Disciples have it as their goal to become like their master – Jesus. This was Jesus’ clear intended goal for his followers: "follow me, learn from me, take my yoke upon you, follow my example, make disciples, teach them to put into practice everything I have taught you." Only as we experience genuine personal transformation will we see the social transformation we all seek.
Genuine transformation into the character of Christ really is possible. Growth and change involve a process and it is a partnership between God and us (see Phil.2:13). As we journey through life we all go through various trials and challenges. These are part of God’s plan to develop character in us (Jam.1:2-4). Thankfully, the Holy Spirit lives within us and is readily available to help us move towards what Jesus would be and do (2 Cor.3:18. Gal.5:22-23. Jn.15:8).
Spiritual practices (or disciplines) are activities that we engage in as disciples to participate with God’s work in our lives. We “put on” the new nature of Christ by engaging in regular activities that are within our power than enable us to become what we could not by direct effort (see Col.3:12-14. 2 Pet.1:1-8). We don’t engage in spiritual practices to earn or merit our salvation or forgiveness but in order to experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. GRACE is the opposite of earning, not effort. Spiritual practices are wisdom not righteousness. They are wise practices that train and transform our hearts. Athletes understand the importance of training. Paul compared our Christian life to the training of an athlete in several passages (1 Cor.9:25. 1Tim.4:7-8. 2 Tim.2:5). When we engage in the spiritual disciplines as training, we are doing so to change how we live. Most people want to change but fail – not because they are not trying, but because they are not training properly.
There are a great variety of spiritual practices: contemplative (including prayer, Scripture, meditation, solitude, silence, Sabbath, fasting, simplicity or journaling), communal (including celebration, singing, service, fellowship, generosity or confession) and missional (including sharing your story, proclaiming the good news in word or deed, showing hospitality, assisting the poor and needy, working for justice, loving your neighbor or serving your community). The aim is not to add more and more activities to our already busy lives but rather to join God in how we spend every day. It’s about living as apprentices of Jesus in our ordinary, everyday lives.
Tomorrow: some resources for disciples of Jesus.