The Sanctification Gap Part 2: Spiritual Disciplines
When I use the phrase ‘Spiritual Discipline,’ the image evoked is fairly similar to the response we have to the term ‘discipline.’ It is hard work, and it is precisely because it is ‘work’ that we fear the usage of the term in connection with our spirituality. “We don’t want to be legalistic!” we say, and we run in the other direction. We run away from James’ declaration that “Faith, by itself, if it does not have work, is dead” and into Paul’s declaration that “We are saved by grace, through faith, it is not a work of our own doing, but a gift of God.” We must not allow our fear of legalism to cause us to pick and choose what we want out of the Bible.
Clearly salvation is a gift of God, though it is after that that our works are required. Not to save us, but as a proof of our salvation. When using the term ‘Spiritual Discipline,’ all I intend to mean is that we must put work into our Christian life.
Spiritual Disciplines come in various forms. Some are intensely personal, and some are necessarily communal, and some are, at different times, both. I will only explore a few today, and I will provide Biblical examples of each.
The first Spiritual Discipline is that of prayer. While Paul tells us to ‘Pray without ceasing’ in the first letter to the Thessalonians, it is also clear from Jesus’ life that we should be praying. Jesus takes time to pray publicly, teaching the disciples what is a public prayer. The Lord’s Prayer beings with “Our Father.” The plural pronoun suggests a corporate setting for this particular prayer. Jesus also spends time praying along, seeking the will of the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. His prayer is personal and, in fact, so intense that it causes him to sweat blood. Prayer is important to perform with other Christians, and it is important to participate in it in the private life as well.
The next is the reading of Scripture. Again, Paul tells us that all Scripture is profitable for teaching and doctrine, and yet again, we see Jesus proving that Scriptures are important. On the road to Emmaus, the risen Jesus comes to two of his disciples. He converses with them, and when they finally recognize him, he explains to them all of the scriptures, in light of His coming. Jesus takes time to explain to his disciples the importance of the Scriptures. This indicates to us that Jesus believes that studying the Scriptures is beneficial, and that right interpretation is important.
The final spiritual discipline is that of the Eucharist. Even the term, ‘the Eucharist’ is one that causes many Protestants to take a step back. Jesus instituted the last supper, and said ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ and it is for this reason that we partake of the bread. People debate about what actually happens at the table (whether the bread becomes the body of Christ, physically, and to what extent Jesus’ real presence is there), but the point, ultimately, is that we are part of the destruction of Jesus’ body, and He does this willingly for us. We benefit from this reality, and whether the Eucharist is the symbolic or active in its representation of this truth, the truth is still there.
Next week, there will be a post concerning moralism, and the role it should, as well as the role it shouldn’t, play in our spiritual walks.