Any conversation around the idea of spiritual transformation will inevitably bring us to the question of “how” does this take place? Becoming part of a vibrant, dynamic community of believers is certainly a wonderful component to experience and measure change in an through our lives. Over the last couple decades the idea of having a spiritual mentor has also become popular.
However, there is no escaping that in the end the primary way that transformation takes place in and through us is by the practice of the spiritual disciplines. In it’s simplest form, a discipline is an activity that we engage in to receive power. This definition applies across the board from sports and physical pursuits all the way to our spiritual growth and effectiveness in the kingdom of God. However, as soon as we inject the idea of discipline, and especially spiritual disciplines, most of us begin to shrink back in fear of a list of practices that we simply try to sustain only to find ourselves failing over and over again. Eventually we hear the phrase spiritual discipline and think “that just isn’t for me.”
The stumbling block in this for most of us has to do with the idea that we believe that the spiritual disciplines are directly related to how hard we try to keep them. Whether it’s reading the word, prayer, solitude, fasting or any of the other broadly accepted disciplines. (See “The Spirit of the Disciplines” by Richard Foster) In fact, I learned quite a while ago that my “trying” is pretty much a guarantee of my inadequacy. In fact, I’m increasingly seeing that the spiritual disciplines are really pathways to receiving grace in every area of my life. In that sense spiritual disciplines are a fundamental way by which I can discover change; through them receive grace that leads to transformation. The apostle Paul says “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1) Peter says “Grow in the grace.” (2 Peter 3:18)
Why is it that we tend to think of grace only when it comes to having our sings forgiven and our standing in Christ affirmed? Grace is every bit as essential to the believer as it is to the unbeliever. The sooner we lay hold of this truth the more quickly our transformation will begin.
I love Dallas Willard’s comment on this when he says “The reality is that saints burn more grace than sinners ever could. Saints burn grace like a 747 burns jet fuel.”
So the spiritual disciplines are there to help us tap into the grace that will lead us into a posture of learning to reign in Christ and His kingdom which is, or at least should be, the goal of every follower of Christ and the joy of all of us who call Him Lord.