8 Reasons Spiritual Disciplines Matter

I know it sounds like a basic, simplistic matter in our Christian walk, but I’m writing this post to encourage all of us to do spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, fasting, and solitude. Here’s why:

  1. The disciplines slow us down. Most of us are so busy that we have little time to stop, reflect, and just spend time with God. We desperately need that time, though, even if we don’t realize it.
  2. They put us in a position to listen to God. Not only are we too busy, but we’ve also lost the practice of just quietly listening to God through His Word and His Spirit. Consequently, we often worry more and trust less.
  3. They emphasize relationship. Disciplines are about turning to God, focusing on Him, listening to Him, speaking to Him, and then telling others about Him. Strengthening our relationship with Him is both a motivation for, and a result of, disciplines.
  4. They force us to see where we place our dependence. Regularly meeting God in the disciplines = admitting our need and desire for Him. When we spend little or no time with God, though, we are confessing that we have little need for Him.
  5. They uncover our sin that hinders our walk with God. It’s difficult to read God’s Word, speak to Him, and focus on Him without seeing ourselves as the sinners we are. The disciplines challenge us to cry out to God for forgiveness and cleansing.
  6. They correct our sins of omission. Reading the Word, praying, fasting, and other disciplines are acts of obedience to the God who saved us. Thus, it is simply right for us to do them.
  7. They prepare us to teach and lead others. The best leaders of God’s church are those who lead from the overflow of their personal walk with Him. Apart from being with Him, we teach and lead in our own power – and that helps no one.
  8. They produce in us godly confidence and excitement. When we know we’ve been with God, we’re much more prepared to speak about Him. In fact, we almost can’t help but speak of Him then.

What reasons would you add to this list?

Living for Others

A Broadcast with Steven Lawson

True joy in the Christian life can be found in offering ourselves as living sacrifices for the glory of God and the flourishing of His church. Today, Steven Lawson expounds on our calling to serve others for their spiritual well-being.

A Testimony of Faith

September 10, 2022
Acts 8:4-8; Acts 8:25-40

Therefore, those who had been scattered went through places preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming the Christ to them. The crowds were paying attention with one mind to what was being said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed or limped on crutches were healed. So there was much rejoicing in that city.

25 So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

26 But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Get ready and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) 27 So he got ready and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:

He was led like a sheep to slaughter;
And like a lamb that is silent before its shearer,
So He does not open His mouth.
33 In humiliation His justice was taken away;
Who will describe His generation?
For His life is taken away from the earth.”

34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself, or of someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he ordered that the chariot stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities, until he came to Caesarea.

 

Many believers consider sharing faith with others a scary endeavor. The example of a faithful witness can be encouraging and motivating—and Philip is a wonderful model for us to emulate.

He brought the good news of Jesus Christ to Samaria, where the crowd listened intently and many were baptized. Yet when God’s instructions redirected Philip to go speak to one particular man on a desert road, he willingly obeyed (Acts 8:26-27 above).  He carefully considered what to say and used the Scriptures to lead the traveler to salvation. Whether he was addressing large crowds or an individual, his words always pointed to Jesus Christ.

Philip’s witness flowed from a life transformed by Christ, and that should be the same with us. He understood that God’s Word is the power for salvation. It’s not our eloquence that saves others, but God’s supernatural ability to open a heart to the message.

As you approach different situations throughout the day, try to be like Philip. Recognize that the Lord will lead you to the people He wants you to speak with. Ask questions to open a door of opportunity, and courageously use the truths of Scripture to explain the gospel in an understandable way

The Impact of Knowing God

 

1 John 2:1-17

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever follows His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says that he remains in Him ought, himself also, walk just as He walked.

Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. The one who says that he is in the Light and yet hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother and sister remains in the Light, and there is nothing in him to cause stumbling. 11 But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you on account of His name. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God remains in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God continues to live forever.

Are you seeking to know and understand the Lord? Even though He’s beyond human comprehension in many ways, God has revealed much of Himself in His Word. And as we search for Him in Scripture, we’ll grow in our understanding of His nature. But this isn’t merely an academic pursuit. Knowing God practically impacts every area of life.

For one thing, knowledge of God influences our prayers. Instead of asking for whatever we want, we’ll seek to ask according to His will (14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. 1 John 5:14-15).  And we won’t limit our requests in size or scope because we’ll realize that nothing is impossible with God.

