The Need for Spiritual Disciplines Today – by Christopher Ackerman

In a day and age when one finds oneself searching for answers in a world filled with questions, it is important to consider the role of discipline therein. While discipline finds its roots nestled within the lives of most folks on earth, the question begs – How is one disciplining themselves and does it matter (cf. Calhoun 50)? One can develop discipline for how they approach their daily alcohol intake but what about the spiritual wine of consumption, what about the blood of Christ (metaphorically and physically)? The need for spiritual discipline in today’s world will be represented in what follows.

At one point in my career, I was approached to take on the role of Henry David Thoreau. I initially turned it down, as I had too much respect for the man and did not feel that I could do him justice on a screen. Through a series of fortunate events, I changed my mind and dove in. While it was only a short film, I knew I needed to know him to bring him to life properly so I put everything on hold for five months and sought Thoreau as deeply as I could. I read his words, meditated on his words, and lived his words. What a consideration for the one who desires to discipline themselves in the ways of Christ! In the end, the film won loads of awards, and the person who plays Thoreau at the renowned Thoreau Society shared how the film was a staple in his house. If the image of a man in a film requires that much discipline to bring him to life, how much more discipline should be given to the image of the Creator of life? Furthermore, if a short film requires that much discipline, how much more should be devoted to one’s entire life and the often-overlooked moments in time? Lastly, if discipline achieved a reciprocated impact on the very man who brought the same character to life daily, how much greater must one discipline themselves for the sake of the perpetual image of Christ on earth? Discipline requires time and often sacrifice, yet the sting of Whitney’s words lingers when considering the worth, “the way we use our time has eternal significance” (Whitney 162).

Whitney reveals how the “most important feature of any Spiritual Discipline is its purpose” (10). He elaborates by emphasizing how the purpose is godliness (and specifically, growing in Christlikeness [10-11; see also 4, 6, 27, 28; cf.1 Tim. 4.7). If every human being is made in the image of God (Christ) it is, therefore, essential for mankind to understand how they can live in light of the image in which they were created (cf. Gen. 1.27; Col. 1.16). Spiritual discipline, with the intent of being like Jesus, must be the air mankind breathes (Whitney 6).

With this in mind, there is a question that must be considered, as it relates directly to the importance of spiritual discipline in the world today – How is this possible and why does it matter? How is it possible to discipline oneself spiritually in a way that matters and produces results – results in the lives of those who are carrying out spiritual disciplines and in the lives of those whom they encounter? Edwards’ Resolutions paints the truth quite well, “I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions” (“The Resolutions”). It is, therefore, impossible to carry out spiritual disciplines without the help of the One whom mankind was created in the image of (Gen. 1.26-27). It is also unavoidable in light of the call upon their lives, as Christ died for all to live (cf. John 3.16; Rom. 5.8, 6.10; 2 Cor. 5.14-15; 1 Pet. 3.18; 2 Pet. 3.9; 1 John 3.16). Furthermore, what takes place when one endeavors to do so is a relationship between the Creator and the created, which is only possible because of what Christ accomplished on the cross.

There is no better place to end than in the Word of God, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (New International Version, Heb. 12.11). Spiritual Discipline is necessary for anyone who desires to take up the call to follow Christ. While it may seem unpleasant at the time, His Word reassures the weary soul that it will be well worth the pain, not only in the temporal life of the believer but, more so, for the glory of the eternal God (cf. Nichols; “The Resolutions”).

Works Cited

Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us. Rev. and Expanded ed., Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2015.

The Holy Bible. English Standard Version. Crossway, 2001.

Holy Bible. New International Version. Zondervan, 2011.

Nichols, Stephen. “The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards.” Table Talk Magazine., 1 Jan. 2009. 30 Dec. 2015.

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards., n.d.

Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Revised and updated ed., Colorado Springs, NavPress, 2014.

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