[To read part 1 of this post, click here.]
The Role of Spiritual Disciplines
Although the Holy Spirit gives a believer the desire and the power for a biblical spirituality, a certain reformatting of the life and habits must also take place to practice a Gospel-centered piety. Thus Paul also wrote, “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). This doesn’t refer to physical training, for mere bodily activity—despite its health benefits—does not by itself build godliness, as the very next verse makes plain. Rather, the kind of training or exercise that promotes godliness (that is, Christlikeness) is spiritual training.
No Christian coasts into Christlikeness. Godliness, according to this text, requires training. Some Bible translations render “train” as “exercise” (KJV) or “discipline” (NASB). Thus the biblical and practical ways in daily life of living out this command to “train yourself for godliness” have often been termed “spiritual exercises” or “spiritual disciplines.” (Note: some false teachers have also used these expressions, but that doesn’t invalidate such biblically-derived terms any more than a heretic’s use of the word “Trinity” nullifies our orthodox use of that term.) What was true in Paul’s day is still true: it is by means of the spiritual disciplines found in Scripture that we are to pursue godliness.
Of course, legalism is always a danger in spirituality. Anything a Christian can count, measure, or time can be twisted into something that falsely assures a person that by this—instead of the sufficiency of the life and death of Jesus—they’re more spiritually secure or favored by God. But just because the disciplines of godliness can be misused doesn’t mean they should be neglected. “Train yourself for godliness” is God’s command, therefore it must be possible to pursue obedience to it without legalism
Gospel-Centered Spiritual Disciplines in Practice
So how do Christians practice a Gospel-centered spirituality? First, practice the right disciplines—those personal and interpersonal spiritual disciplines found in the Bible. A Gospel-centered spirituality is a sola scriptura spirituality. For individual practice, the most important personal spiritual disciplines are first, the intake of Scripture and second, prayer; all the others relate to these two. The interpersonal spiritual disciplines we’re to observe are primarily those biblical practices related to life together in a local church.
Second, practice the right disciplines with the right goal. Consciously practice these disciplines with Jesus as the focus—pursuing intimacy with Christ and conformity (both inward and outward) to Christ. To put it more succinctly, by means of the biblical spiritual disciplines seek to be with Jesus and like Jesus.
Third, practice the right disciplines the right way. Emphasize the person and work of Jesus in each one. Through them, learn from, gaze upon, and enjoy who Jesus is and what He has done. Let your soul be restored through by the truths of the Gospel.
Engage in the spiritual disciplines given by God in Scripture so that you are continually shown your need for Christ and the infinite supply of grace and mercy to be found by faith in Jesus Christ.