Most followers of Jesus could list practices that are essential to knowing Jesus better and becoming more like Him: reading Scripture, spending time in prayer, fasting, and others. But what should we call them? And what is their purpose? Author Tim Chester, in his book, How Can Change, puts it like this:
Some people call them “spiritual disciplines.” But I believe this is unhelpful terminology. It can make Christian growth seem like an achievement on our part. In reality, it’s God who changes us through His grace. The only true spiritual disciplines in the Christian life are faith and repentance, actions that direct our attention to God’s gracious activity. So instead I prefer the traditional term: “the means of grace.” These are ways in which God is gracious to us and by which He strengthens His work of grace in our hearts. They are the means God uses to feed our faith in Him (p. 153).
Calling these practices “disciplines” probably isn’t the best idea, even though we certainly must buckle down and do them. Psalm 1 speaks of one who delights in, and meditates on, God’s word as “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” This person’s roots go down deep, where the ground waters flow, and his tree sprouts green leaves and bears succulent fruit. He’s tapped into God’s grace. His life is rooted. This is a picture of how we should view these practices, as means of tapping into the waters of life.
And through these practices, we know our Lord better. We come to see His person as increasingly glorious to us. We find our identity more and more in His great gospel work. And through that, we image His life and we produce fruit that brings glory to Him.
In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul writes, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We don’t work to earn our salvation. We just labor to see its implications pervade our lives. But even then, it’s still by grace. We aren’t saved by grace and then grown by works. Rather, through these ancient practices that are just as relevant today, we connect our hearts to the Lord of grace and allow His glory to flow into our lives. Karis, let’s get rooted together this summer.