Spiritual Disciplines for the Goal of Godliness

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 115:9-11
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 7; Psalm 114-115

Disciplines: “Ours is an undisciplined age,” wrote Raymond Edman, past president of Wheaton College. “Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism” [1]. Today, Edman is only partly right. We may deride spiritual discipline as legalism, but we do not live in an undisciplined age. We are disciplined to record our favorite television shows, wash our clothes, make social plans, and go to work. We value discipline. So why do we cringe when we think about spiritual disciplines?

Godliness: The plan of God is to ensure that every Christian will ultimately conform to being like Christ [2]. Yet we do not wait for holiness to happen to us; we pursue it [3]. And we pursue it by delighting ourselves in the purpose of godliness [4]. Godliness is the goal. Do we want godliness? Do we want integrity in the face of dishonesty, joy in the face of adversity, courage in the face of fear and hope in the face of discouragement? This fruit and power comes through discipline. As Tom Landry, former Dallas Cowboys coach, said, “The job of the football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be” [5]. In other words, we pursue spiritual disciplines that may not come naturally because we long for godliness.

Trust: Although we must cultivate our communion with Christ, our cultivation is merely the channel, not the basis, of our salvation. We are saved by the work of Jesus, not our spiritual disciplines. Yet God has given us disciplines as a means for receiving His grace. The spiritual disciplines are ways that we place ourselves in the way of gospel allurement and in the path of His grace [6]. Then, by His mercy, we answer the call of the Psalmist: “O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield … You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield” [7].

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we are disciplined about the things we value. Therefore, since we value godliness, we long to be more disciplined about pursuing it. As we look upon the cross, give us a vision of costly, not cheap, grace [8]. Show us how to lay ourselves in the ways of gospel allurement so that we cultivate our communion with you as a means of grace. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] V. Raymond Edman. “The Disciplines of Life.” Scripture Press Foundation. Wheaton, IL. 1948.  |  [2] Romans 8:29 (“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son …” ESV)  |  [3] Hebrews 12:14 (“Strive … for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” ESV)  |  [4] 1 Timothy 4:7 (“Train yourself for godliness.” ESV)  |  [5] Tom Landry, as quoted by Ray Stedman in Preaching Today (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, n.d.), tape number 25.  |  [6] Jonathan Edwards once preached, “Endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by keeping yourself out of the way of [carnal] allurement. We are to avoid being in the way of temptation with respect to our carnal appetites. Job made a covenant with his eyes (Job 31:1). But we ought to take all opportunities to lay ourselves in the way of enticement with respect to our gracious inclinations. Thus you should be often with God in prayer, and then you will be in the way of having your heart drawn forth to Him. We ought to be frequent in reading and constant in hearing the Word. And particularly to this end, we ought carefully, and with the utmost seriousness and consideration, attend the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which was appointed to draw forth the longings of our souls towards Jesus Christ. Here are the glorious objects of spiritual desire by visible signs represented to our view. We have Christ evidently set forth as crucified. Here we have that spiritual meat and drink represented and offered to excite our hunger and thirst; here we have all that spiritual feast represented which God has provided for poor souls; and here we may hope in some measure to have our longing souls satisfied in this world by the gracious communications of the Spirit of God” (Sermon 13: “Spiritual Appetites Need No Bounds.” in The Puritan Pulpit. p. 235.  |  [7] Psalm 115:9-11 ESV  |  [8] In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it, a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for those sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

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