As Christians, we are called to pursue godliness and become more like Christ. The Bible shows believers how we are to do this through spiritual disciplines.
What are spiritual disciplines? Spiritual disciplines are practices that God has ordained that help us to be trained for godliness. Some examples of spiritual disciplines are Scripture meditation, prayer, rest, stewardship, worship, service, and Biblical study. Dr. Whitney wrote, “No Christian coasts into Christlikeness.” Godliness requires training or “spiritual discipline.” Christian spirituality is important because it is a life lived in response to the gospel.
Paul gives us many examples as to why this matters, and what disciplines we can practice today to pursue godliness.
Spiritual Disiplines Definition
Spiritual disciplines are what help you grow as a Christian. It’s what helps us become more like Christ, by pursuing godliness.
The spiritual disciplines are those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are habits of devotion, habits of experiential Christianity that have been practiced by God’s people since biblical times.Don Whitney
Paul the Apostle’s Transformation
Paul the apostle in the Bible, was totally transformed by God. His name actually used to be Saul who persecuted Christians. But God stopped him dead in his tracks and showed up to him (Acts 9:3-17).
Jesus showed up in a light bright from heaven blinding Paul or Saul who he was first named. The voice of Jesus spoke directly to him, saying “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Can you image hearing that from this powerful voice who blinded you? I would be so fearful.
Jesus then told him to go to a city where he didn’t eat or drink for 3 days while without sight.
He stayed with what the Bible says was a “devout man” according to all the law and Jews who lived there.
The Lord spoke through this Jewish man, who prophesied over Paul saying that he will be a witness for Christ and must rise right away to do His will.
Within the course of a few days, Paul’s life went in a 180 direction. He went from persecuting Christians to being baptized and having his sins forgiven.
Paul ended up writing 7 letters in the New Testament Scriptures dedicated to other Christians and how to pursue godly living glorify to Christ as a witness for Him.
In his letters, Paul discusses his prayer for the Christians there, which highlights insight into the mysteries of the faith. A part of that would be to be transformed by the Word of God (Romans 12:2).
Paul would talk about all the main means of grace throughout his letters: hearing and preaching, prayer, fellowship, and life of service to God.
To learn more about the life and theology of Paul click here. Ligonier ministries offer a course on the life of Paul and the first lecture is free to listen to if you’re interested.
Paul was transformed by God in the course of a moment, and he chose to continue to be transformed by God all throughout the rest of his life.
Life was not easy for Paul, he ended up being persecuted one day himself. Throughout all of his time as a witness for Christ, he faced many challenges. But because of his dedication, he was able to develop godly habits or disciplines that helped him in times of trials and persecution.
Below I will share some of the disciplines Paul did to grow in Christ. I will also share some of what Jesus did while he was on Earth to connect with the Father.
Examples of Spiritual Disciplines
The first spiritual discipline I will mention is Scripture meditation. The Bible says many times that we are to renew our mind and draw closer to God, by meditating on His Word.
1). Scripture Meditation
From the beginning of the Old Testament, God wanted us to go to Scripture to meditate on.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous.”Joshua 1:8
We are not to just read the Word of God; we are to focus on it, and do as it says.
Reading the Bible was never intended to be the primary means of absorbing the Bible. Reading is the starting place, but meditation is the absorption of Scripture. And it is the absorption of Scripture that leads to the experiences with God and the changes in our lives that we seek when we come to the Bible.Donald Whitney from Ligonier Ministries
Renewing Your Mind
In Romans, Paul talks much about the importance of having our minds renewed. God calls His people to be transformed by the renewing of their minds.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:2
This is a daily pursuit. Philippians 4:8 says we must be thinking about what is pure, what is true, and what is honorable in the Lord’s sight.
This starts with our minds and training our thoughts to think about things that are above.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he meditates day and night.Psalm 1:2
There are many ways you can meditate on the text of Scripture to pursue this spiritual discipline.
Practical Steps You Can Take
While reading through Scripture, if a verse or passage stands out to you, highlight it and rewrite that passage in a notebook. Come back to that passage of Scripture and meditate on it.
Ligonier Ministries gave a few examples in their posts on how to meditate on Scripture.
Some of their examples were to:
- Repeat the verse or phrase with emphasis on a different word each time.
- Rewrite the verse or phrase in your own words
- Look for applications of the text, formulating a principle from it, asking what question is answered or problem is solved by it
- Pray through the text, and more.
- Another simple method is to select something from your reading and ask, “How does this text relate to the gospel and to Jesus?”
If you spend just 60 seconds meditating on a verse of Scripture, that is actually 10 to 20 times as long as most would normally consider that verse.
