Ignorance of Spiritual Disciplines
I found Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth on the shelf of the home my in-laws rented for us in Athens, TX Thanksgiving 2012. Based on the collection of reads on their shelf, a mix of Christian spiritual and non-fiction stories, I thought it might be of interest to me. I picked up the book a few months later. I wouldn’t say it was an easy read, mainly because it wasn’t light and a lot of the content was new or different for me. It atleast put some concepts I already knew or struggled with believing but knew were Biblical concepts in a fresh perspective for me. The author set the stage well, capturing my attention with ‘the desperate need today is not for a great number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for a deep people.’ And, for me, that is easy. But, then Richard took it a step further and addressed our generation with an ‘abysmal ignorance of the most simple and practical aspects of nearly all the Spiritual Disciplines’ p3. This book’s level of ‘deepness’ was challenging to my own theology and practice of spiritual disciplines. It is therefore a deep delve into exploring ‘the inward life’ p.3.
Will and Determination or Gracious Gift?
The book confronted and laid out how inner transformation does not come from simply will and determination but inner righteousness is instead ‘a gift from God to be graciously received’. Then, the ensuing result which is to believe there is nothing we can do. Richard then explains ‘correct-human striving is insufficient and righteousness is a gift from God-but the conclusion is faulty’. So, is it works or idleness? The answer, according to Richard is ‘the disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us’ p7.
It is a confusing and yet inspiring thought that ‘God has ordained the Disciplines of the spiritual life as the means by which we place ourselves where He can bless us’ p7. I am personally reminded of James 1 where God asks us to draw close to Him and he, as a result, draws close to us.
Some of My Takeaways
There are many topics to cover that have penetrated my own heart and no doubt would any current generation believer. So, here are a few.
P. 11 ‘Our world is hungry for genuinely changed people. Leo Tolstoy observes,”Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.” Let us be among those who believe that the inner transformation of our lives is a goal worthy of our best effort.’
P. 22 ‘It is wonderful when a particular meditation leads to ecstacy, but it is far more common to be given guidance in dealing with ordinary human problems.’
Foster goes through the inward, outward, and corporate disciplines and analyzes them on his own accord and other patriarchs of the faith of Christ Jesus. I for one have never read a chapter about fasting and was not aware that church leaders of previous generations were encouraged to fast two days a week. But, perfect joy is fashioned in a new light for me too, Brother Leo says, “Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends is that of conquering oneself and willingly enduring sufferings, insults, humiliations, and hardships for the love of Christ.” I’m familiar with ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength’ and the idea of real joy only coming from an intense closeness with God, through His son Jesus. It would make sense that this ‘endurance’ of suffering if it were to come upon me that joy would abound regardless of any circumstance and is the practical result of intense closeness with Christ. Although I can not imagine a humble submitted Spirit and can only lean on Christ’s assurance that as we pursue Him our joy is continually perfected in Him.
I think this read is a good one for all that want to understand how discipline plays a part in relation to God working through his grace and providing the path to spiritual growth.
One of the ways I’m applying this to my life is I decided this year to read the whole Bible in a year, which is new for me. Up to a few years ago, I’m not sure I had read the Bible all the way through but I do believe I had read the whole Bible. I read the Bible through in about two and a half years during 2010 – 2012. And this year I started on January 1 and am through May and already noticing a difference in my recollection of the word. I hope that this is the beginning of new and constant spiritual disciplines that will increase in the future as I further become dependent on Christ.