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The Role of Disciplines

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The Role of Disciplines

Text:  I Corinthians 9:24-27

Topic:  Spiritual Disciplines

Big Idea:  Spiritual disciplines free us from slaver to self interest.

Purpose:  To explain the purpose for practicing spiritual disciplines.


The goal of the Christian life

            -not to be perfect

            -but to become perfect

Some think that Christians must be perfect

            -and are quick to point out when they are not

            -ever hear stories of a Christian businessman who lied – such a shame

-ever feel guilty because of your sin – and because of sin, feel you are not really a Christian.

Sin is not necessarily evidence that we lack faith

            -but it is evidence that God is still working to make us transformed.

We are in the process of being transformed

2 Corinthians 3:18 – we are being transformed in His likeness

            We reflect His glory

                        -which means we have a long way to go.

How do we get there?

Or, How do we participate in the process

Our text tonight

            -does not merely indicate that God will change us

            -but that we play a role in this process of transformation

Those who run a race go into strict training – to attain a prize

If we are going to participate in God’s plan to make us perfect

            -we train

            -rather than merely trying

Training – exercising – can be thought of as Spiritual Disciplines


Sermon Body:

Two incorrect views of spiritual disciplines

1.  Only for the super spiritual

            -monks, Billy Graham, seminary professors, pastors, missionaries

            -but they are not for your run-of-the-mill Christians

            -for regular people – go to church, pray, seems to be good

2.  We must practice every possible discipline

            -in a moment, I will mention a few classic disciplines

            -danger – think they are all commandments

                        -that if you practice four disciplines

                        -you are better than someone who only practices two

            Let’s use the comparison of athletes

                        -who is in better shape

                                    Athlete who does 20 different exercises

                                    -or athlete who only runs?

                                                -not a good answer – both can be in good shape

            Disciplines are not accomplishments

                        -but are tools to change the condition of our hearts

                        -that help us walk with God

They might be best thought of as reminders

History of reminders

-God showed Israel His presence

-in shocking ways - pillar, manna, quail, miracles

-reminded through disciplines

-fasting, sacrifices,

The training of spiritual disciplines

            -is intended to make us more aware of God

            -to walk with Him

            -to live for Him

            -to consider how His presence changes the way we live

Look up Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 103 (Lord’s Day 38)

            Catechism tells us that we should make every day a rest from evil

            -and an opportunity to yield to God

Sabbath – in Old Testament

            -carved out precious time (Saturday)

            -and space (temple)

                        -in order to honor God

            -Tremendous to take a day – for people who needed it for necessities

                        -we are busy today – but a lot of busyness is unnecessary

                                    -concerts, games, entertainment, extra money, vacations

                                                -not knocking them,

                                                -but not the same as need to get the crops

            -Space – incredible to take the resourced that were so precious

                        -to make an elaborate temple

                        -NOTE:  the poorest nations make the most extravagant places of worship

                                                -because it is important

The practice of disciplines is how we carve out time and space in our daily lives

            -to bring that Sabbath commandment to fruition in our walk with God.

Spiritual Disciplines cause us to create time and or space in our lives

            -to be in God’s presence

            -we do not leave our relationship with him to chance

                        -to have when it is convenient

                        -we discipline, train, ourselves to regularly come to Him

Most Christians already do this, whether they call their practice disciplines or not.

Name some of the classical spiritual disciplines.

1.  Meditation

            Sounds intimidating – something for elite thinkers

            -but if you have ever wondered what God would have you do

                        -you have meditated

            -think about God, His Word, His will for your life

                        -think about His goodness, His answers to prayers

            -can be done with a journal, or in the silence of a few moments

2.  Prayer

            Talking to God

            -I believe this is the chief spiritual discipline

            -you can walk with God without fasting, reading the Bible, but I have known no one who               has walked with God without praying

                        -in a way, all of the other disciplines help us develop our prayer life

3.  Fasting

            Voluntarily giving up something in order to focus on God

            -in OT – not just the meal, but the entire prep time for the meal (butcher, cook, etc)

4.  Study

            -beyond reading God’s word, but searching it for answers

5.  Simplicity

            -commitment to having less, in order to pursue God

            -I think many would benefit from simplifying their lives

6.  Solitude

            -alone time, often with silence – helps meditate, which helps prayer life

7.  Service

            -an act of gratitude, selflessly helping someone else as a practice

8.  Confession

            -naming your sins (a Roman Catholic practice)

9.  Submission

10.  Worship

11.  Guidance

12.  Celebration

But disciplines, as reminders and training tools, are not limited to these classic practices.

            -Bible Studies, Methods for prayer, questions to ponder, journaling, Prayer walks, affirming and encouraging others, read through the Bible in a year,

-all can be training devices to help us be transformed

Define Spiritual Discipline:

A regular, habitual practice that help you submit to God and grow in your awareness of His majesty.

I encourage you to make space for God in your lives – practicing a discipline

Churches often have been identified by their disciplines

Methodist – a strict method for Bible Study

Catholic – Friday Fasts

Lent – give up something for lent

            -we don’t do this so much, because it can lead to a problem.

What makes spiritual disciplines go awry?


Methodist - Method for Bible Study

Wesleyan - no alcohol, tobacco

Catholic - no beef on Fridays, Confession as a sacrament

Postures for prayer


Disciplines go awry when we exalt them to the status of commandments.

Not the mechanics that are as important as the inner working that God does in your life.

Each of these traditions, and ours too, can go astray

            -when we believe the discipline is more significant than the heart

Because the purpose is not an achievement

            -with a ribbon or trophy to hang on your wall

But rather, a transformed heart.

What is the purpose of Spiritual Disciplines?

1.  To free us from slavery to self-interest and fear.

2.  To make us aware of God's permeating presence in our lives.


Good News – you can participate in Gods plan to free you from self interest and fear

            -and make you more aware of His presence

Practice walking with Him

Regular habits that will help you grow in Him

Pick one to practice – as we begin a new year

            -Bible reading, Prayer, Service,

            -small group, memorize a passage,

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