Reserve a few extra minutes in your Bible reading time today, choose a verse, and ask, “How does this text relate to the gospel and to Jesus?”
We are to be constantly reminded of the gospel message woven throughout all of Scripture. And we must remember as humans, we aren’t designed to live by only having our physical needs met.
Matthew 4:4 says,
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Meditating on Scripture, means letting it soak inside you, and resonate within you.
Through the Word of God, Jesus will renew and strengthen you; he will be your spiritual feeding that we all need.
Through Jesus, we are able to call upon God as our Lord and Father. We are given the privilege and responsibility of communicating with the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.
As the bride of Christ, we know that God wants us to approach Him with our needs and with our petitions for the sake of the kingdom.
Think about our earthly relationships. In order to have a good relationship with anyone, we need to be in good communication with the other person. It is a two-way thing.
How much more does a blessed relationship with our Lord depend on speaking with Him on a regular basis?
How Should We Pray?
In A Simple Way to Pray, Martin Luther suggests that “Christians pray through the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, using each line as a springboard for adoring God, confessing sin, expressing gratitude, and pouring forth supplications.”
By going back to Scripture, and what the Lord has shown us when it comes to loving Him, obeying His commandments, and looking at Jesus’ model prayer, we can use those tools to help keep our minds focused on the things our Father is most concerned about.
Sometimes Christians can be afraid to bring up their sins when talking to God. The Bible says when we mess up we should go to God, recognize what we have done, and confess our sins before Him.
The purpose of this isn’t to bring shame to ourselves and sit in guilt, but let the Lord discipline, correct, and re-guide us; it is for teaching purposes.
Ligonier Ministries provides a few ways to pray:
- Take some time today to pray through the Ten Commandments. Take each one and confess how you have violated that particular law.
- Worship Him for the perfection of His character revealed in each commandment.
- Thank Him for enabling you by the Spirit to be faithful to His Law and ask for His kingdom to come so that all may love and obey Him.
- Make it your aim to pray to our heavenly Father without ceasing.
- Then, bring your request to God
- Pray for others and the persecuted church.
God wants to show us many things not just about ourselves, but about how holy God is. When we have committed sin against God, it will be much harder to hear from the Lord when He is trying to speak to us. So confess your sins.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9
God promises He will forgive, and teach us many things in the process.
You can learn more prayer methods here.
To keep God at the center of one’s life requires frequent renewal of power through prayer.Georgia Harkness
From the beginning of creation, God set apart a day of rest (Genesis 2:2). Rest has always been needed for humans since the beginning of time, to take a day set apart from the other days of the week.
Since the fall, Adam and Eve forsook God’s provision of rest, and us humans have been looking for it ever since.
The whole Bible led up to the promises of Jesus who would bring rest for our souls.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soulsMatthew 11:28
It is important to take some time for physical rest as well as spiritual rest only found in Jesus who offers it to us eternally.
The problem is we are often so busy without own schedules that we don’t take the time to get rid of distractions and be still before God.
Check out this post to learn more about rest.
Be Still Before God
We cannot know God without quiet. Every Christian wants to know God more; few Christians seek the silence that this requires.
Although our Savior says, “Be still and know that I am God,” we often spend our days with much noise.
Everywhere we turn, notifications and reminders go off, taking our attention.
As Christians, rest needs to be a discipline that we don’t often talk about. It takes continuous effort to silence distractions, and come still before God.
How to Silence Distractions
If one is experiencing their own personal reasons as why they feel they can’t come before God because of shame or guilt, we must remember by bringing it into the light is when Jesus can give you grace and peace.
Jesus’ blood makes you whiter than snow and make your conscience quieter than the morning dew.
Practical steps you can take to help limit distractions:
- Practice doing with less than usual; practice not buying even when you can afford it.
- Evaluate what is actually important in your schedule and let some things go if you can.
- If you are feeling anxiety, don’t run from God, come to God even if you feel you can’t settle your anxious thoughts, don’t feel you have to. Practice sitting before Jesus for just a few minutes each time.
- Silence your phone and the media. Practice turning it off everyday at 8pm or chose a day of the week where you go without for the entire day.
God knows, cares, and will meet your needs. Mute your “what ifs” at the feet of Jesus.
We must not let technology, and distractions of this world, or our own feelings, affect our ability to hear God. We must do our part of coming to Jesus, and He will calm our anxieties, and give us rest.
If you have to wake up before the sun comes up to get quiet, do that. Or if you have to drive somewhere like a park to get away, do that.
Even Jesus went away to pray and rest. It is something we have to develop as our spiritual discipline.
