The Need for Spiritual Discipline

Sometimes we don’t realize how the messages of the world are so subtle that we aren’t aware when they creep into our minds.  Whether it be at work, the movies, the media, or school, these messages permeate every sphere of public life.

For example, we live in a culture where individual freedom and rights are prized highly.  Our culture prizes individualism, provided it does not hurt anyone else.  However, did you ever consider that individualism was the root of the first sin in Eden and the underlying cause for divorce, crime, murder, and a host of other sins?  Paul wrote, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).  This philosophy does not promote individualism, but rather the concept of looking to others’ needs and interests before one’s own.  God made men and women to be companions.  He redeemed the nation of Israel, not a bunch of individuals.  Jesus established his church (“ekklesia” in the original Greek, literally “assembly”).  In fact, our God is a trinity of fellowship that sacrificially gives.  Christianity is about others, not just oneself.

Even so, individualism can do much harm to Christians.  How many seek out a church which will do something for them rather than having the mindset, “What can I do for the church?”  How many rate the worship service on whether it did something for them rather than consider how they worshiped God or built up the ones around them?  How many are so selfishly stubborn that all that matters to them is what pleases them, not only at church but also at work, in the home, and so on?  The list can go on.

Our culture also promotes a “spirituality” which promotes the concept that meaning is found somewhere within ourselves instead of within the God who created us.  It worships the human will and our own “truth” which resides solely in our own perceptions and desires.  All you have to do is find some human-interest story or watch a movie and you will see it.  This is nothing more than idolatry.

Our culture also promotes a sensualistic mindset in which the goal is to “experience” things for the thrill.  Want to know why we live in a sex-saturated, drug-saturated, experiential culture?  It’s because we want the excitement!  Yet in searching for it, we end up finding nothing of true meaning and eternal value.

We face more challenges, such as secularism, materialism, pragmatism, and others.  Many are barely aware of these challenges.  In fact, there may be those who are Christian outwardly; they go to worship, sing, pray, and do other activities which look Christian.  Yet, on the inside they think and feel as the world does.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons we sometimes see the same problems in the church which we see in the world, such as lawsuits, divorce, sexual indiscretions, fighting, and the like.  We need to remember what God warned us through Solomon:  “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

Our inner selves can become polluted by the world. We can be gently coaxed into evaluating an making decisions based on the worldly scheme of things rather than on God’s will.  Sheer will power is not enough to resist these low-key onslaughts so we can serve God faithfully.  We need spiritual disciplines.  By this I refer to such things as silence, solitude, simplicity, reading the Scriptures, meditating upon what we read from the Bible, prayer, and fasting.  These are all tools God gives us to keep the springs of our hearts unpolluted.  Even Jesus practiced these spiritual disciplines regularly.  Yet many churchgoers live with the illusion that we can imitate Jesus without imitating his spirituality.  Such could not be further from the truth.

If we imitate Christ, if we are to truly be his disciples and followers, then we must also imitate his spirituality.  We must have spiritual discipline.