Click below to listen to this post about spiritual practices on the Candidly Kendra podcast:
The other day my friend asked my advice. She wanted to know if I had any suggestions about how she could get a better handle on prayer, reading her Bible, memorizing verses, listening to great Christian podcasts, etc., etc., etc… without getting overwhelmed.
She would sit to do some homework or even just take a break to sit on the couch with a cookie, and would suddenly be racked with guilt. I didn’t read the Bible yet today. I shouldn’t just sit here!
And she asked me,
“What can I do to get a handle on these good spiritual practices without getting totally overwhelmed?”
And honestly, when these spiritual practices are starting to drag me down, wouldn’t it be better to just quit? …But then, will God be mad? Will he punish me?
Our understanding of spiritual practices, or spiritual disciplines, will have a strong impact on the way we approach God when life is too much, or even on a regular Tuesday.
What Do I Mean By Spiritual Practices?
When I talk about spiritual practices, I’m talking about all those things that Christians do as part of their Christian walk. This could be:
- Reading the Bible
- Going to Church
- Going to Bible Study
- Sharing our Faith With Others
- Serving our Communities
- Giving Financially to Church or Ministries
But the thing with spiritual practices is that many of us know we should be doing them; we even feel a level of guilt when we miss a day; but we don’t understand the purpose very well.
So what is the real purpose of spiritual practices?
Identify Your Wrong Ways of Thinking About Spiritual Practices
What are some of the mixed-up ways that you see spiritual practices? When things are particularly crazy in your life, and you’re tempted to skip reading your Bible, or praying, what condemning thoughts run through your head?
“God Will Be Mad At Me”
Sometimes when I’m trying to imagine God when I’ve messed up I imagine my Dad on the days when he’d had enough of teenager me. You know, that exasperated look dads get?
“You didn’t get your oil changed?” Frustration, and then a shrug. “Well, it’s not my fault if your car breaks down.”
What look do you imagine on God’s face if you’ve “let him down” and skipped another day of reading your Bible?
Take captive that thought, friends. Make it obedient to the Gospel of Christ, which says:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
He’s not mad at you. His anger was all poured out on Jesus on the cross. There is no anger left for you.
“And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all….And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”
Hebrews 10:10, 18 NIV
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“Good Christian Works Bring Good My Way”
Christian people also call this “blessings” to convince themselves of its biblical truth. Honestly, this is a belief in karma in disguise. Ask the apostle Paul, or any of the Christian martyrs if they think this worked out for them!
Besides, I think it’s important for you to know that your small tokens of obedience don’t impress God. His eyes have already taken in the whole of Jesus’ goodness on your behalf. He was impressed by that.
You don’t need to give him your daily hour of prayer, or your remarkable Scripture memory to impress him. Those things are a drop in the bucket next to Jesus’s righteousness now given to you.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV
By Christ’s work of cleansing in you who have believed, you are now righteous. You are completely righteous. You are as “right” as you can be.
There is nothing left for you to earn.
But if that’s true, what’s the point of spiritual practices?
The Real Purpose of Spiritual Practices
Spiritual Practices Are There To Put Us In The Path of The Gospel, So The Gospel Can Do Its Work in Us
Reading your Bible and praying and all the other spiritual practices aren’t meant to make you more holy. They aren’t meant to make God happier with you. They aren’t an appeasement to avoid God’s wrath.
Above all else, God wants one thing from you. Everything in Scripture comes down to the one thing he cares about more than everything else.
Do you know what that one thing is?
It’s not your little gifts of service. It’s not even your brave acts of obedience.
What God wants above all else is you.
So follow along to see how this works:
- Spiritual Practices Put Us In The Path Of The Gospel
When we read the Bible and pray we stand in the path of his grace. We basically stand in the river of living water so God’s truth can wash over us.
- The Gospel Leads Us Into A Trust Relationship With God
The more I soak in that living water, the more I rest in the goodness of God. I delight in him. I trust him. Because he’s the God of the Gospel.
- Our Trust Relationship With God Transforms Us
Finally, our heart-response of trust in God and His Gospel will engage new, Christ-like qualities in us: compassion for the lost, greater delight in God’s word, awareness of the his presence, peace in his will.
Number two is what God desires most from us. Number three is the happy fruit of that relationship with God. And the spiritual practices are the road we take to get there.
Bring It Home
- Which wrong way of thinking about spiritual practices do you tend to slide into?
- Is there anything confusing to you about the way I explained the purpose of spiritual practices? Please feel free to add a comment!
- What is your favorite spiritual practice? And in what ways do you find that it helps you to engage in that practice?
Now that we have a better idea of the purpose of spiritual practices, let’s build some good habits to actually do them!
Click here to see the plan my friend and I came up with to get a handle on the spiritual practices without getting overwhelmed.
The Cure: What if God isn’t who you think He is and neither are you? by Bruce McNicholl, Bill Thrall, and John Lynch
Lay It Down: Living In The Freedom Of The Gospel by Bill Tell
*Affiliate Disclosure: Some Amazon links are affiliate links and I may earn a commission through your purchase. My pledge to you is that I will only link to books that I can honestly recommend.
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