These disciplines both require and hone the biblical virtue of Diligence. They’re the perfect accompaniment to a life where we have the vices under control but we’re ordinarily not really as motivated as we should be to invest positively in the ‘engaged’ spiritual life. (This portrait describes most of the ‘Christian’ population.) Elaborating on the disciplines of engagement, the following will help:
Study is structure. It’s not simply reading the Bible and other good information. It’s reflecting and meditating on it. It’s a devoted habitual daily commitment to absorb from sound spiritual resources those kernels of truth which we can grow from, in God. Notionally, we can spend up to ten hours (or more) a week studying.
We worship things we think are worthy of our utter devotion. The Bible tells us that God alone is worthy. We need to worship, but God doesn’t need our worship. We need to worship because we need to meet with him regularly (daily at least). We gain most from our worship when it’s centred on the person of Jesus Christ to the Father.
Celebration & Fellowship
Food, song, dance and fellowship go together. It is good for the like-minded to meet and celebrate the fact of salvation, providence and blessing together. Fellowship like this is a great medicine for the despairing soul in each of us.
Our self-giving service, particularly if it’s in a field of service we love, is a joy to God, others and ourselves. The light of salvation beams through us in our serving. Being servant-hearted is a quality required of all Christian people. It is the heart of the Lord himself. Being servant-hearted is impossible, I think, without a heart after God.
Communion with the Father, through our Lord and Saviour... it’s crucial to beating down the vice foes that plague us. It’s not always necessary to vocalise our prayers. We can pray in our thoughts--so long as they God-centred and God-directed.
The best and most acceptable prayer centres on asking God to help us with personal character issues and relational situations, as well as intercessory prayer for others in need who could do with our petitioning God on their behalf.
When we’re really honest with ourselves we all have many transgressions to confess. This process works paradoxically not to make us guiltier, but to assuage guilt--healing us from it. This is amazing but true. God sweeps through our hearts in an instant when we genuinely confess and initiate repentance.
The key is confession toward heart repentance. Then, and only then, can we become freed from the bondages of this life and the harmed relationships we’re party to. Confession and forgiveness are crucial to good life outcomes.
Gee, do not all the above come from this one... isn’t this the key to the obedient Christian life? Submitting to our God and the heard needs of others rather than to our own desires brings with it life, abundant life.
Like with confession, this principle is explained as a paradox: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” –Matthew 16:25 (TNIV). ‘Losing life’ inevitably means giving others life--this is the gift of God’s grace, love, wisdom and truth wrapped in one. Submission (in love, not fear) can only be done through God.
The structure and some material for the above were drawn from: Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishing, 1988).