Summary: We need to fill our spiritual lives with good things that bring life, the presence of God, and offer opportunities for the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in us.

Filled With Good Things: A Life of Discipline Lent Week 5

March 21, 2010


I hope this morning that I am not going to confuse those of you who have been following closely on our journey through this Lenten season, our time of preparation for Easter. While my main point this morning may seem the opposite of what I have been preaching thus far, it is not contradictory. In fact, it is complimentary, as I trust you will see before we finish.

But before we get there, last Sunday I asked you to think about what God has been doing and teaching you as you have practiced a life of discipline this Lenten season. We’ve been using Dallas Willard’s list of Spiritual disciplines, which I’ll put up on the screen again today, and I’ve challenged us all to find one or two that you could integrate into your daily life – and that is important, the daily practice. It works the same as physical exercise – it has to be a regular part of our life, not just a once-a-year sort of thing, if it is going to make a difference. I’m wondering this morning if a few of you would be willing to share about your experience of the Spiritual disciplines this Lenten season, and the things you’ve been learning or seeing God do in and through you. Volunteers??

The Opposite:

So what did I mean by saying that this morning might feel like a contradiction to the main emphasis of the past several weeks? Well, so far in this series of “A Life of Discipline” we’ve talked mostly about the lack. Last week it was the lack of integration of the various parts of our humanity – body and soul and mind and spirit – and how we tend to ignore that God made us as integrated wholes, God redeems all of us, and that since the body (or the physical) is the container for the rest, there is a strong link between our physical part and the other parts, and that is why the “spiritual” disciplines are so physical in nature. The week before that we talked about the lack of understanding of that for which we are saved – namely that salvation is not “we are saved from our sins so we can go to heaven when we die” but instead, salvation means we get to find out what it really means to live starting NOW and for eternity. The couple of weeks before that we were challenged with our lack of spiritual “fitness”, in contrast with the physical fitness of the Olympians we were thoroughly enamoured with, talking about how many Christians fail to live an obedient, holy life, and many don’t even really try. The spiritual disciplines help us chart a way out of those places where things are lacking, they spur us on towards godly living, and they train us so that we are in shape and can live the life that God intends us to live.

Now, even though each week we’ve looked at a list with both disciplines of abstinence and disciplines of engagement, most of us still associate “disciplines” with “difficult”, with “punishment”, with “denial” of self or pleasure – most of us associate Lent with “giving up” something. And there is an important place for that – half of the list of disciplines are entirely focused on what we give up, and how those things form us spiritually.

However, just like with the physical body, there are two complementary sides: our physical health is almost entirely determined by two things – what we take in (food) and what we burn (activity). So also with our spiritual lives – what we give up is important, but so also is what we put in. These are the disciplines of engagement – the good things that fill our lives, that bring life, the presence of God, the opportunities for the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in our lives, and that train us in godly living by enabling us to experience so many amazing things that the other things – sins – absolutely pale in comparison. Let me illustrate with Scripture.

The Kingdom of God: Lk 15:11-32

“11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

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