Our church just began a study on Spiritual Disciplines that will take place in our adult Bible Study classes over the span of 12 weeks. So, as I had the opportunity to preach 2 Sundays ago (on the first Sunday of this study), I decided to put forth a challenge as to why people should make a priority to be here for the study, as well as why they should strive to implement the practice of these spiritual disciplines in their lifestyles. You can listen to that sermon HERE, if you would like. Simply click on the link for the sermon for March 2nd. Anyway, I laid out 10 areas of our spiritual lives in which the practice of spiritual disciplines is vital in order for growth to take place. Spiritual disciplines are essential in the areas of…
1. …pursuing holiness
2. …yielding eternal benefits
3. …experiencing the abiding presence of Christ
4. …achieving sustained growth
5. …developing confidence in our walk with Christ
6. …gaining clarity in our call
7. …developing a strong defense
8. …having a maximum effectiveness
9. …enhancing our worship and adoration
10. …seeking true obedience to God
In speaking with someone about the message during the following week, I was reminded of a commercial that I have begun to see on TV, which causes me to just shake my head in disbelief. It is a commercial for some new and improved weight loss system. Several times in the 30-second, or so spot, the ad claims that one can “eat as much as you want and still lose weight!” I realized that with just about every commercial having to do with weight loss, the idea, or the hook, so to speak, is to make the viewer believe that they can lose weight without having to make any, or as few as possible, lifestyle changes. The problem is, common sense should tell anyone that losing weight will only happen as a result of change and of discipline, which are two things that most people are just simply not interested in at all. Hence, the hook’s effectiveness.
As I was reminded of this, I began to realize that we have bought into this hook spiritually. I am convinced that a majority of Christians are under the delusion that they will grow spiritually while still being able to belly up to the world’s buffet and “eat as much as they want and still become holy!” However, just as much as that is a lie with losing weight, it is even more so with the process of sanctification. The fact is, changes must be made. I have said so many times that if we are not changing, we are not becoming more like Jesus. Not only do changes must be made, we must cultivate discipline in our lives and lifestyles. But sadly, as it is with physical fitness and nutrition, most people are just not interested in those things.
God has called us to be set apart, and to undergo this journey of sanctification. “For He has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thess. 4:7) And this process of sanctification involves us in an active pursuit of Him and His holiness. 1 John 3:3 tells us that everyone who has the hope that is spoken of in verse 2 then purifies himself because of that hope. The verb purifies is in a tense that portrays continuous action, which means it is a lifestyle verb, not an occasional practice, or a twice a week only while I’m at church practice. It also portrays us as being actively involved in the process. Now, of course, we cannot purify ourselves. Only God can transform us into the image of Christ. But, what we must do is pursue Him and make ourselves available for that transformation to take place. This will involve turning away from worldly practices and desires. As we become more and more disciplined, our hearts become more and more surrendered. And, as at the heart of the Greatest Commandment, He becomes more and more the center, or the essence, of who I am. Only then does He begin to naturally play out in my thoughts, actions and emotions. Only then am I able to be authentic to the poeple around me for the sake of the Kingdom.
Never buy in to the lie that sanctification is an easy process, that will just occur because you said a prayer once. Sanctification is a slow, life-long process, of which we will never fully complete while we are on this earth. It will only occur through change, and it will only occur through discipline and fervent practice. As with weight loss, there is no magic pill!