Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tools for Developing Discipleship

What is a spiritual discipline?  There is no list of the disciplines in the Bible.  But tradition is rich with spiritual practices that help us develop as disciples.

Spiritual disciplines are habits or practices that allow us to dive deeper into our relationship with Jesus.  They provide a context for our lives in which we can hear God speak and see his hand at work.  They help us get ready to obey.  They help us know him personally and intimately.

Adam and Eve spoke directly with God, beginning the practice of prayer.  Their children Cain and Able may have begun the practice of giving to God through sacrifice.  Abraham continues the tradition of giving to God as he offers a tenth (tithe) of his spoils of war to Melchizedek, the king of Salem and priest of the Most High God.   

Later we find followers of God fasting, worshipping, meditating, fellowshipping, remembering, confessing, resting, reflecting, serving, studying.  Today we have the Old and New Testaments, a rich collection of documents about God’s interaction with man.

In Acts 2 we find the early church beginning a new kind of community.  They devoted themselves to:
  • The apostles’ teaching
  • The fellowship
  • The breaking of the bread
  • Prayer

In these four elements, we find the foundation for Christian spiritual disciplines.  The apostles’ teaching is captured in the New Testament, with the Old Testament as its foundation.  So many spiritual disciplines are founded on the scriptures including reading, memorizing, and meditating.

The fellowship is the collection of believers, the church.  Disciplines with the fellowship include service, giving and evangelism.

The breaking of the bread is a reference to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  By extension, then, we find the spiritual discipline of corporate worship, including celebration, confession, baptism, and remembering.

Prayer is the oldest spiritual discipline, and the early Christians were devoted to it.  Their prayer included fasting, confession, simplicity and solitude.

These habits are a means for us to know God and love God.  Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God.  Paul said that compared to knowing God, everything else is just garbage.