In the Judeo-Christian tradition both heart (Proverbs 4:23) and mind (Romans 12:2) play a critical place in the spiritual life, but true religion can be defined (James 1:27) and measured (Mt. 25:31ff.) without regard to these things, because the spiritual life is more than just correct thinking (doctrine, theology) and proper feeling (affections, passions). True religion involves behavior (lifestyle, practices). Both heart and mind are penultimate to behavior. Life-change is always the ultimate end in view, always the goal. We know from James, that faith without works is dead (James 2:20), and from Paul that faith leads to obedience (Romans 1:5). The Bible emphasizes these works and this obedience in its ubiquitous calls for love, compassion, understanding and generosity towards others – and in giving God the affection and honor that he deserves. Unfortunately, in the churches, this call to character or Christian lifestyle is often where the story ends. We’re reminded, motivated, inspired, informed and challenged – but often left to ourselves to figure out how to make it work. Yes, be more patient, loving, compassionate. Yes, be a person of prayer, joy, grace, peace. But how? The ancient answer is new again – spiritual disciplines. By them we make space for God to enter our equation. We position ourselves to receive from God and to hear from God. By practicing spiritual disciplines we train ourselves* to be able to do by the grace of God, what we cannot consistently do now: “the right thing in the right way at the right time for the right reason.” The “riches” that I share highlight the value of proven spiritual disciplines and repeatedly remind of them – since we often know, but also forget, what is most important. And since the learning-curve of the Christian life is long (a life-time), we need to return repeatedly to these core practices – practices that you might not often hear emphasized in church (the need to slow down, the need for silence and solitude), or things that aren’t typical in your faith tradition, and not mentioned for that reason (contemplative prayer, fixed-time prayer, keeping of a sabbath). We look to God to change us, but merely looking is not enough. Nor is it enough to learn more, or try harder. Historic spiritual disciplines transcend eras of Christian history, continents, cultures and denominations. Christians of influence in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions all testify to their value. As you prayerfully interact with this blog, I hope you will find value in them as well, and that starting with me, we’ll all end up looking more like Jesus.
* “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” 1 Timothy 4:7
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Have you settled for merely more information or inspiration?
- What you’re doing to be more like Jesus – is it working?
- Are you actually training yourself “to do the right thing … for the right reason?
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less (with today being a rare exception). I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”