Dependence is critical, but there is no growth in the Christian life apart from discipline and self-control (“discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;” 1 Timothy 4:7). Spirituality is not instantaneous or haphazard; it is developed and refined. The epistles are full of commands like believe, obey, walk, present, fight, reckon, hold fast, pursue, draw near, and love. The spiritual life is progressively cultivated in the disciplines of the faith; you and I will not wake up one morning to find ourselves suddenly spiritual. This is why Paul uses the metaphor of an athlete, a soldier, and a farmer to illustrate the discipline of the Christian life (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Ephesians 6:10-18;2 Timothy 2:3-6). We grow in godliness as we hear and obediently respond to the Word. Spiritual maturity is characterized by the ability to recognize and apply the principles of Scripture to daily experience (Hebrews 5:11-14).
The Bible comes alive when its precepts are put into practice, but this does not happen apart from human choice. We must actively choose to have our minds and emotions guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
Here are a few of the many benefits of practicing the spiritual disciplines:
- They encourage the imitation of Christ and allow us to act in ways that are centered in God’s will.
- They personally connect us with an ongoing tradition of time-tested ways of incarnating the spiritual life.
- They give us a rule of conduct that directs us in the path of growing skill in living before God.
- They equip us with resources on the three battle-fronts of the world, the flesh, and the demonic. to embrace God’s purpose for our lives.
- They confer perspective and power, and they encourage us to embrace God’s purpose for our lives.
- They bestow a controlled freedom to respond to changing circumstances in a more biblical manner; they allow our lives to be dominated more by the things above than the things below.
- They remind us daily that the spiritual life is a balance between radical dependence and responsible action; both grace and self-discipline are required for spiritual maturity.
- They are vehicles for internal transformation. Given enough time, an average person who consistently practices spiritual disciplines will achieve spiritual productivity and proficiency.
- They replace habits of sin by cultivating habits that lead to character (e.g., integrity, faithfulness, and compassion).
- They increase our willingness to acknowledge the daily cost of discipleship and remind us that whatever comes quickly and cheaply is superficial, while the insights that we learn from pain will endure.
Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth.
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