The way we view the Lord also affects how we think, behave, and relate to other people. Knowing Him intimately transforms our natural tendency toward doubt and sin. Then we desire to walk obediently before Him, with a pure heart. Instead of loving the world, we seek to please Him by loving His people unselfishly and resisting sinful lusts.

Paul thought knowing the Lord was so important that he made it the primary pursuit of his live (More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;Phil. 3:8-10). Could that be said of you? Self-reformation soon fails, but knowledge of God renews you from the inside out.

Giving All

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Romans 12:1 
Sacrifice always involves loss of some kind, like when we sacrifice our time or money. But such a sacrifice is not a total loss—we don’t give up all our time or money; there is always more available to replace what was lost. But the notion of sacrifice in Scripture had a more ominous meaning.
In the Old Testament, when an animal was sacrificed on the altar, it was a totalloss. The life of the animal was extinguished. Yes, there were more animals in one’s flock, but for the animal that died, everything was taken. It was this kind of sacrifice that Paul had in mind when he implored Christians to willingly present themselves as sacrifices to God. Not sacrifices that would die physically, but living sacrifices that would live—alive to God but dead to self. This is the kind of sacrificial life Paul described for himself in Philippians 3:7-14. He considered his life before Christ as nothing going forward. He lived only for Christ.

Living sacrifices can be tempted to crawl off the altar. Consider yourself today to be dead to self and alive for the glory of Christ.

Sacrifice without obedience is sacrilege.
William Gurnall

  • David Jeremiah

The Importance of a Good Testimony

Jesus wants to satisfy the yearnings of your heart.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

We always give thanks to God for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly keeping in mind your work of faith and labor of love and perseverance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters, beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sakes. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word during great affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place the news of your faith toward God has gone out, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us as to the kind of reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is, Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come.

 

A testimony is an account of what a person has seen or experienced. For us as Christians, it’s a declaration of who Jesus Christ is and what He’s done in our life. The authenticity of our testimony is displayed in three ways.

  1. Character. Starting at salvation, the Spirit begins the process of conforming us to Christ’s image. Then our thinking should align more and more with Scripture. As that happens, sinful attitudes will be replaced by godly ones, and our heart will desire to obey the Lord. If the internal change is genuine, it will be manifested externally.
  2. Conduct. The way we act should confirm who we are in Christ. If we follow God’s instructions only occasionally but ignore Him the rest of the time, our testimony will be hypocritical. But a truly transformed life will be marked by obedience.
  3. Conversation. We speak out of whatever fills our heart (You offspring of vipers, how can you, being evil, express any good things? For the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart. Matt. 12:34). A transformed heart should overflow with gracious words and be quick to tell others about the Savior, who rescues us from sin and condemnation.

When our character, conduct, and conversation match who we are in Christ, we’ll have a testimony that encourages fellow Christians and draws unbelievers to the Savior.

Why You Should Memorize Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is perhaps the most beloved passage in all of Scripture. Even many nonbelievers in our secular world are familiar with it due to many references in pop music, movies, and national discourse.

I think you should memorize Psalm 23. Here are five reasons why.

1. You probably already have much of it memorized.

Maybe you don’t think you can memorize Scripture. That’s OK, because there’s a good chance you know much of Psalm 23 by heart already.

Let’s practice.

Fill in the blank: “The Lord is my Shepherd, ________.” Or we can try verse four: “Even though I walk through the valley ___________.” How did you do?

You may not be used to memorizing multiple verses of Scripture, but the familiarity of Psalm 23 makes it easier to memorize than most other passages of Scripture.

2. You can pray it.

Praying Psalm 23 (and Scripture in general) gives you a mental path to follow in prayer, one of the most helpful ways to focus in prayer. Memorizing this precious Psalm means you can call it to mind for prayer anytime. It may be daily prayer with a loved one, a way to start your personal devotions, or a way to make the most of pockets of free time you find yourself with throughout the day.

As you pray this Psalm and thank your Good Shepherd for wisely shepherding you, you will solidify your identity as a follower of Jesus since He is the Great Shepherd of the Sheep (John 10:1–18; Hebrews 13:20).

3. You will know your Shepherd better and submit to Him.

Psalm 23 shows us how God our Shepherd leads and cares for us, His sheep. He is the active One in the Psalm (see all mentions to “He” or “You” in the Psalm). We receive His gracious actions and submit to Him.

