If you’re like me (Kevin), establishing discipline in myself can be excruciating at times. That whole “the flesh is weak” thing the Bible talks about rears its ugly head way too often in my life. The art of discipline has been abandoned in our society and the ramifications are going to be painful. It literally can be the difference between a full life and utter despair and ruin. With this in mind, Pastor Bobby and I will be tag teaming a six-week blog series on the Christian disciplines. It is our desire to see everyone at the Ridge come alive in Christ, and intertwining these disciplines can be a significant part of accomplishing that.
Before we dive in, let us properly define “discipline”. Discipline is training to ensure proper behavior, as well as the practice or methods of teaching and enforcing acceptable patterns of behavior. Think about Olympic athletes for a moment. They train for years in order to perform for just a moment on the world stage. That is highly impressive and shows tremendous dedication. But it does not happen overnight. The constant training these athletes engage in builds muscle memory to ensure they execute their event to perfection. It is fascinating the amount of work it takes to train the body to perform when it matters the most.
This same concept applies to our spiritual lives. The disciplines train us to respond when times get tough. For example, practicing scripture reading, prayer, and fasting builds in us the resilience we need to press through difficult times because we understand that the presence of God is a safe haven, a shelter in the storm. Waiting to do these things when storms come, however, can make them ineffective and produce frustration because we expect an instant fix or solution to our problems. This is not how the Christ life works.
Over the next six weeks, we will introduce you to twelve Christian disciplines as described by Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline. Foster breaks the disciplines into three categories: inward, outward, and corporate. Each carries its own importance. Inward disciplines, as I mentioned earlier, build in us internal resilience as we regularly go into the presence of God and become increasingly comfortable there. The outward disciplines encourage humbleness and gratitude for what the Lord has given to us. And, finally, corporate disciplines teach us that gospel community is an important part of enduring the hardships of life, as well as celebrating and enjoying the blessings! Here is a breakdown of the twelve disciplines:
Inward disciplines: meditation, prayer, fasting, and study
Outward disciplines: simplicity, solitude, submission, and service
Corporate disciplines: confession, worship, guidance, and celebration
It is vital to point out that we must guard against turning the practice of these disciplines into religion. The Christ life is about a relationship with the Lord God Almighty. Nothing we do will ever take the place of what only He can do in us, which is to sanctify us and make us righteous. A danger to be aware of is that the practice of these disciplines can turn into pride and eventually become idols (aka religion). Instead, we must view these as tools provided to us by God to accomplish the great work He has begun in us.
Please join us the next six weeks as we talk about the Christian disciplines!
Follow Ridge worship leader Kevin Bradford on Twitter @kevinpbradford