The Apostle Paul mentions we are to give ourselves to God as living sacrifices. This means we are to give our time, our energy, and our very selves to Him as acts of worship and gratitude.
Everything we have, and everything we do, we must be good stewards of. This includes not just our things, but our roles as human beings.
God is the author of all things, the Creator of all things, and the owner of all things. Whatever God makes, He owns. What we own, we own as stewards who have been given gifts from God Himself.
The word that is translated “stewardship” from Greek means “house law” or “house rule.” In the ancient culture, the steward was not the owner of the house. Rather, he was hired by the owner to manage his house affairs. It was his job to make sure everything was taken care of.
Biblical stewardship is responsibility for managing or allocating resources that do not belong to us, but belong to God.
How to be a Good Steward
The first steps of being a good steward is:
- Recognize all the roles that you play. Write them down.
For example, mine is: teacher, student, writer, babysitter, daughter, sibling, friend, roommate, child of God/disciple of Jesus, Great Dane dog owner, human being (had to throw in the Great Dane dog owner because they are the best dog bread…)
- Ask the question, “How am I stewarding these things?” I would encourage you to make a map with all that you are, and how you can better steward each role that you have.
If you are overwhelmed with everything you do have, or all the roles you do play…
- Try to limit what you have or what you are doing. If we are trying to manage too much, we might not be able to do our best in everything and will end up slacking with the weight of everything feeling like it is on us.
Or know that it is just the season you are in right now and…
- Ask yourself where your strength is coming from.
Good stewardship is a discipline, as well as asking Jesus to give us strength to do our best in the roles we play. He will provide you supernatural strength, as well as the grace you need in that season.
A spiritual discipline to develop is to worship; and to have a spirit of worship.
What is worship? We can look for guidance from the Bible to see how we are to worship God. The Bible has given key principles that reveal what is pleasing to Him in worship.
Worship in Spirit & in Truth
The Bible says we must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.John 4:24
The Bible says we are to bow down before Him.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!Psalm 95:6
Our spiritual worship if offering ourselves a living sacrifice everyday to God.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Romans 12:1
We are to continuously be offering up praise and acknowledging the name of Jesus.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.Hebrews 13:5
We are to not have any idols, and only worship the true God.
And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”Luke 4:8
This includes serving others before God. Spiritual worship is putting time with God first, above time with others.
If you are in a hard season and find it difficult to worship, read this post.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus told His disciples that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but rather to serve.
We are to be like Christ, and the Bible says we are also called to serve one another. Human’s nature instincts is to serve one’s self before others, but the Bible says to lay your life down.
Serving other’s over ourselves does not come naturally; it is something we must practice and develop as a discipline to love others well.
How to Serve
God calls us to love God, by serving Him. We are to keep His commandments and…
- Knowing & using your talents and gifts for edifying and building up the church
- Loving others well
- Being there for your family and friends by checking in
- If you see a need, do it
- Don’t tell the world you’re serving, do it for God
Jesus commands all of us to exercise our gifts in the church, and develop our ministry skills for the purpose of glorying God through serving His church (Ephesians 4:11-14).
Let us obey this call and be active, faithful servants.
7). Bible Study
Maturing in Christ does not require an extraordinary amount of skill or knowledge. It is the regular use of what God provides for us to use to grow. This includes the study of Scripture.
We cannot imitate God properly if we have a false understanding of who He is and what He loves. The Bible must be our source of wisdom. We should not judge the Word of God, but let it judge us as we recognize the fear of the Lord and His Word the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).
Paul explains that Scripture is the tool God uses to make us “wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
How to Study the Bible
Start by reading the Bible reverently, asking the Spirit to apply it to our lives. Ligonier Ministries gives us tips on how study the Bible:
- We are not to be passive in our study. Paul tells us that we are to study in order that we might be reckoned as those who have God’s approval to handle and communicate His revelation (2 Timothy 2:15).
- We must work to understand God’s Word, meditating on it and thinking carefully about what it means and how we are to live out its commands.
- Private study is key, of course, but we are not to examine the Bible exclusively by ourselves.
- We must study with the church of God, examining the insights of past thinkers and regularly sitting under the preaching and teaching of our local churches.
Why It’s Important to Develop Spiritual Disciplines
The Bible makes it clear that we are to grow in Christ.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.2 Peter 3:18a
Being consistent and progressive in spiritual disciplines is to be the goal of every Christian.
As we practice these disciplines described in the Word of God, the Holy Spirit moves us to submit to God’s will.
Developing these practices now, begins to root us in the promises of God so we won’t be shaken when temptations or difficulties do come up.
The ultimate goal of every Christian is to glorify God and we can do that by being renewed and strengthened by Him.