Friday, May 16, 2008

Why "Spiritual Disciplines" is a Bad Name!!

I've been enjoying reading Jim Goll's book; "Dream Language" on my night shift last night and was interested to read the following paragraph. Some may argue that the term is just semantics but in the last couple of posts I have been increasingly re-horrified by legalism and I think the concept that Jim Goll offers is worth thinking through if it further rids our lives of legalism;

"Some people would describe journaling as a spiritual discipline. I prefer another term. Like many others I have used the phrase "spiritual discipline" for years to describe any habitual pactice we undertake to facilitate spiritual growth. When composing my book; "The Lost Art of Practicing His Presence", however the Holy Spirit said to me;

"You're not disciplined enough to have a spiritual discipline!".

That nailed me! "Okay" I replied surprised and a bit miffed (deep in my heart I knew He was right). He said; "These are spiritual privilidges". That put a whole new angle on things. I really like the phrase "spiritual privilidges" because that is what they are. Looking at them as privilidges rather than as disciplines completely changes your mindset because doing something as a discipline can sometimes lead to a performance-based mentality.

Doing the same thing as a privilidge however means doing it because you can do it, or because you want to do it - not because you have to do it to please God or stay on His good side". It becomes a matter of perspective, like the difference between saying the glass is half empty or half full. Praying, studying, fasting, worshipping - they are all amazing spiritual privilidges - with great benefits!".

It's a great perspective worth trying! The spiritual privilidge of reading our Bibles!! Of worshipping!! Of praying to God and knowing we are being heard!! Surely this should enable a greater degree of excitement to getting up in the morning!


lydia joy said...

Amen Dan, I am so with you on this one, love the quotes....Spiritual disciplines out the window - it's time for want to's to rise up in!!!

Dan Bowen said...

Absolutely Lydia!! No more "Have-tos!"

Anonymous said...

I find this to be suspect.

Speaking for myself, this will lead me to pray only when I want to.

You may all be miles on from me, but my experience remains that I need to discipline myself to run as one who is running to obtain the prize.
Yes our objectives should be shaped by delight and not duty...

I'm with John Piper - before each God each morning I have to say "save me again Lord, save me again..."

Some mornings it's talking in a spiritual language as the presence of God breaks through and fire comes.
Other mornings, it's praying in faith as pure discipline.
Lets be real about it.


jul said...

I like to call them spiritual delights. And I only pray or do any of them when I want to, never never out of 'duty' or obligation. If I'm lacking desire, I ask the Spirit to give me the desire to spend time with him.

Back when I first started to get revelation of grace, I decided to only read the Bible when God drew me to. And he has been very faithful to draw me to himself, even when I am not faithful. My part is only responding to his loving voice and my new desires (springing from my newborn righteous) spirit) through the power of his indwelling Spirit.

Dan Bowen said...

I kind of suspected you would find this suspect Eutychus.

You mentioned John Piper. I don't know anything about you Eutychus - whether you be male or female - married or single and have no desire to. I respect each person's right to anonymity on this blog. But if you are married this may strike a chord.

I remember one of the first stories I heard Piper give (it may have been in "Desiring God" or just when I heard him speak - I forget) but he gave this account of something that he and his wife Noel did once and now do every anniversary. The scene goes like this;

Piper will knock on his front door with a bunch of roses hidden behind his back. Noel opens it looking rather confused that he is knocking. Piper holds out the flowers to Noel and she says; "Oh Johnny they are beautiful!! Why did you do this for me!?". Piper replies; "Because it is my duty as your husband". Noel obviously slams the door in his face.

Take 2: Noel opens the door, "Oh Johnny they're beautiful ... why did u ...?!". Piper replies this time; "Because I LOVE you, because this brings ME the greatest pleasure seeing YOUR face".

I think the story speaks for itself.

You said;

"Speaking for myself, this will lead me to pray only when I want to".

From what I have gathered from your comments, I would actually beg to differ slightly if I may. You strike me as an individual who is passionate about God, Jesus Christ and His glory. And I actually fervently believe that yes indeed - this WOULD only lead you to pray when you WANT to - but that would be just as often as you are now, if not more.

You said;

"I'm with John Piper - before each God each morning I have to say "save me again Lord, save me again..."

