Words Of Wisdom

Spiritual Discipline: The Doorway To Liberation

This is guest post from Tim Boykin, who is an ORU Graduate and a great Bible Teacher. We are glad to have him on board with us as one of the blog writers. We pray that his writings will be a blessing to your spiritual life.
SSpiritual disciplines help to free us from the things hinder us from spiritual growth; in Foster’s own words those things are “self-interest and fear” (Foster, 2008, p. 2). They place us in a position in which God does the freeing and delivering of us from “the sin that so easily besets us” (Zondervan New International Version Study Bible, 2002, p. Heb. 12.1). This must be the way they act as a door to liberate us for we know that only “the Son” can truly set us free (Zondervan New International Version Study Bible, 2002, p. John. 8.36).

I think the easiest implication to for the Christian to draw, is that the disciplines help us to be free from sin. Whether that is a specific sin like laziness, gluttony, lust, greed, fear etc. They also help us to avoid the danger of “idle hands” (Zondervan New International Version Study Bible, 2002, pp. Ecc. 10.18, 11.6). If focused upon they increase the time we spend doing the things that good Christians should be doing. They would help us to increase in certain areas like knowledge of scripture, philosophy, and time spent in prayer, fasting etc. Indeed I think Foster hints at this with his comment on “antinomianism” (Foster, 2008, p. 8) but this is not his focus. The implication Foster takes special note of is not as obvious.

He chooses to major on the transformation of the inner-man that can be brought about by such disciplines, contrasting it to the pharisaical “discipline” Jesus argued against. He makes this comparison primarily by defining the opposing views, perceptions versus regulations, and then observing the pitfalls most common with walking in the disciplines. Foster uses very “image creating” language throughout to describe the disciplines effects. For example, he uses the word “thicken” to describe how they affect his spirituality. However, as Foster explains, the disciplines help us not because they, in and of themselves, have any power.

I love Foster’s language of sewing a seed (Foster, 2008, p. 8); it’s such a “Jesus” approach. The practice of the disciplines sews us like a seed into the ground where then God can do the works of sanctification and “brought to the fullness” (Zondervan New International Version Study Bible, 2002, p. Col. 2.10). Foster notes early on that he was, despite his enthusiasm and training, unable to really help the struggling people in his congregation (Foster, 2008, p. xiv). His basic assessment was that his own spirituality was shallow (Foster, 2008, p. xv). To borrow his language of the “seed” (Foster, 2008, p. 8), he had no roots. He had to root himself through the disciplines so that God could produce fruit in his life. I believe that is Foster wants us to see the doorway of the disciplines opening to the “potter’s wheel” (Zondervan New International Version Study Bible, 2002, p. Is. 64.8), and to the dirt of God’s field of sanctification (Foster, 2008, p. 8).

Foster also remarks that the disciplines increase our want for God, quoting the psalmist, “as a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee Ps. 42.1” (Foster, 2008, p. 2). This I think is the heart of the whole matter that Foster wants us to see. Everything else we get from the disciplines hinges upon this truth, in Foster’s own words “The primary requirement is a longing after God” (Foster, 2008, p. 2). We must deepen our desire for the One who “makes all things new” (Zondervan New International Version Study Bible, 2002, p. 21.5) including us.

Which Truth?

This is guest post from Tim Boykin, who is an ORU Graduate and a great Bible Teacher. We are glad to have him on board with us as one of the blog writers. We pray that his writings will be a blessing to your spiritual life.
SSince I began writing, I have really wrestled with only a few major themes. Love, justice philosophies, and joy have dominated my work. Everything I write comes from the same perspective, a theological one, because my worldview is one in which God is central to all things. In my worldview He is preeminent to all things, so all things are defined by His construction and use of them. In other words, the purpose of those things in their usage and meaning, for me, cannot leave the scope of how He has defined them, or else they become something completely different. To make a practical example, if you say something that is not in line with its scriptural definition brings you joy, I am going to assume you have an incorrect definition of joy. Let’s say a woman claims that her dating relationship with her boyfriend brings her joy, yet he is abusive. I will assume that there are things about that relationship that bring her happiness… but not joy. I assume this because scripture teaches that in a relationship people should put one another first, sacrifice for each other, be patient, kind, gentle, 1st Corinthians 13 etc. NEVER does intentional abuse fall into the Biblical definition of a meaningful romantic relationship that produces joy. However, I cannot tell you how many Christian women and sometimes men, that get into and stay in abusive relationships by producing a self-justification that numbs the pain just enough. Obviously, this is just one of a multitude of possible examples, and an extreme simplification solely for the purpose of making a point. The purpose of this dialogue is to point towards the foundation from which I will draw all of the assumptions for the rest of my writings.

