If a new Christian who didn’t have much church background asked you, “What do I need to do to get closer to God?” how would you respond?
Richard Foster, in his classic book, Celebration of Discipline called these habits or practices, spiritual disciplines. Yet this term is not in the Bible.
- What does the term, spiritual disciplines, mean to you?
- How do you react to it?
- Does it sound threatening or desirable?
- Should the Christian pursue a regular practice of certain activities?
Spiritual disciplines, according to Foster, are tools that help us get past hollow superficiality of religion. They call us to go deeper in our faith. Like anything, however, only when we practice something daily does it become a part of us.
- Have you ever craved wanting to get closer to God?
- What has helped you draw closer to Him?
Spiritual disciplines are routine practices that help you draw closer to God.The book, Secret Pathways by Gary Thomas assures us that some of those measures will appeal to each of us more than others.
- What spiritual practices have helped you over the years?
- Add to this list if you can: regular meeting with other believers, bible study, prayer, finding solitude, service to others, generous giving to others, daily obedience to what God’s Word says.
The danger in practicing spiritual habits is that it is possible to become legalistic about doing them and treat other Christians as inferior if they are not pursuing them as well. It’s possible to use them to flaunt our spiritual superiority and manipulate others for our own purposes. One sister in Christ once shamed me for not being involved in a small group Bible study, hinting that I was never going to be as strong of a Christian if I wasn’t involved in Bible study with others.
- What part of this was right?
- What is the danger in what this person said?
- How can we avoid getting into a legalist mindset about practices such as church attendance, daily prayer, bible reading and group bible study?
- How can we encourage other Christians to become involved in these things without giving them a “you gotta do this or else you aren’t a good Christian” implication?
Let’s look at God’s Word:
Read Mt 5:19
- What does this verse tell us we are to practice?
Read Mt 6:1
- What warning does this verse give us about the practice of certain spiritual activities?
Read Mt 7:24
- What benefit does someone receive when they practice obedience to God’s commands?
Colossians 3:8,9 lists practices your “old self” did.
- What are the opposites of the practices on this list? Are these things that the “new self” can practice instead (v. 10)?
2 Peter 1:5-7 gives a great list of Christian character attributes. Look now at v. 8-10.
- How do we attain these character traits?
- What is the benefit of working to attain these character traits?
- Which of these character traits would you like more of in your life? Pick one. What will you do this week to practice this trait in your life?