Monday, March 28, 2011

The Most Common Spiritual Disciplines


Definition: Spiritual Disciplines - practices that promote spiritual growth, or devotional habits that aid and advance spiritual growth.

For Example: Two weeks ago we looked at spiritual disciplines associated with Lent.

Last week: the most basic/most important spiritual discipline - Bible reading. Can't know how to relate to God without this.

This week: Fasting and Prayer - with the focus on fasting.

Fasting is the most recognized spiritual discipline but the least practiced.

1. Fasting is NOT the most commonly practiced discipline --- but is the most commonly recognized!! Examples: monks, monasteries, etc.
2. Fasting is an ancient practice and found in all world religions!
3. Though prayer is often practiced without fasting, fasting is never found without prayer.
Bear in mind - we are talking about Biblical fasting - not fasting for a diet, etc.

DEFINITION: Common/primary sense - fasting is voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual reasons. It is not required.
In the broader sense - it is voluntary abstinence from any legitimate substance or activity for spiritual reasons. Dan. 10:2-3
Some examples could be: meats, sweets, coffee, pop, TV, Facebook, video games, etc.

The PURPOSE is NOT to appease God contrary to the pagan notion that the gods needed to be appeased, calmed, pacified, placated, soothed, softened, mollified. OR, to win the gods' favor - manipulate, negotiate, satisfy a requirement, pay a debt.

Fasting was never designed for God. It was designed for us!

Why do we fast??
1. to express sincerity (show outwardly what we claim is in us)
2. to enhance spiritual sensitivity
3. to gain insight, understanding of spiritual things, spiritual realization
4. to correct attitudes, adjust behavior
5. to develop Godly character
6. to develop my relationship with God.

NOTE: Fasting and prayer doe not guarantee any results. Can be fasting for the wrong reasons.

Scriptures about fasting:
Jonah 3:4-10 - show sincerity, express repentance
Esther 4:15-16 - seeking God's favor and serious about it.
Ezra 8:21-23 - earn His favor
2 Chron. 20:2-4 seeking guidance/wisdom
Joel 2:12-14 (a) "blessing" - not necessary, BUT where's the evidence

So..... they added fasting to prayer .... to express contrition, ask for protection, to seek guidance, to increase sensitivity, to honor God, to express devotion

In a nutshell, fasting complements prayer with intensity, focus, persistence.

"Fasting hoists the sails of the soul" so, if He moves........

Jesus ..... practiced, modeled, taught fasting.
On the one hand, he did not command it. However, He did expect it.
Matt. 6:1, 2, 5, 16-18
Matt. 9:14-15

POINT: Not do you fast? how often? how long? how extreme?
The point is: do you seek God? His will? His kingdom?

and IF so.... would you fast and pray???
for -
1. your own spiritual growth and development?
2. the lost?
3. our church, community, nation?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bible Reading - The Primary Discipline

last week - discussed "spiritual disciplines associated with Ash Wednesday and Lent

Definition of spiritual disciplines - practices that promote spiritual growth
devotional habits that aid and advance spiritual growth.
These have been practiced by all Christians, all cultures, all times

They are called "disciplines" because they are difficult and are work! These are self-imposed. Similar to an exercise program. 1 Tim. 4:7-10 (a)

This week - the most basic, most important spiritual discipline: Bible Reading - here is where God reveals Himself, His nature, etc.

Scripture on the importance and nature of Scripture. Matt. 4:1-4 - Jesus' words.
Psalm 119:24
2 Tim. 3:16
John 17:17

POINT: If we have His word, then we should READ it!!! Back to: 1 Tim. 4:15-16


#1. Reading the Word - Rev. 1:3
1 Tim. 4:13

#2. Listening to, hearing the Word. Rom. 10:17
This is more than just listening to scripture. It is listening and hearing exposition of scripture. (preaching/teaching)
1 Thess. 2:13

3. Studying the Word. (Pay attention, examine, look at) Acts 17:11 (= depth)

#4. Meditating on the Word. Psalm 1:1-3
Psalm 119:97-99 (insight due to meditation)
Contrast: Eastern meditation (empty mind) and Christian meditation (fill it with truths from God's Word. Then think on these things.)
Phil. 4:8

#5. Memorizing the Word - Psalm 119:11
Prov. 22:17-18
If we would witness, counsel, direct others, we need a mental Bible.
Examples: Satan (when tempting Jesus in the wilderness), Peter @ Pentecost, Stephen before the Sanhedrin, Paul before Felix and King Agrippa. All used scripture memorization!

The point is not read through the Bible annually, listen to sermons everyday, study as a scholar, sit cross-legged and hum, quote 100 verses with addresses from memory.
The POINT is: we should discipline 'self concerning God's Word (within your ability, capacity, resources, etc.)

IF you would grow, develop, mature, become something of what God created, saved you to be.... you must practice Spiritual discipline!!!

AND, there is no discipline more basic, fundamental, important than Bible Reading!

Finally: YOU CAN DO IT!!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Common Christian Disciplines

ASH WEDNESDAY - The First day of Lent.
formally/officially - dies cinerum = day of ashes. Ashes from palm fronds of the previous Palm Sunday are rubbed on the foreheads of Christians (often in shape of a cross).