As your soul meditates on the beautiful imagery of the Psalm, you will recognize how God has made you content (verse one), leads you to rest (verse two), restores your soul (verse three), and leads you through challenging times (verse four). You will remember God’s surprising favor to you (verse five) and look ahead to your glorious future in the house of the Lord (verse six). Recognizing God’s work will in the past make you more attune to follow His voice in the future.

4. You can point other believers to their Good Shepherd during the ups and downs of life.

The best thing human shepherds can do is point others to the Good Shepherd. We can’t make anyone down in green pastures, restore anyone’s soul, or be a continual comforting presence in dark times; but our Good Shepherd can. And when we point others to Him and His gracious work, He strengthens weak faith, stabilizes feeble knees, and causes love for Him to grow.

Locking away this psalm in your heart will make it a ready tool for impromptu counseling sessions, hospital visits, caring for a loved one on their death bed, and a myriad of other ministry situations.

5. You can use it for evangelism.

This may be the strangest point on the list because Psalm 23 is anything but evangelistic. But the testimony of the old Scottish preacher John McNeil proves my point. McNeil preached on Psalm 23 all over the world and saw many conversions. Why did that happen? Here’s McNeil’s explanation:

I have often been surprised to find the… converting power, under God, of a portion of Scripture so evidently belonging to believers. The sinner’s mouth begins to water, I suppose, when you seem… to leave him on the outside while you dwell on the blessedness of those who are in the fold. In his reaction to that, he begins to evangelize himself, and gets to the Shepherd without you.[1]

While many in our secular world scoff at the notion of a caring God, everyone longs for what He offers. To have a wise and caring Shepherd for navigating every trial of life might seem too good to be true for the anxious, angry, and depressed of our age. But that’s when we can share Psalm 23 and say, “This is who Jesus is for me and everyone else who trust in Him. But you have to trust in Him for it to be said of you too.”

[1] Pastor Colin Smith shared this in the sermon on Psalm 23:1 “He Owns Me.”

This article originally ran at OpentheBible.org.

How to Deal With Sin

1 John 1:5-10

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

1 John 2:1-2

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Christ’s sacrifice on the cross paid for all our sins, but believers are still susceptible to temptation and disobedience. So it’s important for us to understand what to do when we yield to our sinful desires. God has graciously given us a way to receive cleansing so we can continue to grow in holiness. We’re to …

  • See sin as the Lord sees it. Our God is absolutely pure. To Him, every sin is an offense that violates His law, grieves the Holy Spirit, and belittles Christ’s sacrifice.
  • Take responsibility for it. Trying to soften the heinous nature of sin by calling it a mistake, weakness, or shortcoming is unacceptable. We must acknowledge our disobedience instead of making excuses or blaming others.
  • Confess it. Agreeing with God about our wrongdoing is a blessed privilege. Once we confess, He washes us clean of the guilt and empowers us to turn away from that sin in repentance. In this way, we can begin walking afresh in holiness.

Although John explained how to deal with sin, his main purpose was to encourage us to turn from it and walk in obedience to God. Sin should be the exception in our life—not the rule.

Finding Contentment

Surrendering our desires to God positions us to experience true contentment in His good plan.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Because of the extraordinary greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Too often we let our circumstances determine our attitude. If life is going smoothly, then we feel good, but when it gets hard, our mood drops. As Christians, we don’t have to live this way. Like the apostle Paul, we can learn to be content with whatever God brings or allows in our life.

God allows various kinds of suffering to help us mature in faith and become more like Jesus. (And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Rom. 5:3-5.) In these situations, contentment is the ability to accept life as it is—not wanting anything more or different. Such acceptance is possible only if we maintain a biblical perspective and rely on God’s strength in our weakness. But if we fight against our circumstances, we’ll be miserable because we’re resisting the Lord and His purposes for us. He’s working out His perfect plan through each event in our life—even the ones we don’t like. (Of course, when hardship is due to abuse or certain other sinful situations, pastors or Christian counselors can help us discern whether self-protection is necessary.)

Submission and trust are essential for contentment. As long as we try to control the situation or maneuver our way out of it, we’ll be stressed and discontent. But if we realize that whatever God allows is for our good, we’ll be able to surrender our will and desires. Then, by relying on the Lord’s wisdom and strength, we’ll discover the contentment only He can give.

Discipleship

A Broadcast with R.C. Sproul

True disciples of Christ may stumble, they may lose resolve from time to time, but their face is set in one direction: to finish the course of following Him. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his sermon series in the gospel of Luke to address the high calling of discipleship.