One of the challenges I’m giving to the people who are a part of Crossroads Church is to read, on a schedule, Philip Nation’s book, Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out. Many books that deal with the spiritual disciplines are dense, almost academic in nature, and so focus on the inner life that it is difficult to see how they have a direct effect on those around us, especially the church.
One thing I love about Nation’s approach is that he believes the spiritual disciplines are for the benefit of the Body of Christ, not just for one’s personal benefit. When we practice spiritual discipline it builds up the church and inevitably propels us outside of ourselves and into the world that needs to see the Gospel being lived out.
As Nation introduces his book, he mentions the beauty of what might be in our lives if we longed for the King more than we longed for the King’s treasures. This is a convicting thought for me. Too often, I simply want God to provide for every deficit in my life (they exists by the thousands), instead of wanting to know and be with God.
Consider Nation’s statement that “love is the central discipline of the Christian life.” When I thought about that, Jesus’ response to the question of what is the greatest commandment came to mind. “Love God.” Then He adds, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
So, let’s take that as our approach to this study and practice of the spiritual disciplines — that we do these things because we want to love God supremely and we want to love people with more depth and meaning than we are currently doing.
Philip Nation defines spiritual discipline in this way: “…a mental and a physical act and a habit that expresses our love for God and fosters a greater display of His Glory in our lives and a deeper understanding of His character and agenda.”
I really appreciated his statement that the spiritual disciplines are not ends in themselves, but tools in God’s hands that He uses to shape our lives.
As I am beginning my Sabbatical and as you are beginning to read this book, can we commit to praying for one another and the development of habits that become such a natural part of our lives that one day we will look back and will not be able to imagine that we ever failed to do those things regularly. Personally, over the next 4 months, I will be focusing on both spiritual and physical habits.
Paul said to Timothy, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” [1 Timothy 4:7-8]