By Jeff Romack
For followers of King Jesus the practice of spiritual disciplines is the essential and God-appointed way to becoming the kind of person that God intends for us to be. When we speak about “becoming” we are talking about change. In this article we’ll consider how change happens and the essential role of the spiritual disciplines in that change.
Three things are necessary for change to take place in our lives. Magic is not one of them, neither is luck. To the contrary, all transformation, all change, happens as the result of the convergence of three things; vision, intention and means (the spiritual disciplines).
Vision is where Jesus began his own ministry. His vision of the Kingdom of God set the agenda for all that he did and taught. Vision is where change begins for us. Simply put, vision is a new idea of what this world or what my life could be like if…. All change begins with a new vision. Be Visionary!
Vision is a wonderful and absolutely necessary ingredient for change but without a second ingredient it remains just that, a beautiful vision, a wish for what might possibly be. The necessary second ingredient to change is intention. I must actually intend to live into my vision. I must plan for and be prepared to take the actions necessary to see my vision realized. I must be prepared to do what only I can and must do. Be intentional!
The third and final piece required for change is to know and use the necessary means. These are the practices necessary, the means that must actually be used, in order to achieve my vision. With a compelling vision, intention, and use of the right means, change is assured. Practice spiritual disciplines!
In the case of every disciple who is learning from Jesus how to live in the Kingdom of God, the practice of spiritual disciplines is the means to our ongoing transformation into the likeness of Christ. We must have both a vision for this transformation (to become more and more like Jesus) and we must desire and have the intention to live into the Jesus kind of life. And finally, we must practice the practices of spiritual discipline that Jesus taught his followers.
The term “spiritual disciplines” might seem to be something of an oxymoron. That is, spirituality is one thing while discipline seems to be something very different. But with only a little reflection we understand that all spiritual formation happens while we are living in a body for which discipline is also necessary and formative. Therefore discipline is paramount in forming and re-forming our lives as Jesus’ followers.
The spiritual disciplines that Jesus both practiced and taught are well known. They have been practiced and taught by Christians throughout the ages. Some of the disciplines are essential for everyone. Some are more helpful than others depending on our individual situation at any point in time. All of the disciplines are valuable. In practicing spiritual disciplines we will actually find ourselves living into many of our YWAM values.
Any list of the spiritual disciplines will include meeting together with God regularly and often. And, by the way, let God run the meeting! It all begins here.
Other spiritual disciplines include:
With a little thought you’ll be able to identify others. Remember, we practice spiritual disciplines not as an end in themselves but as a means to a beautiful end, transformation into the likeness of Christ. To think that we can grow in likeness to Jesus without actually practicing the disciplines as Jesus himself did is an illusion. Transformation won’t happen by magic. It won’t happen by luck. And, it won’t happen by getting zapped by the Holy Spirit apart from practicing the disciplines.
Remember; all change begins with a compelling vision. Intention to live into the vision is essential but we must also acknowledge that no one is perfect. We all fall short from time to time. Just get up again and keep showing up every day. And, work the practices, the spiritual disciplines. What was difficult or impossible for you in the beginning will in time become possible if you practice the disciplines. Keep going!
One of the most valuable things leaders can do for one another is to point out helpful resources that can propel us onward in following Christ. There are two books dealing with the practice of spiritual disciplines that have shaped my thinking and helped me greatly in practical ways. I want to recommend to you:
- “Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice; Experiment in Spiritual Transformation.” by Dallas Willard, Navpress, 2002. This is a short and more accessible version of the original, “Renovation of the Heart.” Both are recommended. The Vision, Intention, Means pattern of change mentioned earlier was first suggested by Willard.
- “Celebration of Discipline; the Path to Spiritual Growth.” By Richard J. Foster, Harper, 2002. This book is considered the modern classic on the spiritual disciplines.
*For more information from the ALLC on Spiritual Disciplines, click here.