.  Described as a joy in Scripture, study goes beyond seeing a truth to knowing it as fully as possible.

 

· Worship – Whether private or in community, worship is the recognition that God is God, with all the honor and praise that this fact entails.  More than singing, we worship when our hearts, attitudes, and actions reflect the glory of God and show a proper response to God and his holy work in our lives.

 

· Celebration – We celebrate what we value and cherish in life.  There is much in our faith to take joy in.  When we celebrate God and his family, we remember what God has done for us, we orient our hearts towards gratitude and thanksgiving, and we display to the world the true joy found only in Christ.

 

· Service – Jesus, when hearing his disciples’ argument over who would be the greatest, told them how to achieve greatness.  A single word: serve.  Service in Christ is motivated by love and joy, and displays the heart of Christ for the world.  When we serve, we align ourselves with the heart of God.

 

· Prayer – The most foundational tool for entering into relationship with anyone is communication.  Simply talking and listening to God about whatever is on our hearts is the defining attribute of prayer.  Prayer allows us to align our thoughts with those of God.  The process of sharing with God changes us.

 

· Fellowship – This is not about hanging out or potluck dinners at church.  True fellowship is the engagement of people around a vision, purpose, or mission.  It happens when people’s paths intersect more than just on Sunday and they begin to participate in each other’s lives on a regular basis with a holy purpose.

 

 · Confession – Darkness is a friend of sin.  Confession sheds light on sin and light has a disinfecting quality, which breaks the bond that sin can hold over us.  Confession also binds us together in our need of grace, letting us know we’re not alone.  When we confess our sins against one another, forgiveness can follow.

 

· Submission – We live in an autonomous world, meaning we each want to rule ourselves.  But submission forces our love of self-rule to die and our desire to honor those in authority over us to thrive.  Our submission to earthly authorities (set in place by God) both reflects and informs our submission to God.

 

· Obedience – Obedience is our willingness to set aside our own desires for the will of God (and other authorities).  This brings freedom from the need to always be in charge, and opens us up to receive blessings that we would otherwise forgo for lack of desire.  If we want God to speak, we must obey what he has already said.

 

· Guidance – We are not alone in our faith journey.  God has provided his Holy Spirit and the wisdom found in the Christian community to help us grow and be more faithful.  Our society values individualism, but the Kingdom of God values connection and cooperation in humility.

 

· Meditation – Spending time getting to know God and his word is at the heart of meditation.  It is the process of filling our minds and hearts with what God has said and what he wants to communi-cate to us.  It is practicing the art of listening.  Unlike the Eastern “emptying of the mind,” Christians desire to fill it with God.

 

 

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