I love paradoxes — statements that seem contradictory but in reality, express a truth. Christianity is filled with paradoxes. We are chosen and free. We reign by serving. We are raised up when we humble ourselves.
One of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith is that you are simultaneously called to become more like Jesus and more like your true self — the you God created you to be. This process of becoming more like Jesus and more like your true self is called sanctification.Sanctification is the process of becoming like Jesus and like your true self. Click To Tweet
You are sanctified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But that doesn’t mean that you sit by passively and wait for sanctification to take place. You play an active role in your sanctification.
You cannot make sanctification happen. But you can position your life so that God has fertile soil in which to sanctify you. How do you create this fertile soil? Through spiritual disciplines.
The Misnomer of “Spiritual Disciplines”
You are probably familiar with some of the most well-known spiritual disciplines — Bible reading, prayer, solitude, gratitude. But there are dozens of spiritual disciplines that have been identified over the course of church history.
But “spiritual discipline” is a misnomer in two ways.
1. The word “discipline” connotes that the action is miserable. “Discipline” reminds me of something that my parents did to me when I misbehaved.
Some spiritual disciplines can be miserable — how many people LOVE to fast?
But they don’t have to be miserable. Some spiritual disciplines will spark delight in you. That’s why I like to think of spiritual disciplines as “habits.”
2. A spiritual discipline is very bodily. They are bodily habits that you practice to create space for God to transform your heart and life.
For example, reading your Bible is a bodily habit. You use your eyes to read, your lips to speak it, your ears to hear it, and maybe even your hands to highlight it.
But this bodily habit leads to spiritual transformation. You think the thoughts of God. You recognize more clearly when God is at work. A “spiritual” discipline is actually very “bodily.”A spiritual discipline is actually very bodily. You must use your body to do it. Click To Tweet
God uses spiritual disciplines to indirectly attack the areas of transformation that you need. You work with God to transform your heart by transforming your habits. You work with God to transform your soul by transforming what your body does.
The Hard Work of Spiritual Disciplines
Christians love stories of immediate transformation — an alcoholic comes to Christ and hasn’t craved a drop for 20 years.
But I’ve come to love the stories that we don’t tell as often. A guy has been an alcoholic for 20 years and comes to know Jesus. He spent another 20 years walking with Jesus and battling against his addiction. And now he’s free from his addiction.
I love these stories because they are more common but less featured. They capture the call of Jesus to follow after Him and become like Him. They also capture the reality that transformation doesn’t always happen immediately.
Making Every Effort
Peter captures this reality beautifully in his second epistle. He captures it in a paradox. In 2 Peter 1:3, he says, “God’s divine power has bestowed on us everything we need to live a godly life.” The moment you come to Christ, you have everything you need to live a godly life! Transformation is possible immediately.
But 2 verses later, Peter says, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love” (2 Pet. 1:5-7).
Peter calls you to embrace God’s divine power that gives you everything necessary to live a godly life. He simultaneously calls you to make every effort to supplement your faith. That’s a beautiful paradox.God gives you everything you need to live a godly life and calls you to make every effort. Click To Tweet
Spiritual disciplines create an environment in which God is more likely to choose to work in and through you. But spiritual disciplines take hard work.
As a follower of Christ, you will have a longing for sanctification. A longing to be transformed into Christ’s likeness and to become your true self.
Spiritual disciplines create fertile soil in which God is more likely to bring about that transformation. Walk with God to discover the spiritual discipline(s) He’s calling you to practice now.
One of my favorite tools to discover the “right” spiritual discipline(s) for you at this time in your life is Adele Calhoun’s Handbook to Spiritual Disciplines. If you need help discovering which spiritual discipline(s) is right for you at this time in your life, check out Adele Calhoun’s The Handbook of Spiritual Disciplines.
Question: What spiritual discipline has God used in the past to bring about transformation?