1 Timothy 4:7
Go into training in godliness!
Last night, Ana and I, along with a friend, were able to see one of my favorite authors, Richard Foster, speak at a church up in Marion, Indiana. Foster has been deeply formative for me, a spiritual mentor from far away. He is retiring from public work, and visiting ten cities this year on his way out. The title for the small event was “Discovering a With-God Kind of Life” and also marked the 40th anniversary of his awesome book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth.
I held off writing today’s Ripple earlier, thinking I may want to write a reflection on the evening, and serendipitously, Foster referred to 1 Timothy 4:7 for a significant portion of the evening.
So on with my reflection on his reflections!
Richard said he wrote Celebration of Discipline out of his observation in the 70s that so many Christians had no idea of how to “grow in grace” (2 Peter 3:18). If grace is defined as “unmerited favor”, how do we grow in unmerited favor?
We first must notice that the opposite of grace is earning, not effort.
We grow in grace, in godliness, through training.
Train yourselves in godliness.
Grace is God’s part, training is our part.
The means of grace are the spiritual exercises, the disciplines. The disciplines simply place us before God as a living sacrifice. Once we are before God, we let them go, for the exercises have no merit in and of themselves. Again, they are only a means.
This takes a lifetime–to be formed into the image of Christ–because the trouble with living sacrifices is that they are always trying to crawl off the altar!
Training vs. Trying.
We must train the deep habit structures within us so that, over time, we start responding naturally with patience, gentleness, joy, peace.
We don’t just try real hard to be patient or peaceful or humble.
We train through exercise—the spiritual disciplines such as solitude, silence, meditation, study, worship, service, fasting…
If you want to run a marathon, you don’t go outside and try to run 26 miles. Yikes.
If you want to bench press 300 lbs., you don’t load it on the bar and try to press it. Ouch!
And if you’re diligent in your training, over time, you will grow in grace. You will actually grow in godliness, and the deep habits and natural responses within you will be transformed into the habits, responses, and mind of Christ.
Some pastors who shared last nite said that the disciplines are a pathway to freedom, opening us up for new life, renewal, and renovation of our heart.