As with anything in life, foundations are necessity. When formulating any hypothesis there must be some assumptions from which we make conjecture. You cannot say, in a “real” discussion, this is right/wrong solely because this is my opinion. You must have some basis, be it logic, science, philosophy, religion… some assumption of Truth from which you draw conclusions. Now, I realize that I do NOT own the one and only view of Christian thought and practice. There are a multitude of positions taken on varying subjects, sanctification or the sovereignty of God are both good examples. Scripture provides space for disagreement and variation on many different topics. However, there are also quite a number of things that simply aren’t up for debate. Murder is an easy one, bearing false witness against your neighbor is also an easy one, adultery, hate, greed, lust, lasciviousness, covetousness and so on.

It is important to distinguish between those two categories, and to determine how you go about the distinguishing. Christians are often guilty of justifying sin in a Christian context. This is done by making a false assumption about God, and circumventing scripture to test that assumption. One such assumption goes something like this, “If God loves me wouldn’t He want me to be happy?” Now, I totally understand for the non-Christian this rhetoric is nonsensical and a simple emphatic “Yes!” However, for the Christian, scripture clearly delineates between happiness and joy. They are not equivalent.

Happiness is for the flesh, and joy for the spirit. Things that make you happy are often things that do not bring you joy. Happiness is circumstantial whereas joy is a result of who you are in Christ. Here are a few examples, many of them Christians won’t like. Eating fried food and sweets 3-7 days a week might make you happy, but it will NOT bring you joy. Never exercising but making certain to catch all your favorite TV shows might make you happy, but it will NOT bring you joy. Poor health, premature death, inability to do simple things that we take for granted can all result from choosing happiness over joy, and severely hinder your ministry and life in general. Playing video games for hours on end while you should be spending some time with your family might make you happy, but it will NOT bring you joy. A couple who works every day and doesn’t prioritize time for family might find moments of happiness in promotions and raises, but the day their child leaves for college and they realize they don’t know each other anymore and that they’ve missed getting to know their child… will NOT find joy in their current lifestyle. Living by culturally accepted truths that pander to your desires may bring you a measure of happiness, but the Truth that sets you free from those desires will bring eternal joy.

So to answer the question, “If God loves me wouldn’t He want me to be happy?” NO! No He wouldn’t. He wants you to walk in obedience with His Word, not because He will benefit from it, but because it will lead you to joy. For the Christian, scripture is plain; not just in Acts but virtually all of Paul’s letters we see a recurring theme. Regardless of circumstance, whether bond or free, abased or abounding, in little and in much, married or single, sick or well, we find joy in our walk with Christ. While on the surface this may not seem like a complex statement, it is basically the crux of all arguments between culture and scripture. The question to answer is whose “truth” do you want to follow… man’s or God’s?

Does anyone really care?

Do you have people in your life who are completely clueless when it comes to understanding you? Do they always act selfish and think that only their feelings matter? It happens in everyone’s life. Even those closest to you can be the ones who can cause the most damage emotionally in your life! But even in those situations, lean on the Lord. He really is the only one who can comfort you in your times of trouble. Many times, no matter what you do to support and lift up others, they are never there to lift you up in your times of need. Sometimes you might feel like you are all alone. We have all felt this way in our lives. You mustn’t lose hope! Although people can disappoint, our Lord never does!!!

In my times of disappointment and despair, I think about the Lord. I think about how I have probably made Him feel that way, when I do not pursue Him as I should. But regardless, in my times of sadness, when I think of Him, joy fills my heart, because I think of His goodness in my life. He has brought me through situation after situation, when the whole world turns their back….He remains steady, firm, and ready to accept me as I am.

So today, do not give up because you feel alone. God does not respond to your pain, but He responds to your pursuit of Him. Take time to sit in His presence and reach for Him….I know He will respond to you when you reach.

Run To God