Thursday, October 12, 2006

Spiritual Disciplines. Spiritual Formation IV

Summary of previous articles

  • Temporal and eternal perspectives– the need to restore the eternal perspective of God and his kingdom and making it central to our life
  • Need to be aware that we are embodied spiritual beings – necessity of training the body to put off old man and its deeply embedded old habits and put on the new man with new godly habits of response
  • To stir ourselves up with correct biblical motivations to want to be like Christ

We now know what we to do. We also know how to motivate ourselves to want do what we ought to do. There remains only the training that we need to put in place.

So. How do we train oursleves to be like Christ? Before we answer this question. We need to ask a prior question.

What does it mean to be conformed to Christ?

It means simply to be like him. As Willard pointed out[1], “the New Testament concept of the disciple is very simple. I am someone's disciple if I am with him learning to be like him”.

Imitating the example of Jesus

It is ultimately Jesus who shows us how to live in the kingdom of God. ( p 385)

Jesus washing the disciples feet. Leaving you an example to follow.

Jn 13.12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

This is what precisely Paul did and what he encourages us to do. He says, ‘imitate me in exactly the way that I imitate Christ. ( 1 Cor 11.1)

Or as he tells the Phillipians, ‘ Put into practice what you learned and received and heard and saw in me……’

Genuine apostolic succession

Note the instruction Paul gives to Timothy: to become a pattern for the believers, in speech, behaviour, love, faith, and purity …Paul called on Timothy to ‘pay attention to yourself and to the teachings, continuing in them’. For in that way, Timothy will ‘save both himself and the ones hearing him’ ( 1Tim 4.12-16)

Genuine apostolic succession is not just a matter of doctrinal faithfulness but also one of learning to be like Christ, conforming to Christ.

What does it mean in practical terms to be conformed after Christ?

Basically it involves putting off the old man and putting on the new man. Col 3.9 since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self,

It is to form new and godly habits, so that instead of habitually doing the wrong things, we now habitually do the right thing, that which is pleasing to the Lord.

How? By “breaking the power of patterns of wrongdoing and evil that govern our lives because of long habituation to a world alienated from God. (The Divine Conspiracy, p 374)

These are simply our bad and old habits, our largely automatic responses of thought, feeling and action (p 375)

“we need to rely upon what the Spirit does to us or in us. However, indispensable as it truly is, reliance on the Holy Spirit alone will not by itself transform character in its depths.

The training required to transform our most basic habits of thought, feeling and action will not be done for us. The action of the Spirit must be accompanied by our response, which cannot be carried out by anyone but ourselves.” ( p 381)

The indispensable role of ordinary events, routine activities in daily life.

We must accept the circumstances we constantly find ourselves in as the place of training, discipleship and transformation into Christ’s likeness.

Trials, sufferings and tribulations

James 1.2-4

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Rom 5.3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Day to day routines of life

  • Applying the ‘cross to daily existence.
  • The first tribulation for many of us is “Getting up in the morning!”
  • Then the commune to work and the battle with the traffic jam’
  • The people and problems, difficulties and situations we face in the office
  • Coming home to face the family – family tensions not resolve will resurface at annual reunions and get togethers. Father-son, mother-daughters, sibling rivalry and jealousy.
  • Temptation to fears, worries and anxieties over health, work, money
  • Past issues, situations having an ongoing negative impact on the way we live in the present, with fears and anxieties over the future robbing us of hope and joy.

In the course of an ordinary day – temptations to lust, to covet, to be impatient, to be angry, to be self centred, to habitually think, feel and act as we have always done. This is the arena, where conformity to Christ is to be acted out. These moments, situations, problems, are our life!

The spiritual disciplines

In order to carry through with the challenges of daily life in this way we must have the constant movement of the Spirit of God accompanying us, and we must incorporate substantial ‘spiritual disciplines’ in our overall life plan. (p 382)

The spiritual disciplines we inculcate are the ones Jesus engaged in to nurture his own life in relation to the Father.

His use of solitude and silence, Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mk 1.35

Mk 6.47When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land.

study of scripture. Lk 2. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Lk 24. 25He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ[b] have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.


