Many people in the Christian world attempt a “knowledge first /acceptance next/application last” approach to their spiritual lives, unfortunately this pattern is so rare in scripture that you would have to use some pretty creative restructuring to make it fit into any lives God has put on display in His word. The practice of spiritual disciplines is necessary and purposed with no other power equaling its efficacy . Not because of any great revelation or supernatural secret but because of the slow practical and purposed development of God’s intent in our lives.
We are so intent on “relationship over religion” in modern Christianity that we forget that Jesus lays out a path to relational religion, a religion that is as dependent on its practice as it is on its purpose. This isn’t an obsession with the law or legalism but a clear reliance on God’s vision and expectation coupled with a clear suspicion of self –righteousness and tradition. God desires to move in us but is limited not by lack of belief but lack of application. Applying simple discipline will bring our atrophied spiritual muscles back into use and with the long term commitment of discipline (in prayer, in word, in action, etc.) those spiritual muscles will do more than increase our inner strength, they will begin to be put to work at the task of 1.) going into all the world and 2.) making disciples and 3.) teaching them all that Jesus desires. This simplistic breakdown of God’s design and mission cannot be accomplished to undisciplined minds; though enthusiasm, ambition, and zealotry will get many ahead at the start, only refined and tested discipline will complete such monumentous tasks.
If there were shortcuts or easy outs, Jesus would have made them clear and Paul would have expounded on them. As people who have likely mentored others, don’t you often wish there were an easier and faster way to spiritual maturity and active mission in the lives of your students? Wouldn’t that be the starting point if it were possible? I desire nothing more than the edification of these people who so desperately want see God move despite the brokenness, destruction, and filth they are surrounded by. Unfortunately it is much prayer, much study, much attempt, much defeat, much surrender, much patience, much rebuke, long-suffering, short-breaks and all grace that creates and sustains our true faith in the cross and its power. (1968, Nee; paraphrased) This is the backbone of any discipleship model. We commit to the disciplines because there is no other way.
The Gospel is not informative it is transformative, It isn’t intended to be understood or patterned; it must be embraced, enacted, and experienced. Christians that refuse to grow will always exist in the church but, oh imagine, a body of saints that took seriously the Call of God to discipline! It is unseen and unheard the great things God’s people will do.[Psalm 31:19, Corinthians 2:9] I long for a community that embraces that kind of life.