Summary: In order to get into better spiritual shape we need to apply certain spiritual disciple. Paul said that working hard does not earn us our salvation; instead it demonstrates our salvation.
A Life of Discipline, week 2: Lent 2010
Feb 28, 2010
Welcome this morning to the second Sunday in Lent, which is the season of preparation for Easter. I’ve decided to theme our Lenten Journey this year along the lines of “a disciplined life”, recognizing that God calls us to “Work hard to show the results of your salvation” (Phil 2:12), and also recognizing that for many Christians today our spiritual lives are woefully out of shape. Last Sunday, I went to great lengths to remind us that any talk of “effort” on our part is NOT to earn our salvation, it is not to try to win favour with God, and it is not motivated by fear of rejection by God if we don’t behave “good enough”. I like how Paul put it there in Phil. 2:12, especially the NLT – our effort (or “work”) does not earn but rather demonstrates our salvation.
I concluded last week with a call to try out two specific spiritual disciplines – solitude and study. So I want to begin this morning with an opportunity to hear how those went for you. Anyone care to share??
I’m not going to launch in with “the next discipline to try”, though I will give another assignment at the end of this message, because “trying them out” is not really the point. If we use the physical body as an example, as we have the past couple of weeks, the point is not to “try out” a bunch of different types of exercises once, and expect that to do much for our physical health. The point is that we intentionally build our way of living daily so it includes these disciplines. This is what it means to be a “disciple” of Jesus – we live like Jesus did. Every day, not once a week. Again in the physical realm, we all recognize that we can’t eat nothing but junk food all week, then have one good meal and a 30 minutes stroll through the park, and expect to be physically healthy. So I’m thrilled if you gave solitude and study a try, it is a good start! but I also have to say that in order for them to really impact our lives we have to find a way to build these practices into our lives regularly, so that spiritually we can stay in shape.
In my life, solitude is important to me on a daily basis. I need space to be alone with my thoughts and with God, I need time alone where I can allow thoughts and feelings to churn around in me, when I can have ideas and follow them through in my mind and heart, and where I can allow the presence of God to be with me guiding and joining me on that daily journey. I practice this when I drive. I don’t have the radio on, I am usually by myself, and I choose to use that time as solitude. And no, that’s not cheating! I could listen to music, or talk radio, and thus not be alone, instead I use that time to center myself in Christ either on the way to work or on the way home, to prepare myself for the things ahead at work or the things ahead at home. My great hope is that if I am centered and have had this time of solitude, I’ll have something to offer those people I encounter. I know my life is in balance when, on my day off, if I’m driving around to pick up Thomas after school or for groceries and I feel like turning on the radio – that is an indicator to me that my heart and mind are relatively at peace. So then I do. I tell that story simply to illustrate how these disciplines have to be incorporated into our daily life, and encourage you to find places where you can incorporate these practices into your daily life.
To continue our exploration of this Lenten theme of a disciplined life, I’ve been struggling with the realization that something is missing. You see, I believe very strongly in the “Great Commission”, where Jesus calls His disciples to Him just before rising into heaven and gives them this famous instruction (Matt. 28): “18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I want to hone in on the command to “make disciples”, and the command to “teach these new disciples to obey.” And here is where I see something missing: we’ve taught what the commands are, yet Christians still seem to often break them. Maybe not you, but I see that in me. And lest I start to console myself and think “well, I keep most of them, especially all the big important ones like not murdering…”, I need to look again and be reminded that Jesus said “ALL the commands”. Somewhere there is a breakdown; somewhere, something is missing.