Lk 11.1One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."

and service to others

2That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33The whole town gathered at the door, 34and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

And we can be very sure that what he found useful for conduct of his life in the Father will also be useful for us.

Disciplines of Abstinence

Disciplines of Engagement
















As Willard understands it, “ the disciplines of abstinence are designed to counteract sins of commission and disciplines of engagement to counteract sins of omission.

Solitude and silence

No human contact, being alone, and silent for lengthy periods of time.

The normal course of day to day human interactions locks us into patterns of feeling, thought, and action that are geared to a world centred on self interests and worldly pursuits. (executive in advertising world, corporate lawyer, politics)

Only silence can allow us life transforming concentration on God.

Muddy water becomes clear only if you let it be still for a while.

Come to grip with loneliness – is it enough to have God and God alone in our life?

What drives, fears, anxieties, insecurities fill our minds and hearts. Illness, old age, being alone without support of family

Taking unpopular stance at work, in life – How fear of man and man’s opinions have such a crushing hold on us.

Listen to our self talk

Time to review relationships, look at old and prevailing tensions. Are we waiting for people around us to change – how about us changing first?


I fast from food to know that there is another food that sustains me. I memorise and meditate on scripture that the order of God’s kingdom would become the order and power of my mind and life. (p 387)

To say to our body and its desires, I am in control not the body

Study and worship

Rev 10.9 So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, "Take it and eat it; it will be bitter to your stomach, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey." 10I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.

Christians feed on Scripture. Holy scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolised into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son. ( Eat This Book, Peterson, p 18)

Readers, (serious readers) become what they read. (ibid, p 20)

Willard puts the case strongly that “intensive internalisation of the kingdom order through study of the written word…help establish good habits of thought, feeling and action”. He says, “we really come to think and behave differently.

David Watson’s comments on the days before his operation for the cancer that ultimately took his life:

“ As I spent time chewing over the endless assurances and promises to be found in the bible, so my faith in the lving God grew stronger and held me safe in his hands. God’s word to us, especially his word spoken by his Spirit through the Bible, is the very ingredient that feeds our faith. If we feed our souls regularly on God’s word, several times day, we should become robust spiritually just as we feed on ordinary food several times each day, and become robust physically. Nothing is more important than hearing and obeying the word of God.” ( The Spirit of the Disciplines, p 183)

Some key scripture topics and passages:

  • Ten commandments
  • Ps 23
  • Lord’s prayer
  • Sermon on the mount
  • Rom 8
  • Col 3
  • Phil 2-4

We cannot study without worship. To handle the things of God without worship is always to falsify them ( The Divine Conspiracy, p 397)

In worship we engage ourselves with, dwell upon, and express the greatness, beauty and goodness of God…..( The Spirit of the Disciplines, p 182)

Rev 4.11;

11"You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being."

5.12In a loud voice they sang:
"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!"

13Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:
"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!"

God is invisible – (Yancey – reaching out to the invisible God) Meditate on Jesus and his atoning work on the cross: God incarnate – read the gospels, the temptations he faced, his teaching, his compassion, his agony at Gethsemane, his death and resurrection.

Jesus and the leper, widow of Nain, woman with issue of blood.

Talking about prayer and scripture reading/study

“I did not understand the intensity with which they must be done, nor that the appropriate intensity required that they be engaged in for lengthy periods of un-distracted time on a single occasion. Moreover, one’s life as a whole had to be arranged in such a way that this would be possible. One mut be agitated, hurried, or exhausted when the time of prayer and study came. Hence one cannot tack an effective, life transforming practice of prayer and study on to ‘life as usual’/ life as usual must go. It will be replaced by something far better. ( divine conspiracy, p 390)

Final words

A recent poll shows that the gap between what Americans say they believe and what they do is great and growing. The same is true of Christians. Values don't always translate into actions.

The acid test or question is : do you have a transforming, integrated faith or just a statement of faith?


The following article is located at: (
Measuring What Matters. How do you gauge if your people are getting stronger? A LEADERSHIP Forum

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