Disciplined Disciples, Part 2
April 15, 2013 Leave a comment
This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry youth group on Wednesday, January 9, 2013, as well as two talks Donald Whitney gave on Spiritual Disciplines at First Baptist Church in Fort Smith on February 8, 2013.
Key Text: 1 Timothy 4:6-16
In Disciplined Disciples, Part 1, I made the case that all Christians have been called by Jesus to be and make disciples. If any person chooses to follow Christ, they must be ready to seek him through spiritual disciplines. In fact, we have redeemed so that we can pursue holiness. Using a story of my brother and I, I showed how holiness gives direction to our daily practice of spiritual disciplines.
What are spiritual disciplines? Spiritual disciplines are those personal and corporate activities that promote spiritual growth. In other words, spiritual disciplines are like spiritual exercises. They are ways we can place ourselves in the path of God’s grace so that, over time, He can transform us “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). While not every spiritual discipline is practiced on a daily basis, there are two that should be done every day: Bible intake and prayer.
Anytime you read the Bible with the right motivation, your time will not “return void.” The Bible is the very Word of God for the people of God (Isaiah 55:10-11; 2 Timothy 3:16). The essentials related to the gospel are clear to all its readers (also known as the doctrine of perspicuity).
Often we find the Bible “boring” because we just read it. For the intake of God’s Word to be most enjoyable and beneficial, reading must be accompanied by meditation on and absorption of the truths conveyed. Engaging the mind in the intake of Scripture informs the way we view God, our self, and our lives. As Donald Whitney put it: “You feel most deeply about what you think most deeply about.” Meditation leads to obedience and obedience leads to God’s blessings (Joshua 1:8-9; Psalm 1:1-3).
What are the blessings of deeply considering Scripture? Studying the Bible:
- Helps us find wisdom (Psalm 119:97-104)
- Helps us to fight temptation (Luke 4:1-13)
- Reveals a living God to us (Luke 24:1-9)
- Gives an accurate record of what Jesus taught and did (John 20:30-31)
- Transforms our lives (Colossians 1:6)
- Shows us how to live and equips us (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
- Reveals who we are and what we are not (Hebrews 4:12)
List adapted from Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney
Prayer is an incredible privilege. It is direct access to and communication with the Almighty God of the Universe. Despite this privilege, sometimes our prayer life feels like a chore. Other times it feels ineffective– like our prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling and coming back at us. Why does this happen? Whitney says, “The problem with many people’s prayer lives is that we say the same old things about the same old things.” How do we fix this vicious cycle of repetitive prayer?
The solution is simple: pray through a passage of Scripture and shift the focus from yourself to God’s will.
God has given his Word, not only for his followers to read, but also to pray and sing back to him. In fact, the whole book of Psalms is basically filled with prayers. Try praying through one each day letting it guide the way you express your requests to God. Whitney’s tip for picking a Psalm: take the day’s date and add 30 four times, then pick one of those that speaks to you that day (so for the 15th, you could pray through Psalm 15, 45, 75, 105, or 135).
Instead of focusing on ourselves in prayer, we should wrestle in prayer for the things that we know are God’s will in our lives, families, church, city, and world. As John Piper puts it, “Prayer is a request that God do something. It is a human act that God has ordained and which he delights in because it reflects the dependence of his creatures upon him. He has promised to respond to prayer, and his response is just as contingent upon our prayer as our prayer is in accordance with his will. ‘And this is the confidence which we have before him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us’ (1 John 5:14). When we don’t know how to pray according to God’s will but desire it earnestly, ‘the Spirit of God intercedes for us according to the will of God’ (Romans 8:27).”
Pursue with Purpose
As disciples of Jesus, we have not only been given a new heart, but also a new identity. By pursuing spiritual disciplines like Bible intake and prayer with purpose, the Holy Spirit shapes this new identity and molds us into the image of Jesus Christ. May all believers diligently seek holiness in order to be the disciplined disciples we’ve been called to be.
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
[image credit: George Bannister on Flickr]