I think I remember that Piper doesn't believe in the eternal security of the saints and maybe you don't either. But I have issues with this question and statement. I can imagine the Lord in heaven hearing this prayer and thinking;

"Save you again? Was the price that I paid the first time around not enough for you? Did My Son's blood not quite cover the vast quantity of your sin? What makes you so special that you need saving two, three, four or more times? Why are you imagining that last Adam's obedience and righteousness is somehow more powerful than first Adam's disobedience?

When you were lost and dead in sin, I don't seem to recall you seeking to sin more to ensure that you remain lost. So why now are you so full of doubt that you need "saving again"?".

You asked us to be real. So I am being real. Would I say that every morning is a delight to wake up? No I would not. But I am sorely provoked that is the way it SHOULD be!! I am a single guy and have got no plans for marriage. But if God DID happen to bring along a wife for me to marry then I trust that 10, 20 or 30 years down the line I would wake up in the morning with my heart skipping a beat because my beautiful wife is beside me.

Should it not so be with God? Who paid the greatest price in the universe so that we may be able to call Him Father?

Rob Rufus says that every day he experiences the manifest Presence and glory of God - am I jealous?! OF COURSE!! I've got just as much right to have the same relationship with my Father as he! And he would say that!

Discipline? Duty? Where are those words to be found in marriage? And we are married - we are the Bride of Christ - to the greatest Bridegroom ever. To a Bridegroom who will NEVER cheat on us, who will NEVER treat us cruelly or phase us out, to the Bridegroom who has paid the GREATEST price so that this marriage can take place.

Sorry for all that. But you did ask us to be real.

Anonymous said...

No need to apologise.

Very helpful - and absolutely - had God wanted a people bound up in duty He could have programmed the whole of humankind to be saved. But no the Son deserves better for His sacrifice.
Malachi's prophesy talks about those who will be brought when He makes up His jewels.

Many sons will be brought to glory. That is the heart of God.

I am familiar with the Piper scenario you outline and yes God is not honoured by a religious, dutiful, sound but ice-cold heart. "These people honour Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me."
The evangelical church is full of people who are theologically on the nail. But their hearts are cold and their love for Jesus went cold decades ago. Some of these people are pastors and elders. God have mercy.

I am all for delight in God. I actively encourage it!
What I do, however, recognise is a danger in myself to feel to pray one day and the next not to. To be immersed in the Word one day, and the other not. To talk in tongues as I walk down the road one day and the next day, not to.

And one of the fruits of the Spirit is self control.

1 Cor 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
It is a fight to pray. It is a fight in the early hours to press through.

Yes delight is the aim and the goal and often the experience.

I agree 100% - I desire and aim to get to a place when God gets hold of me to such an extent and I lay hold of Him that delight is the daily experience.
I'm not interested in standing still and settling because my Bible tells me to press on. The Spirit of God bears witness with my spirit to press on.

However - where I am at in these days (for a season) is that I know I require discipline to take me to a place of prayer. And the heart is deceitful above all things and what I feel to do has to be subjected.
That is the walk of faith not of sight.

Being saved each morning?
Your reply is very interesting... and absolutely correct in that His sacrifice was once for all, and 100% sufficient.
"It is finished" was His cry. Nothing more to be done.

It's not His sacrifice I find to be insufficient. No He is more than enough. Dear God He is a wonderful Saviour....
It's my own carrying of His work in me... it's my walk... it's the little I am for him... it's my spiritual coldness at times...
When you think Nehemiah was so moved at the broken down walls that he wept and fasted and prayed for days...

I'm not satisfied at how little I am moved by the things of God at times.

I say this to myself - and to you Dan - and anyone who reads this as a blood-bought child of God:

Do not let anyone hold you down in God, tell you that you can only come so far, go so deep, walk so victoriously... because no eye has seen, no ear has heard...
No cold church, no tunnel-visioned ministry, no judgemental older brother, no lying accuser, no dead theology must EVER be allowed to stop a son from walking in newness of life in victory, holiness, power and love...
There's ALWAYS more...

Hence I press on as you describe that every day should be a delight...

Experiencing His presence is basic Christianity. It's the ABC. It's not a PhD. We've been hoodwinked if we think it's for de-luxe Christianity. There is no such thing.

Our bridegroom deserves nothing less than delight.
But discipline and self-control are part of the armoury in the war I wage and the walk I live to become more like Him, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame.

I hope with my inadequate words I have gone some way to clarify what I meant.
I don't disagree with you in terms of delight at all. But I know disicpline forms part of the whole for me at present.

I don't want to ever just seek His face or call upon His Name, meditate on His Word just because I feel like it.