Friday, January 18, 2008

A long reading

I thought I would let you read a wonderful section from a book called Conformed to His Image, by Kenneth Boa. It occurs on pages 78-79 in te book and is long, but worth the read. This is part of the basis of why spiritual disciplines are so very important.

Conformed To His Image
by Kenneth Boa

In the New Testament, a quick survey of the Gospels through the lens of discipline reveals that the Lord Jesus engaged in all the classic disciplines, such as solitude, silence, simplicity, study, prayer, sacrificial service, and fasting. Jesus understood that these practices were not optional for those who have a passion for the Father’s pleasure and honor. Our Lord did not engage in these disciplines as ends in themselves, but as means to know and obey his Father. They moved him in the direction of the foremost commandment (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:30): "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength."

Yet we have bought the illusion that we can be like Christ without imitating his spirituality. If we wish to be like our Master, we must imitate his practice; if we believe he knew how to live, we must seek the grace to live like him. To ask the question "What would Jesus do?" without practicing the habits we know he practiced is to attempt to run a marathon without prior training. What is evident to us on the physical plane is often obscure to us on the spiritual level. It is absurd to think that we could excel at any sport such as golf or tennis without investing the needed time, training, and practice. But when it comes to living the Christian life, we suppose that we are doing well if we attend church and open a Bible once or twice a week. If believers expended the same time and energy in cultivating their spiritual lives as they are willing to invest in becoming reasonably skillful at any sport or hobby, the world would look with wonder at the power of the body of Christ.

We desire to know Christ more deeply, but we shun the lifestyle that would make it happen. By relegating the spiritual to certain times and activities, we are ill prepared to face the temptations and challenges of daily living in a Christlike way. It is easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that without the active and painful formation of godly character, we will have the capacity to make the right choices whenever we need to. But if we have not been exercising and training and practicing behind the scenes, we will not have the skill (wisdom) to perform well when it counts. The disciplines off the stage prepare an actor to perform well when the curtain rises, and the hours of training off the field give an athlete the freedom to play well when the game begins.

Similarly, the daily regimen of the spiritual disciplines equips us to live well during the uncertainties and vicissitudes of life. This is what Dallas Willard called the law of indirect preparedness; the disciplines in the background of our lives prepare us for the unexpected times when we will need to respond in appropriate ways. Willpower alone will not be enough, unless our wills have been trained and strengthened through ongoing practice. When it comes to running a race, meaning well and trying hard will do us little good if we are out of shape through lack of training.

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