The Necessity and Nature of Spiritual Disciplines

June 3, 2016

Good Afternoon Church,

What does living the Christian life look like? What are the biblical steps or spiritual marks of growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ? How are believers to live godly lives while at the same time living in a godless world? Are there demands to follow and duties to fulfill as we learn of Christ, or are we simply to relax, surrender, and chill out while we “let go and let God” do His work in us? Thankfully, the Bible has clear answers to these most critical questions, but sadly many have sought to answer them from a worldly perspective coupled with man-centered practices. Thus, history is replete with stories of people who sought self-purification through extreme forms of self-denial, legalistic standards, and ecstatic experiences and labeled it “Christian.” This reality is what drove Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to write the letter of Colossians as he sought to confront and correct counterfeit claims and practices that sought to degrade and highjack true Christianity. However, if we are honest, we must admit that evaluating one extreme opens us up to embracing another extreme as the pendulum of our response swings wildly out of control to the opposite end of the spectrum, leaving us outside of the biblical perimeters for living the Christian life set by God in His Word. Therefore, in light of Sunday’s sermon, and in preparation for upcoming messages where we will be considering the pursuit of holiness through the practice of killing sin and embracing godliness, I think it would be helpful to clarify the biblical necessity and nature of spiritual disciplines.

The Necessity and Nature of Spiritual Disciplines

maturity

The Bible lucidly commands the Christian to strive for holiness (Heb 12:14), to train oneself for godliness (1 Tim 4:7), to pursue righteousness (1Tim 6:11), to live uprightly (Titus 2:12), to be holy (1 Pet 1:15), to kill sin (Col 3:5), to put on Christ (Rom 13:14), to put off all impurity (Eph 5:3-4), to flee immorality (1 Cor 6:18), and to practice Christ-likeness (2 Pet 1:5-11). Furthermore, God commands believers to work at their sanctification, which is their growth in godliness (Phil 2:12), and to be continually growing in the grace of Christ (2 Pet 3:18). Therefore, any passive idea of Christianity, like “letting go and letting God” that was promoted by the “Quietist” movement and still strongly lingers today, where somehow we become holy through spiritual osmosis is unproductive, unhealthy, and inherently unbiblical. Thus, living the Christian life demands “active” living and doing hence all the imperatives given to us in Scripture, which teaches us that rules are not wrong and that there is a duty demanded of us by God.

However, the Bible also makes it lucid that our growth in godliness, our pursuit of holiness, and our sanctification is ultimately a divine gift (1 Cor 1:30) and work of God (Phil 2:13) whereby He sovereignly matures us through the means He provides to us (2 Cor 3:18). Hence, sanctification is ultimately the sovereign work of the Spirit of holiness (Rom 1:4) who sets His desire against the flesh (Gal 5:17) in order to produce His fruit in the life of the faithful follower of Christ (Gal 5:22-23). God does His sanctifying work on the believer’s life through the gracious means of the Word of Truth (Jn 17:17; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 3-4), prayer (Jn 14:13-14; Phil 4:6-7;Heb 4:14; 1 Jn 1:9), the fellowship of the believers (Prov 27:17; Col 3:12-17; Titus 1:9-16; Heb 3:12-13; 10:24-25; 13:17; 1 Pet 5:1-4), divine providence (Rom 5:3-5; 8:28-30; 2 Cor 4:16-18; Js 1:2-4), and biblical obedience (Jn 14:15-24; 15:1-11; Rom 6:12-14; Gal 5:16; Col 3:5). As one of my friends rightly says, “Sanctification is the Christian’s pursuit of God-given holiness.” That pursuit of holiness demands that believers practice and participate in these types of “spiritual disciplines” that are biblically grounded, gospel driven, and Christ-centered!

This understanding is paramount in both provoking an active pursuit of purity as well as protecting against some extreme form of external piety that only further feeds the pride and prejudice that dwells within every sinner! Therefore, while rules without reason will only breed rebellion, this is not what we find in the Bible as it gives duty with a specific direction for godliness, which breeds great delight (Rom 6:22; 1 Jn 5:1-5)! Furthermore, God’s Word not only gives the duty, but it also makes certain what disciplines the believer has been given by God in order to “train” or discipline himself to godliness. Church, I write this in order to protect us from over reacting to the extreme forms of so-called “spirituality” that we will examine this weekend and that continue to tempt all of us with external conformity to man-centered rules, rights, and rituals. Always be careful of anything that promises internal change by external conformity, and yet at the same time guard your heart from thinking that you can ever have God-given holiness without actively embracing the spiritual disciplines given by God! As one writer put it “the only alternative to discipline is disaster.”

I look forward to worshipping with you tomorrow as we contemplate the counterfeits that sought to seduce the Colossian Church and see how Paul confronts them head on. Also, know that we will be celebrating communion on Sunday, and so come prepared to remember and rejoice together for the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May the grace of God the Father, and the love of God the Son, and the fellowship of God the Spirit fill your heart and home this weekend!

Humbly Pursuing God-given Holiness,

Pastor Matt

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