Before beginning on the first Inward Discipline, I am led to drive home a very important point.
Spiritual Disciplines are personal and corporate behaviors that are willfully performed out of a longing desire to be closer to God. They are the internal drive to be more like Jesus, to embrace the Holy Spirit in us, and to love the Father. They are not the path to salvation, and they are not Laws to be obeyed.
In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster closes his introduction with a very important observation:
The Spiritual Disciplines are intended for our good. They are meant to bring the abundance of God into our lives. It is possible, however, to turn them into another set of soul-killing laws. Law-bound Disciplines breathe death.
There is only one path to salvation, only one approach to righteousness, and that is through Faith alone. We are justified before God not through our own actions. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul writes, “8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So do not mistake these disciplines as a path to righteousness or a means to salvation. They are a way to grow in one’s relationship with God after one has given his or her self up to God through faith in Him.
If we turn these disciplines into laws, then we fall into the habits of the scribes and pharisees. If we look upon another who does not follow the disciplines and attempt to judge them as unfaithful because of it, we are attempting to set them as laws over others. The lack of disciplines then become a means of judgement, not for the sake of others, but for the sake of your own eyes. It will tempt you to view others as less worthy than yourself, and may even compel you to do these disciplines in view of others to draw attention to yourself.
You are saved by your faith in God. Once you have given yourself to God, submitting your will to Him, it is still possible to feel that you have fallen from His grace. Indeed, we may become even more aware of our fallen nature once we have faith, and this is a good thing! It means we are being convicted by the Holy Spirit in us of our sins. It is a sign of Him working in us. Even when we reach a point where we begin to doubt our faith or the reasons for that faith, there is strength to be gained from it.
This does not take away the value of these disciplines. In tough times, where we start to doubt our faith and conviction, these disciplines can help us get through them. If we maintain these healthy habits, we can get through the rough waters, because we honestly seek after God and share through prayer and supplication our concerns, our fears, and even our doubt! He knows what is in our hearts (Luke 16:15). He feels our hurt, our concern, our worry. He knows it just as we do. Through the disciplines we allow God to work in us. We set up in our hearts and souls the proper environment through which God can do His work.
So as we continue in our study of the Spiritual Disciplines, do not allow yourself to think that you are not saved if you do not do them. Do not think that you are wrong if you do not do them. You are saved through your Faith in God, by His grace you are brought into right relationship with Him. Once you are in that right relationship with Him, He begins to work in you. These disciplines allow Him to do this, and to allow Him to change you and grow your spirit so that it is in the lead. By performing the Spiritual Disciplines you are allowing God to build you up so that the rough times won’t knock you down.
Matthew 7:24-27, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.
Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell–and great was its fall.”
The Spiritual Disciplines aid you in acting on His words. Do them and allow the Lord our God to work in you, so that He may build you into a great house built on the rock. The Rock of your Salvation.