I'm not going to lie, one of my least favorite topics to talk about is spiritual disciplines. I think one of the main reasons for this is that I use to have a completely twisted view on them. Since I have been preaching this total grace gospel for a while, a lot of conversations relating to spiritual disciplines have come up so I decided I better write about it.
I recently was talking to a girl who asked me, "So you're saying I don't HAVE TO read my bible." I explained to her that "No, you don't HAVE to do anything. If you never opened your bible again for the rest of your life, God would still love just as much. Since you are in Christ, there is nothing that you can do to make Him love you any less or any more. You are completely accepted, loved, holy, blameless, pure, spotless, etc." She went on to tell me how she would always feel guilty if she missed a day and felt as if she would have to read twice as much the second day. She felt like God wouldn't use her as much if she had not been in her Word. Those are all lies from the enemy but the thing was, I could relate to her. I have been there. I thought a "good christian" had to read her bible, pray, be involved in a local church, be obedient to God's commandments, share the gospel regularly, be involved in discipleship, and the list goes on. I realized that I had been operating in the religious spirit, believing that in these things, I would find life and joy.
Often people who talk about religious spirit, or legalism, talk about any type of consistent behavior. A behavior that we do regularly even when we don't FEEL like doing it is called legalism. That is completely NOT TRUE! I believe that those people want to live a fleshly lifestyle and feel good doing it.
I believe what makes a discipline legalism is the motive in which you do it. I was watching a movie recently and one of the pastors said that if you say "No" to certain things and "Yes" to other things that are disciplines and you do it BECAUSE YOU ARE LOVED it is called grace. If you are doing it to earn love, it's called legalism.
If you have certain disciplines in your life that you live by, whether you feel like it or not and you do it because God loves you and you are grateful for the inspiration to do it instead of being critical of those who don't do it, you are moved by grace. It you are critical of those who don't do it, it's called legalism.
What is the goal of our christian life? Is the goal to become more spiritually mature and more like Him? Or is it simply to KNOW HIM. To really know the person of Jesus. To experience Him, to encounter Him on a DAILY basis. Christianity is not rules to live by. It is not simply being obedient to God's commandments and living a good life. If that were the case, the Pharisees would of been rock stars. Who are the people that Christ rebuked the most harshly? It was the Pharisees, the religious leaders. They kept the law, they followed the commandments, they knew their bible inside and out. They were excellent at maintaining their spiritual disciples. But when God in the flesh was standing right in front of them, they were completely blind.
There is nothing that we can do to change who we are in Christ. No amount of effort that will make Him love us more. But the thing is, we need Him so badly. We need Jesus every single day. We are living in a war. We can't do this christian life without Him, we need His Spirit, we need His grace. Spiritual disciplines put us in a position to receive more of Him. More of His Holy Spirit, more revelation, more power. The bible is not a list of rules or concepts that we need to work on. When we spend time in His living word, we should expect to encounter the living God.
"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." John 5:39-40
There are times when I don't feel like praying and I still pray. There are times when I don't feel like reading the bible but I still read the bible. I never feel like fasting but I often fast because I know these disciplines will lead me to more encounter with Jesus which in turn will radically transform my life.
On Sunday, I was challenging a group of high school students to simply rest in the finish work of the cross. To stop striving for something that they already have, and abide in Him. But if they were going to strive for anything, to strive to BELIEVE who they already are. Our church wants to hit the streets and meet people with no other agenda than simply to love them. But I challenged them that in order to love people, we need to know the love of God. Not just intellectually but REALLY KNOW how He thinks about us.
This summer, I was learning a lot about the Bridegroom God. I remember at one point, I was praying and telling the Lord that I get this concept intellectually but I need Him to reveal it to my Spirit. I knew that when the Holy Spirit revealed the passion and delight of the Bridegroom God to my inner man, it would radically change my life. I was not content in knowing about God's love intellectually, I wanted to know it in my inner being. I wanted to know "the love that surpasses understanding." I remember praying the prayer that Jacob prayed when He was wrestling with God in Genesis. He told God, "I will not let you go until you bless me." That was my attitude. "Holy Spirit, I will not stop pursuing this concept, asking for your Spirit to reveal it to me. I NEED to know how much you love me. I am not content in knowing verses about your love. TEACH ME!! I will not eat (fasting) until you pour out your love and revelation." I can't even begin to tell you how faithful He was. For the past four months, I feel like I am on cloud nine. He has poured out so much joy and love into my soul that I want everyone to know this God. I long to be in His presence and having an experience with the God who is love, it CONTROLS me (1 Cor. 5:14). It controls me to radically love people, to be obedient to everything the Holy Spirit it asking me to do and to do whatever it takes to know Him more.
In that season of striving after the revelation of Gods love, I didn't have to be told to read my bible, to pray, to fast. I was so hungry for the love of God that I would go to great lengths to receive that love. I set myself before Him, devouring the Word, begging for His Spirit to move, putting myself in a position to encounter Him.
I want to challenge you, what is a truth about your identity in Christ that you have a hard time believing? It it that you are radically loved by God? That you are His child and He is a good gracious Father? That you are completely forgiven, pure, blameless and there is now no condemnation for those in Christ? That you are no longer a sinner but rather a saint? Ask the Holy Spirit what He wants to teach you. When we believe these things in our inner being, it will radically change our lives. In order to love, we need to experience His love. In order to extend grace, we need to have an experience with His grace. Do whatever it takes until His Spirit reveals it to you. God is a gentleman. He will not force Himself on you. He will fill us to the amount that we hunger for Him. Let's get radical!!!