Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Study Guide

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Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Study Guide Donald S. Whitney Permission is granted to download and print one copy to use. ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. S P I R I T U A L DISCIPLINES F O R T H E CHRISTIAN L I F E A STUDY GUIDE BASED ON THE BOOK ✥ DONALD S. WHITNEY N A V P R E S S ® BRINGING TRUTH TO LIFE 00fmwhitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:27 PM Page 1 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. The Navigators is an international Christian organization. Our mission is to reach, disciple, and equip people to know Christ and to make Him known through successive generations. We envision multitudes of diverse people in the United States and every other nation who have a passionate love for Christ, live a lifestyle of sharing Christ’s love, and multiply spiritual labor- ers among those without Christ. NavPress is the publishing ministry of The Navigators. NavPress publications help believers learn biblical truth and apply what they learn to their lives and ministries. