In case you have not heard already, last week began a whole new year. Everyone’s calendars (provided you still have one of those things) either turned to the first couple months of a new year or you had to replace it entirely because it is now 2019! Every year the media gets flooded with posts and articles about setting new goals or New Year’s Resolutions. I tried really hard not to add to the myriad of voices discussing this topic, but I just can’t help myself. If you are anything like me, the words “I’m gonna be closer to God this year” have at least crossed your mind in the past week. One good way to do this is through spiritual disciplines.
“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”
— Romans 6:12-14, NLT
So what is a spiritual discipline? Undoubtedly a list may have already begun to invade your mind: prayer, bible study, worship, fasting, etc. But at it’s heart a spiritual discipline is meant to train your mind and soul towards the things of God and away from the world. James writes in his letter, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” (James 2:14, NLT). I have often told people that spiritual disciplines are the actions we do to become more like Christ (training in righteousness), that we need God’s help to do. It is the kind of thing that the world may look at you like you are weird, but God looks at you with a smile on his face. The most prominent example in my mind are the desert fathers and mothers. These men and women lived during the early Church and gave up everything to live a life of extreme asceticism in order to devote themselves entirely towards God.
“Do you ever experience a gap between what you know and what you do? Have you ever found that new knowledge and information don’t seem to translate into a new way of life? Ever had the experience of hearing an incredibly illuminating and informative sermon on a Sunday, waking up Monday morning with new resolve and conviction to be different, and already failing by Tuesday night? You are hungry for knowledge; you thirstily drink up biblical ideas; you long to be Christlike; yet all of that knowledge doesn’t seem to translate into a way of life. It seems we can’t think our way to holiness. Why is that? Is it because you forgot something? Is there some other piece of knowledge you still need to acquire? Is it because you’re not thinking hard enough?”
— James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love
I know that this post does not have much actual content, but that is by design. Starting next week, for the next few weeks I will take a look at a specific spiritual discipline and how it can be practice today. Take a moment to let me know what kinds of practices you either practice or would be interested in learning more about.