The point is: it's done as a sign/symbol of contrition/humility/repentance, and Christian faith.
It is practiced by Roman Catholics and some Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist churches.

Ash Wednesday begins the period of Lent (from the teutonic/Jermanic for springtime) It is not a Biblical period of time.
Lent is the 40 days preceding Easter (excepting Sundays).
Lent is a period of fasting (abstaining from certain foods and/or activities), self-examination, self denial, spiritual cleansing, seeking God as focus is placed on Easter and Good Friday, etc.

Ash Wednesday is preceded by Shrove Tuesday - also known as Fat Tuesday which, in French, is Mardi Gras. This day traditionally is a time of feasting and celebrating before the 40 days of Lent. (last big party before Easter)

Baptists generally do not recognize or celebrate Ash Wednesday or Lent. It is optional. (though there seems to be no objection to Mardi Gras)

BUT, the practices/disciplines associated with Ash Wednesday and Lent.... are Biblical, traditional Christian disciplines. These we should recognize, value, pursue... year around.

So... common Spiritual disciplines that accompany Lent (or a Lenten attitude)

(ie: basic, fundamental, foundational) - that all believers should incorporate into life and engage in regularly.

1. Self-examination - this is more than a casual glance
James compares the word to a mirror - looking in the Word is like looking into a mirror.
Paul says - "judge self accordingly" - 1 Cor. 11:31

2. Confession. homologeo - say the same thing that God says.
The point - admit what you see .... to self, to God. The admission should be verbal.

3. Contrition (mainly in the heart) means being sorry for your sin(s) - sincerely sorry.
Job 42:5-6 - truly grieved
Jonah 3:6
Words of David - Psalm 51:16-17 - "note the introduction to Psalm 51".
Words of Isaiah - Isa. 66:2 (b) - "this is the one..."

4. Repentance (in the hands and feet) means A. "about face".... and B. march forward!

5. Humility doesn't mean confessing less than I am, but exactly as I am ---- in my relationship to God... and others. Rom. 12:3
Recognize exactly who we are compared to God - and in relation to other people.

6. Self Discipline - means making self do what's right.
which leads to....

7. Self denial - which does not mean denying self of any good thing. Opposed to ascetics. This self denial means deny things that stand in the way of relationship to God.
It means: A. saying No to self when self desires the wrong thing.
B. saying Yes to God, Christ, the Holy Spirit .... Matt. 16:24

Question of purpose .... Why??? - Not to restrict life but enhance it .. John 10:10

Question of obligation ... Must I? Not legally obligated, BUT are morally obligated as Christians!!!

Statement of promise..... if you practice'll not be deprived of life ... But blessed!! Matt. 5:3-8 - to see God not just someday, but tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Walking with Imperfect Faith

Mark 9:21-24 - to paraphrase the father:
1. I do believe! (else, why would I be here?)
2. I know my faith is imperfect. ("if you can help")
3. I ask for help... with my unbelief..... in spite of my unbelief....

Question: Can you relate???


#1. Imperfect faith is universal among believers.
Examples: Abraham, Moses, Job, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Jonah, John the Baptist, Peter
There are a lot of people who believe that there are Christians who do not struggle with belief. That is not true. We all struggle with imperfect faith.

#2. Imperfect faith is inevitable among believers.
The only way to not experience imperfect faith is to have PERFECT FAITH!
Perfect faith is almost an oxymoron. Faith must be imperfect to be "faith". Faith requires that we walk without the benefit of the five senses.

Heb. 11:1 2 Cor. 5:7

Faith is being confident in what we can't see.

#3. Imperfect faith is unique to believers.
A. Non-believer can't have imperfect faith, because he doesn't have the faith!!
B. Imperfect faith is found only among those who desire to believe and make an effort believe.... and come up short!!!
C. Imperfect faith shouldn't lead to doubting the reality of your faith. It is evidence that you are a believer. Unbelievers don't struggle with this.

So...... when faced with the realization/experience of imperfect faith, what should you do?

1. Confess

2. Affirm

3. Move on

#1. Confess your doubts. (fears, imperfections, shortcomings, etc.)
Psalm 88:14-18
This means:
A. being honest
B. directing your complaint to the proper source
Example: Job's complaints - showed he suffered from imperfect faith, not the absence of faith!!! He went directly to God.
Example: Jer. 20:7-8

#2. Affirm (re-affirm) your faith. (in God and Christ)
Examples: Psalm 10:1, 16-17, 13:1, 5-6, 74:1, 12 Jer. 20:9 John 6:66-69

#3. Move On (Keep walking and doing what you know you should do!)
Perhaps the greatest expression of faith may be obeying while experiencing imperfect faith!!
Examples: Noah building the Ark, Abraham's offiering Isaac, Jeremiah's preaching for 40 years.

There are additional things you can do: wait for an answer, consult friend, read the Word, revisit the past, gain knowledge, etc.

BUT, confess, affirm, move on - summarizes the right response to imperfect faith!!
We don't know if Jesus' response increased the father's faith, but He graciously helped him in spite of his imperfect faith.

John 13:17