This is the phrase that is included in each chapter title of Donald Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. I can almost hear mouse clicks all over the city as readers of this blog attempt to exit out after reading the word “discipline” – the “D word.” For some reason, we Reformed believers can mistakenly equate discipline with legalism. In his book, Whitney shows how the spiritual disciplines are far from being legalistic, restrictive or binding, but rather the means to unparalleled spiritual liberty. If you will think about the excitement of achieving a difficult goal, whether becoming proficient on a musical instrument, losing weight, running a marathon, or – you fill in the blank – you know that it took discipline to achieve that goal.
If you are a new believer seeking guidance in your new walk with Christ, or a seasoned saint feeling a little stale in your pilgrimage, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life can be a means of grace in your life to give you direction and refreshment in your journey with your Lord and Savior.
Donald Whitney’s key verse for Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is 1 Timothy 4:7, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” This verse is the theme of the entire book. In other words, the spiritual disciplines are means, not ends. The end – that is, the purpose of practicing the disciplines – is godliness. Whitney defines godliness as both closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ, a conformity that is both inward and outward, a growing conformity to both the heart of Christ and the life of Christ.
Whitney assures us that we stand before God only in the righteousness that has been bought by another: Jesus Christ. All who come to God trusting in the Person and work of Jesus Christ to make them right with God are given the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit causes all those in whom He resides to have new, holy hungers they never had before. They hunger, for example, for the Word of God, which before salvation may have seemed boring or irrelevant. Perhaps for that reason, Bible Intake is the first of the spiritual disciplines exposited by Dr. Whitney in his book.
Whitney limits himself to those disciplines that are Biblical, that is, to practices taught or modeled in the Bible. He skillfully unpacks ten spiritual disciplines, where they can be found in the Scriptures, and how they can be practiced experientially for the purpose of godliness.
I will confess that I am currently NOT practicing all ten of the disciplines as outlined by Donald Whitney, but I found the book very helpful in reminding me of the benefits of spiritual disciplines and redirecting my focus to my purpose in life until He comes or I go home.
My prayer for myself and for my brothers and sisters at Faith Community Church is that we will discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness for HIS glory and HIS alone. Amen.