Sometimes we don’t need another chance to express how we feel or to ask someone to understand our situation. Sometimes we just need a firm kick in the pants. An unsmiling expectation that if we mean all these wonderful things we talk about and sing about, then lets see something to prove it. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This Christmas I received a book called “Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God”. I’ve only yet read the first few chapters, introducing the concept, but already I love it, as I suspected I would. For a long time I have been convicted at the lack of discipline in my faith and the quote above encapsulates it perfectly. I need more spiritual discipline in my life to show that I really do mean what I say I believe. It’s not about salvation through works, it’s about allowing the Holy Spirit to take a hold of my life and change me into what He desires me to be. It’s about putting your money where your mouth is and doing the hard work of spirituality in order to reap the good things that go along with it.
I am free to go about my life as a “lukewarm” Christian, but to be honest there’s no joy in that. No fulfillment. Saying that you are living for Christ without actually disciplining yourself to grow spiritually rings hollow in the end. Consider these words from Bonhoeffer: “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ”. Do you agree with that claim? I am definitely nodding along, and though it is an extreme statement, it’s one I cannot criticize.
I watched a romantic comedy the night before last, and in it the main characters are the fiancé and the bride’s best friend, who begin to have an affair. The guy ends up breaking off the engagement to be with the other girl (the best friend of the bride-to-be), and the overall message is that following your heart and passions is far superior to doing what is right (in fact, the two are pretty well equated, with no regard for morality whatsoever).
In this world we are bombarded on all sides with the gospel of self-fulfillment. Feelings are valued over morality, lust over love, and indulging in your physical desires is much more important than self-control and delayed gratification. This message is in direct opposition to the discipline and self-denial that is inherent to a life of discipleship. Discipleship is not “normal”. It is not popular. And it certainly is not easy.
We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing (A.W. Tozer).
It can be difficult not to become ensnared by these subtle messages in our culture. Difficult, yes, but not impossible, and I think, mandatory for growth and closeness with Him. Do I want a Christianity without Christ (not really faith in Christ at all!), or do I want to live now, to really truly live my days with every moment attuned to Christ?
Christianity does not consist in any partial amendment of our lives, any particular moral virtues, but in an entire change of our natural temper, a life wholly devoted to God (William Law).
So how to achieve this? The how has always been the part that trips me up and intimidates the heck out of me. What if I try it and fail? What if my life is miserable? What if, what if, what if?
Or what if I find the satisfaction and joy and maturity that we are designed to seek our whole lives?
My word for 2012 signifies the journey I begin in earnest. It is a getting-down-to-business and an acknowledging that I have been a gung-ho believer, but a poor disciple. I want to grow in maturity, and I am ready to accept the work that is necessary to do so.
In 2012, I will explore these spiritual disciplines (some of which I am more familiar with than others):
- Solitude and Silence
- Fasting and Frugality
- Secrecy and Sacrifice
- Study and Prayer (This is the hardest one for me, and one that I will focus on first.)
- Service and Submission
- Worship and Celebration
- Fellowship and Confession
It’s probably going to be downright difficult (nearly impossible?). But I am convinced that while I cannot become spiritually mature on my own strength, I can choose to submit myself to the practices that will lead me to Him. To discipline myself to attune my heart to Him and allow him to change me with his power and strength.
A journey. A commitment. A disciplining of self, that I might live more fully for Him.
A postscript: I want to say thanks to all who read here regularly. I am completely humbled at the amount of people who find something of worth in my words. All of the glory for that goes to Him, and I thank-you for giving me the opportunity to write my heart and have it be heard. What a privilege! It’s probably pretty obvious that I am trying to grow my readership, to increase this community, and to use this place with integrity. If you enjoy what you read, would take a moment to “like” Red and Honey on Facebook, to subscribe, or to share your favourite articles? I would be so appreciative and honoured.
I wish you a happy Christmas season and new coming year of fresh hope to you today!