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12 Spiritual Disciplines That Will Make Your Faith Strong
By Brandon Hilgemann -May 9, 2018
Every athlete must train to win. Nobody can sit on the couch eating Cheetos for months and hope to compete.
The best athletes are intensely disciplined. They follow strict diet and exercise regiments to beat their body into peak physical condition, so when the game is on the line, they are ready.
We know this is true for our physical condition, but there’s a disconnect with how we think about our spiritual condition.
The sad reality is that many Christians are unfit because they are undisciplined.
Nobody drifts into discipline. Just as the undisciplined body becomes sluggish and fat, the undisciplined spirit becomes weak.
This is why Paul coaches Timothy:
7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
“train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim 4:7-8📷).
This verse is the cornerstone of the spiritual disciplines because it spells out their purpose—training for godliness.
What Are The Spiritual Disciplines?
There is no consensus list of spiritual disciplines. The Bible does not include a set list. So different authors list different disciplines—some more biblical than others.
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
Spirituality is a hot topic today.
There is an interest in just about everything that promises instant spiritual transformation.
Secularism has left us morally and spiritually bankrupt.
In such a failed culture we ....
- Charles Swindoll in Active Spirituality
Spiritual and physical sag. Outer collapse takes place because the inner experience cannot sustain it.
Everything has to be entered
We must listen for
What we hear must be internalized
I can type all day long, but until I hit the “enter” key, all of my words, no matter how impressive, are just sitting on the screen’s surface. I have to hit enter for them to be saved into the heart of the computer.
I also have the ability to hear things but not necessarily enter them. What sits in my mind doesn’t necessarily penetrate my heart.
16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Mat 6:9-13 is the Lord’s Prayer
The aged apostle Paul, as he drew his letter to a conclusion, gave a series of short, concise commands summarizing essentials for disciples. There he wrote:
17 pray without ceasing,
It is a combination of worship, fellowship, and intercession.
18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
Prayer is not meant to be a monologue, but a dialogue.
Samuel heard, but it was only when He responded that the Lord began to communicate. He did and God spoke. The words of God penetrated his heart and changed his destiny.
2. BIBLE STUDY
2. BIBLE STUDY
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
How many of you have read the first 30 chapters of Genesis a hundred times?
Taking a portion of scripture and allowing it to enter into the deepest recesses of self.
Results in cleansing, reassurance, the desire to praise and give thanksgiving. The Bible is God’s central revelation of God to mankind.
Reflection and meditation demand a certain amount of imagination.
We read the Psalm, for example and picture a tree planted by a river.
We allow the words to trickle down over the structures of our inner being....
From such exercises come new and wonderful conclusions.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
Of all the disciplines, none may be more important than the study of God’s Word.
Only through the instruction of the Bible can we understand the ways and the will of God. The theology and practice of every spiritual discipline is rooted in Scripture. Without the study of God’s Word, we cannot hope to grow spiritually.
Jesus knew Scripture better than anyone. As a boy, he amazed the teachers in the Jerusalem temple with his understanding (Luke 2:46-47📷). He quoted Scripture from memory when tempted in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13📷). And he regularly quoted it in his teaching (e.g., Matthew 5:21��; Mark 10:5-9📷). He even began his ministry with a public reading from the book of Isaiah (Luke 4:16-21📷). Jesus embodies the Word (John 1:14📷).
Today the discipline of study may have many forms:
We can read the Bible in a physical book, on a digital device, or by listening to an audio Bible.
We can listen to the Bible taught in our church on Sunday mornings, or online any time.
We can also meditate. But we must make a crucial distinction here because meditation can be misunderstood. Eastern meditation focuses on emptying the mind; Christian meditation focuses on filling the mind with God’s Word. For example, Psalm 119:97📷 says, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
3. FAITHFUL CHURCH ATTENDANCE AND SUBMISSION TO GODLY LEADERSHIP:
3. FAITHFUL CHURCH ATTENDANCE AND SUBMISSION TO GODLY LEADERSHIP:
1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
Christians all need the instruction, fellowship, group worship, and evangelistic outreach that a local church and pastor provide. - D. Bernard
42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
We tend to think of fellowship as a social activity, but it’s more than just small talk.
Fellowship is about being united as a body of believers, encouraging one another to follow Jesus.
Jesus lived in constant fellowship with the Father, and also with his disciples. But Jesus knew that fellowship would be challenging.
Before he was arrested and crucified, Jesus prayed for all believers “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21📷).
But fellowship doesn’t happen by accident. So the writer of Hebrews says, “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (10:24-25). Regular gatherings for fellowship require discipline.
