There are a handful of major disciplines associated with following Christ and leading a life of obedience towards Christ and the glory of God.
It’s easy to get caught up in our lives of running errands, baseball practice, music programs, PTO, careers, bills, and just surviving; this can result in little time and effort spent nurturing who we are in Christ. The scripture doesn’t just suggest that we be intentional with our time and energy, Christ commands it of us as Christians.
There are several scriptures that point to the importance of devoting ourselves entirely to Christ:
- Galatians 2:20 (ESV) says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
We are to crucify our own flesh, no longer living for ourselves but for the higher calling of Christ in our lives. We’re to “live by faith” because He loves us and “gave himself” for us.
- In Luke 10:25-28 Jesus is confronted when “a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.’”
“ . . . love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind . . . “ – that’s not a light task! Have you ever loved anything that much? What does that even look like?
- Jesus even explains in Matthew 5:29-30 that not everyone who calls upon his name will enter into heaven and that it takes more than empty actions to find redemption in him: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
This is where these pillars of Christian discipline fall in to place. These are some of the most basic ways we serve Christ and devote ourselves to Him completely.
Possibly the most important pillar, prayer should be a major player in the life of any Christian. I talk about prayer in this post from several months ago.
I once heard a youth minister explain communication with God this way: think about how often you talk to your best friend. Probably at least once a day, especially if that best friend is your spouse. If you’re like me, you immediately grab the phone when you get good news or bad, have a big accomplishment or major defeat, or just want to talk to someone. Should you want to talk to God at least that much? He’s your Creator. Redeemer. He holds your very next breath in the palm of His hand. “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.”
While not often spoken of or practiced in the modern church, fasting plays a huge role in our spirituality. I talk quite about fasting in this post, so I won’t go into a ton of detail here. Ole Hallesby, author of Prayer, Under His Wings, and God’s Word for Today explains fasting this way: “The purpose of fasting is to loosen to some degree the ties which bind us to the world of material things and our surroundings as a whole, in order that we may concentrate all our spiritual powers upon the unseen and eternal things.”
That’s the whole point – it’s the literal act of crucifying the flesh.
While all of the facets of Christianity and obedience are tough, I have an especially difficult time making myself study Scripture. I know on a fundamental level that it’s good for me and that the benefits to my soul are enormous, not to mention the fact that I’m studying the God who created me; but I still struggle here. I at least try to do a daily devotional and read a chapter or two of the Bible, but it’s still hard and I forget more often than I’d like to admit. Right now I’m taking part in Hello Mornings by Kat Lee, meeting up on Twitter with a group at #HMCCT. It’s really helping by giving me some of the accountability I need to stick with daily study.
I’ll talk about Bible study fundamentals more in future posts, but I love this Secret Church by David Platt to help get you started on understanding what Bible study looks like.
Worship is one that I’ve only recently begun to understand fully. I can’t begin to explain what a blessing friendship and fellowship has been in our life over the last year or so – I talk a lot more about that here, so I won’t go into too much detail here. I think that John Donne really summed it up when he said
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
So here’s one we really stink at as Christians. Evangelism. Defined as “the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness” (Google). “The preaching of the gospel or the practice of giving information about a particular doctrine or set of beliefs to others with the intention of converting others to the Christian faith” (Wikipedia). “The announcement, proclamation, and/or preaching of the Gospel, the good news of and about Jesus Christ” (CARM).
You get the idea.
Evangelism means going OUTSIDE the church and attempting to spread the good news to the lost. Outside. The church.
We can’t do it from our Sunday School class.
We can’t do it from choir practice.
You can’t do it from a Bible study at the church.
You have to tell people about Jesus. It’s tough. It’s intimidating. It forces us to face our fear of man, but how else will the lost hear?? If I’m to believe that, as Christians, we hold the most valuable, life-changing information anyone could ever hear, why wouldn’t I want to share it with everyone I meet?
I talk a little bit about outreach here.
Activities for evangelism can include a whole slew of things and isn’t always just walking up to random people and asking if they’d like to hear what Christ has done for you, although that’s not a bad approach by any means.
Some other ideas are:
- Giving away coffee/water/sodas/candy/etc. with the church’s info at your local park/Wal-Mart/festival/outdoor event – ideally you’d also have a few seconds to talk about the Gospel with them
- Dropping off goodie baskets at local businesses/waiting rooms around town that include snacks, sodas, Gospel tracts, info for the church, devotionals, etc.
- Put on a free worship concert with your church’s worship team at a local park
- Open air preaching at the courthouse/local festivals and events (may need to check on local laws about speakers/microphones/public ground/etc.)
- Sidewalk counseling at abortion clinics – essentially standing outside the abortion clinic within lawful limits and trying to talk to the ladies going in and out about other options they have if they’re unable to care for their child and, most importantly, share the love of Christ.
- Bible studies in your local parks, open to anyone who will listen
- Going door to door in local neighborhoods and apartment complexes
- “FREE” garage sales/bake sales where goodies are given away with the sole intent to bless someone else
- Leaving Gospel tracts on public bulletin boards, with your waiters, anyone who will take them (we like these tracts)
“Worship only goes high when understanding goes deep. The deeper your understanding of the truth of God, the higher your worship goes. Worship is directly correlated to understanding. The richer your theology, the more elevated your worshp becomes. You don’t have to turn the music on for me to worship. In fact, I sometimes wish the music would all go away, and that I didn’t have to deal with the sensations along with my thoughts. Low understanding of God, superficial, shallow understanding of God, leads to shallow, content-less, superficial hysteria.”
I think he nailed it so I won’t say anymore.
What would you list as the main tenets of spiritual discipline?
How do you think these translate across denominations or even religions?
What does evangelism look like in your church?