God loves the world and the people in it (John 3:16). It is His desire that as many as possible be saved and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior (1 Timothy 2:4). But once saved, many people go no further in their Christian walk. There are benefits to walking close to an all-powerful God. His perfect benevolence toward us will be expressed in love, kindness, and gentle care for those who sacrifice time and attention to deepen their relationship with God.
Believers can strengthen their relationship with God through spiritual disciplines. These disciplines are not an anomaly or a phenomenon. They are relational practices that connect us in loving and deep ways to God. The practice of these disciplines will also result in the transformation of our hearts and lives so that we develop a biblical worldview, seeing the world through the lens of the Bible. Our actions and thoughts will grow over time to be the actions and thoughts of the One we follow, Jesus Christ.
Called to Be Christlike
God has “predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). Conforming to the image of God’s Son means God has called us to be like Jesus. This transformation does not happen instantly when we are saved nor does it occur automatically. Spiritual transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit in us (Titus 3:4-7) as we practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, meditation, and so forth.
The practice of spiritual disciplines is easier said than done. The busyness of our lives leaves little room for intentional spiritual growth. It requires a slice of precious time and a dose of energy to exponentially grow to be like Christ. Our efforts to grow spiritually should not be seen as a seasonal undertaking but as a lifelong commitment. Therefore, from the outset, or from where we are at this moment, we must establish Christian principles that will undergird and strengthen our resolve to become like Christ. Consider beginning with the following two principles and adding others later as the Spirit leads.
First, the Word of God must be of utmost importance. Therefore, a commitment to abide by the will of God, written within the Bible, for all and throughout all of life should be embraced with heartfelt fervor. There should be no other resource on which dependence has been placed for directions and decisions on life.
Second, your walk with God must be a matter of the heart. Head knowledge about the things of God will not take you far enough. Therefore, a stalwart commitment to deeply love and honor God should drive your soul. A believer with a half-hearted commitment will soon grow weary or, at best, practice spiritual disciplines haphazardly.
Spiritual Discipline Practice
The practice of spiritual disciplines for personal spiritual growth includes Bible study, prayer, meditation, and fasting. These are referred to as inward disciplines. Outward practices are service, solitude, submission, and simplicity, while corporate practices are worship, celebration, confession, and guidance. There are various other names for spiritual disciplines and different ways they have been grouped. The essential mark in all of them is they produce the same benefit: spiritual growth and a deeper relationship with God.
The four inward disciplines will be highlighted here:
Bible study as a discipline allows Christians to know God and His ways so we can commune with Him. The more we know God, the more our lives and our thinking changes. David said, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105). Bible study enlarges the mind and the heart, making it possible for us to trust God’s will for our lives.
Tip: Approach the Bible with humility. Consider reading the short books first, asking God to reveal truths to you. Use different colored highlighters and search for reoccurring words, themes, book structure, etc. Have commentaries at your disposal for historical context.
Prayer as a discipline opens a line of communication with the God who created the universe. The Bible tells us, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Nothing is impossible when believers pray in faith.
Tip: Listen more than you talk. God is not a wish-granter; He is a relational God who wants to commune with you. Use a prayer journal to keep you focused. Don’t rush. This is valuable time that will add quality and depth to your life, more than the other disciplines.
Meditation as a discipline provides benefits for believers that cannot be received by any other means. The Bible promises, “You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you” (Isaiah 26:3). With God we can know perfect peace no matter what is going on around us.
Tip: Focus meditation on God, His Word, and His works in your life. Slow down and feel the weight of what you are meditating on. It’s beneficial to meditate when you first wake up in the mornings. Your mind is fresh and open to God.
Fasting as a discipline frees us to focus our attention squarely on God. There can be great benefits to a godly fast. Isaiah said, “Isn’t this the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6)
Tip: Many Christians give up meals, but some remove television, social media, and other distractions as a fast. The key to a successful spiritual fast is to spend time with God to replace what you have given up.
As you practice spiritual disciplines, day by day the eyes of your understanding will be enlightened (Ephesians 1:18). Plus, we have received this promise from God: “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). One day, we will look like Christ.