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Together the embers of a fire glow red-hot. But scattered, they soon grow cold. That is why the discipline of fellowship is so important.
We all need brothers and sisters united in Christ to strengthen our faith.
4. GIVING OF TITHES AND OFFERINGS
4. GIVING OF TITHES AND OFFERINGS
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts; 12 And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the Lord of hosts.
1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
10 He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?
7 Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? 8 Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12 If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
Tithing began before the law of Moses and continues after it. Abraham and Jacob paid tithes.
Tithes are ten percent of “increase” (income) and are used to support the church.
Offerings are any additional freewill gifts.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
8 Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.
(Psalm 100:1-5; 111:1; John 4:24; I
Corinthians 14:26-33, 40; II Corinthians 3:17). Christians
must worship in spirit and in truth. Scriptural expressions of
worship include private devotions, group worship, praising
with loud noise, singing, playing musical instruments, praying
aloud, raising hands, clapping hands, weeping, and dancing
before the Lord (Psalm 33:2-3; 47:1; 141:2; 149:3-5;
150:1-6; Acts 4:24-31; I Timothy 2:8; Ephesians 5:19).
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness (1 Chronicles 16:29).
In many churches, we have made the word worship synonymous with singing, but it is much more than that.
The English word worship comes from the Saxon word weorthscype that evolved into worthship. So when we speak of worshipping God, we mean responding according to his worthiness.
The discipline of worship is a focused response to God’s infinite worth.
Jesus is both the object and the example of our worship. When Satan tempted Jesus to worship him, Christ replied, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Matt 4:10📷).
But we are also right to follow the example of the disciples who, upon seeing the resurrected Jesus, “worshiped him” (Matt 28:17📷).
In his humanity, Jesus is our example of how to worship. In his divinity, he is the object of our worship (Phil 2:6📷).
Whether gathered together at church or alone in our rooms, when we think about the greatness of God, we cannot help but worship him.
Their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:19).
Fasting is abstaining from eating food for spiritual reasons. It is a focused time of spiritual dependence on God to sustain you, almost always accompanied by prayer.
But in our self-indulgent culture lacking in self-control, fasting may be the most neglected discipline today.
Jesus fasted (Matt 4:2-4📷), and he expected that his followers would fast (Matt 6:16-18📷).
When asked why his disciples were not fasting, Jesus said that they would not fast as long as he was with them, but “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” (Luke 5:35📷).
Those days are today as we await Christ’s return.
Since there is no direct command exactly how to fast in Scripture, we are free to fast as the Holy Spirit leads us. However, the normal practice in the Bible is abstaining from all food.
How long should we fast? Some people fasted for one day (Judges 20:26📷), one night (Daniel 6:18-24📷), three days (Acts 9:9📷), seven days (2 Sam 12:16-23📷), fourteen days (Acts 27:33-34📷), and forty days (Deuteronomy 9:9📷). So the length can vary.
Fasting gives greater power and emphasis to our prayers and confessions as we depend on God.
Fasting is feasting on God, hungering for him alone.
7. HOLINESS OF LIFE
7. HOLINESS OF LIFE
Pursuing holiness is as important as the new birth. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
God commands His people to be holy in all conduct because He is holy (I Peter 1:15-16).
They are to obey this command in order to
(1) please God, for they belong to Him,
(2) communicate Christ to others, and
(3) benefit themselves, both now and for eternity.
For God’s people, holiness means conformity to God’s character—thinking as He thinks, loving what He loves, hating what He hates, and acting as Christ would act.
Specifically, holiness is
(1) separation from sin and the world system and
(2) dedication to God (Romans 12:1-2; II Corinthians 6:17-7:1).
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Disciple-making is a spiritual discipline because it does not happen by accident.
To make disciples, as the Bible commands, we must actively seek out opportunities to share the gospel (Mark 16:15📷), baptize new believers, and teach them how to obey everything that Jesus commanded (Matt 28:19-20📷).
If our goal is to become more like Christ, then we ought to participate in his mission. Jesus said that he came “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10📷). When Jesus recruited the disciples, he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt 4:19📷). And after his death and resurrection, he commissioned us to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19📷).
Disciple-making is a cornerstone of the church. In Acts 5:42📷, we read, “every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” Sharing the gospel and teaching others how to follow Jesus was a daily discipline.
All Christians should practice disciple-making. Sadly, many leave it to just the hired professionals.
Most of us don’t make disciples because we don’t discipline ourselves to do it.
Other forms of service, Confession, Rest, Celebration, Chastity,....