I have been doing a study on spiritual disciplines over the last few weeks which has included reading two different books from two very different authors about the topic. One book is the Christian classic by Richard Foster The Celebration of Discipline, and the other book is by the head of Emergent Village, Tony Jones, and is called The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life. It has been interesting to see the importance that both the Quaker theology of Richard Foster and the Emergent theology of Tony Jones place on a spiritually disciplined life.
This study has taught me several things about my life and relationship with Jesus Christ:
First, it has refocused me on the fact that spiritual disciplines are not intended to lead us to legalism but rather are to be a focus of intentionality for the purpose of deeper intimacy with Christ. If my life and schedule is built and focused around seeking God through spiritual disciplines such as prayer, studying the Word, and meditation, I am intentionally putting myself in a place to be more in tune to Jesus.
Secondly, there is a reason that Jesus and Christians throughout the ages have been known to get up early and seek God and His will and blessing on their day. Rising earlier, which every fiber of my being hates, to seek God leads to a day focused on Him and His mission. It has been so hard for me to try to embrace this life of discipline in the early morning, but I feel God calling me to closer intimacy with Him through this scheduled intentionality.
Thirdly, spiritual disciplines are first and foremost about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ but will also flow over into my discipleship of others. When we as Christians seek after God through times of spiritual discipline, we should be doing this not on others behalf or to have material to share with others. We should seek God because we want God. Then when we are filled with the Word from our time with God, we then go and share with others. My time with God should be for me first, but it should never stop with me.
Fourthly, disciplines should never be separated from a Biblical theology. Both of the books made points about God in light of spiritual discipline that would go against what I would consider a Biblical theology. One issue that was presented was the use of icons as a spiritual discipline meaning that by staring at an artists rendition of Jesus you can grow more intimate with Him. I think the presenter of this idea means well, but our image of who Jesus is should come from who He has revealed Himself to be through the Word of God. We should make sure that our focus in spiritual disciplines remains on Jesus Christ and nothing else.
My hope and prayer personally is that God would make me a person who is intentional to pursue Him through a lifestyle built with Him as the central focus through employing spiritual disciplines.