Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Spiritual Discipline and Personal Growth

Occasionally, the idea will be presented that Spiritual Discipline is not a big deal. Arguers will say that grace from God is the only thing that can save people and that following a set of "rules" will not help to redeem souls. These arguers are right, however they seem to miss the point of Spiritual Disciplines. Grace is all that can save sinners from death, but, as contended by Dave Wilson, Spiritual Disciplines allow those redeemed by grace to experience God's grace instead of just receive it. But, how does someone experience God's grace through Spiritual Disciplines, and do practices in Spiritual Discipline lead to Personal Growth? First, let's look at 4 staples of Spiritual Discipline as highlighted here. --

The first practice is silence and solitude. As shown in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. In Mark 1, Jesus went off to be alone and to pray. In Jesus' times of solitude he was able to find direction for his ministry.

The second staple is Bible Study. Through Bible Study one can learn God's truths and learn their place in Christ through salvation. Bible Study can increase one's confidence in God, which leads to hope in what they are doing with the knowledge of victory over sin, which in turn leads to an increase in one's overall confidence.

The third staple is simplicity. American culture has become overrun with distractions and piles of stuff. Everyone wants stuff. Living simplistically helps one remove distractions, learn to say no (to avoid burnout and stress, and maintain a positive attitude), focus on spiritual truths, develop talents, and create a healthy baseline for living.

The final staple is memorizing scripture. Scripture memorization helps one conform to Christ, triumph over daily sins, triumph over Satan, comfort and counsel loved ones, communicate the gospel to unbelievers, and communicate with God.

These Spiritual Disciplines allow one to experience God's grace by allowing them to see what they have been redeemed from, how Biblical truths are still active in the world, and how to emulate Christlikeness in daily living.

Personal Growth is characterized by a certain set of feelings, activities, and autonomy. These things include understanding oneself, improving awareness, having a positive attitude, having belief in oneself and one's potential, developing skills, setting goals, and learning to begin tasks with the end in mind. Based on what has been found in the four staples of Spiritual Discipline, a comparison can be made to see how Spiritual Discipline plays into Personal Growth. Understanding oneself is found within Bible Study - a person can learn their origin, morals, values, and the status of their spiritual state through Bible Study. Improving awareness is shown in scripture memorization. Through memorizing scripture one can gain a bigger picture of their surroundings and better combat the sin that they face everyday. Having a positive attitude is shown in silence and solitude. People need downtime to recharge and rest - and it has become common knowledge that proper rest can lead to a more positive attitude. Having belief in oneself and one's potential is found in Bible study and scripture memorization. The caveat here, however, is that belief in oneself needs to be changed to belief in oneself by the power of God. But, confidence, and belief in one's abilities can be found in scripture by reading of spiritual victories and life victories with God's help. Development of skills can be found in silence and solitude. Silence and solitude gives a believer the opportunity to find their direction and then development the talents and skills to go down the road on this direction. Setting goals also occurs in silence and solitude and finding one's direction - through understanding what direction to take a believer can then develop goals to attain. Having the end in mind at the beginning of any task comes from culminating these four staples together and understanding that the battle against sin has already been won - it is just up to the believer to understand this fact and find their part in God's big picture.

The overarching purpose of Spiritual Discipline is to live with Christlikeness. This is a simple standard by which most believers would agree. Personal growth, however, takes many different shapes and forms. For this post I cited a "self-help" website of sorts thats highlights some key area of personal growth, but they are by no means all inclusive or universally agreed upon. So, the question is: what constitutes personal growth? Growth towards what? A simple answer would include working towards being all that you can be. A believer would add "in Christ" to the end of that sentiment. Even still, what is being all that you can? Emulating perfection? In order to be all that we can be we feel as if we need to be perfect, or at least close to it. This is not necessarily true but it paints a picture of the ideals surrounding personal growth which is highlighted by consistent, non-neurotic, and positive living. Humans are created in God's image and Spiritual Discipline is about achieving Christlikeness (Christ is God, and Christ was perfect). So, through Spiritual Discipline, in essence, believers are attempting to be what they were created to be before the Fall - which is "all that they can be." Based on these notions, I would argue that practicing Spiritual Disciplines not only affects personal growth, but it IS personal growth. Both strive after our perfect selves and both hit on the same key areas for maturation.

1 comment:

  1. Jason,
    I enjoyed reading your blog post. I appreciate your questioning of what it means to "be all that you can be" (sounds like the Army). It made me start thinking about our class discussion and how we talked a little about being "all we were meant to be." For me, the spiritual disciplines are taking on a whole new meaning as realignment tools for bringing me back to the Image of God. I used to look at them as a checklist of Christianity but now I see them more as tools God has given me to use by His strength and working to be restored into who I am "meant to be." It's always been difficult for me to balance on the beam that has legalism to the left and freedom to the right---to truly use the disciplines to know and grow in Christ rather than about and as a show for Christ. Thanks for your insight into the disciplines. :-)


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