BECOMING LIKE CHRIST — Spiritual Disciplines that Help
Not much gets done without some measure of discipline. You don’t usually get a job done without being disciplined about doing some things that aren’t easy, fun, or immediately rewarding. You don’t usually complete a long journey without the discipline of sticking to the right road and keeping on.
Being Jesus’ disciple requires discipline (note the similarity of the words). Throughout the history of people’s attempts to follow Jesus, there have been various disciplines identified which help that process: they’re called spiritual disciplines. In Celebration of Discipline, his classic book on the spiritual disciplines, Richard Foster gives a suggested list: meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.
We can’t simply “will” ourselves to be more like Jesus; we need God’s help to be who God wants us to be! However, we can position ourselves to allow God to do His work of transformation in us. Foster wrote, “God has given us the disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace.” (Spiritual Disciplines, p.7)
You and I can’t make a garden grow; only God can do that. A gardener, however, has a crucial role to play. He digs up the soil, fertilizes it, plants the seeds, waters the garden regularly, and weeds it. God makes the garden grow, but a gardener has a part in it, too! Similarly, God’s Holy Spirit brings to us the characteristics of Jesus that are to bear fruit in our lives, and we can help or hinder that process. We help the process along when we discipline ourselves to meditate, pray, fast, study, live simply, spend time alone with God, submit to Him and others, serve others, confess regularly, worship the Lord, seek guidance, and celebrate the blessings from God.
Becoming more like Christ is a choice. We can work with the Holy Spirit, cooperating with Him to become more like Christ, or we can resist Him. The apostle Paul wrote, playing off the imagery of the Holy Spirit being like fire, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We can blow out a fire, and we can put out the Holy Spirit in our lives. In another place Paul stated the same thought in a positive way: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Galatians 5:16)
The spiritual disciplines cause us to act in ways that are conducive to the Spirit’s working in our lives so that we become more like Jesus. Author Terry Wardle wrote, “He has given you the right to choose the level of involvement He is to have in your spiritual development.” (Outrageous Love, Transforming Power, p.85)