Celebrating Discipline

” Our ordinary method of dealing with ingrained sin is to launch a frontal attack. We rely on our willpower and determination. Whatever the issue for us may be-anger, bitterness, gluttony, pride, sexual lust, alcohol, fear- we determine never to do it again; we pray against it, fight against it, set our will against it. But it is all in vain, and we find ourselves once again morally bankrupt or, worse yet, so proud of our external righteousness that “whitened sepulchers” is a mild description of our condition…

“When we despair  of gaining inner transformation through human powers of will and determination, we are open to a wonderful new realization: inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours. The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside. We cannot attain or earn this righteousness of the kingdom of God. It is a grace that is given…

“The moment we grasp this breathtaking insight we are in danger of an error in the opposite direction. We are tempted to believe there is nothing we can do. If all human strivings end in moral bankruptcy (and having tried it we know it is so), and if righteousness is a gracious gift from God (as the Bible clearly states), then is it not logical to conclude that we must wait for God to come and transform us? Strangely enough the answer is no. The analysis is correct: human striving is insufficient and righteousness is a gift from God. It is the conclusion that is faulty, for happily there is something that we can do. We do not need to be hung on the horns of the dilemma of either human works or idleness. God has given us the disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace. The disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.

“The apostle Paul said, “he who sows in his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal 6:8). A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is to provide the right conditions for the growing of grain…that is the way with the spiritual disciplines- they are a way of sowing to the Spirit. The disciplines are God’s way of getting us into the ground; they put us where He can work within us and transform us. By themselves the spiritual disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. They are God’s means of grace. The inner righteousness we seek is not something that is poured on our heads. God has ordained the disciplines of the spiritual life as the means by which we are placed where He can bless.”

Excerpt from Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth  by Richard Foster

Finding the balance between doing and being is a task I have struggled with since I have been a Christian. Knowing that my righteousness is in Christ alone and living as it is such while trusting in His work of sanctification has never been easy for me. I am learning to peruse the disciplines of the spiritual life not to gain righteousness or to feel the counterfeit peace of accomplishing my spiritual task list, but to  know Christ more thoroughly and to delight abundantly more in His finished work on the Cross. What freedom there is when my heart is humbled and I begin to drink the nourishing milk in areas where I have been trying to eat, yet choking on meat. Learning to be content in my imperfection and handing over the reins to God has made the Christian life a joy rather than a job.

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