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It’s not uncommon among Christians today to witness a waning interest in spiritual disciplines. Some attribute this trend to an overemphasis on grace. You might hear phrases like, “I’m saved by grace, so why bother with all the rules?” This easy-believism simplifies Christianity to a transactional relationship with God, missing its profound depth. 


Then there are those who avoid spiritual disciplines because, let’s face it, they require work. Discipline isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and the thought of adhering to a routine can feel suffocating. Yet, in both cases, the essence of what it truly means to follow Christ gets lost in the shuffle. 


What’s the answer? It can be confusing, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

Gaining a Heart of Wisdom

Sometimes, we’re drawn to easy answers. Deep thinking can feel like too much effort, especially when faced with complex or controversial topics. It’s tempting to seek a simple slogan that neatly wraps up the issue, allowing us to move on without much thought. However, biblical thinking doesn’t operate on such surface-level reasoning. Instead, God invites us to grapple with the complexities of faith, seeking understanding and discernment.


Consider St. Augustine’s famous words, “Love God and do whatever you please.” At first glance, it sounds like a license for reckless behavior. But what Augustine was getting at is the transformational power of love. When we truly love God, our desires align with His, and our actions reflect that love. 


When Christians focus more heavily on the second half of that phrase, “do as you please,” they wind up falling into the trap of easy grace, which can lead to complacency. When we rely solely on emotions, we may love God one day and “please” to obey Him but feel apathetic the next. Our feelings come and go; our faith becomes shallow and unstable. True love for God goes beyond emotions; it’s a commitment that withstands the highs and lows of life. Hence the need for discipline.


On the flip side, becoming overly fixated on spiritual disciplines can lead to legalism. If we view disciplines as a means to earn our salvation or prove our worthiness to God, we’ve missed the point entirely. We may “love God,” but there’s no pleasure in it. Spiritual disciplines are not about checking boxes or following a rigid set of rules; they’re about cultivating intimacy with God and aligning our hearts with His.


Our emotions are not meant to be dismissed entirely. Yet, how do we reconcile this truth with the call for discipline and self-control?

What’s the Answer?


The answer lies in neither suppressing nor succumbing to our emotions. Instead, it’s about training them. 


This is where spiritual disciplines play a crucial role. Spiritual disciplines serve as the daily workout for our hearts and minds, shaping our affections, desires, instincts, and allegiances. They facilitate a gradual transformation, leading us toward maturity in Christ.


Think of it like tending a garden. Proverbs 4 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.” Tending a garden, of course, requires a certain amount of work. We need to weed it, till it, and fertilize it. But the growth itself seems to happen almost by itself. Suddenly, you have a carrot poking up out of the ground. It’s a Christmas miracle.


Of course, you are not truly the one doing the work; it’s always only God that generates the fruit itself. Think of the spiritual disciplines as a way to simply open ourselves up to His work in our hearts. It’s not about striving for perfection but about allowing God to work in and through us, shaping us into His likeness.


Jesus’ analogy of the vine and branches in John 15 illustrates this interconnectedness. When we abide in Him, we bear fruit – fruit that reflects our intimate union with Christ. Spiritual disciplines are one of the means by which we abide in Him, nurturing our relationship and bearing fruit in our lives.


If you’re new to spiritual disciplines or if the task feels overwhelming, here are a few things to keep in mind:


Start small: It’s far better to begin with what may seem like too little rather than risk burnout and the possibility of never returning to it again. Even if it means committing to reading a single Psalm every day and allowing yourself a few minutes in prayer, for example, that is better than nothing. 


Remember that over time, as God works on your heart through these means of grace, He will also enlarge your heart. He will increase your desire to spend time with Him as you increasingly find your joy and peace can only be found in Him.


Give it time: It’s tempting to want to change ourselves overnight or do something radical for Jesus. Sometimes, God calls us to that, but it’s important to remember that most of the Christian life is a slow crawl along the path. Be patient; don’t try to manufacture your own sanctification, but trust and allow God to be at work in your heart.


Seen rightly, spiritual disciplines are not a burden to be borne but a gift to be embraced. To learn more, visit our website at Dream City Church, attend Sunday morning worship, or plug into one of our ministries today.


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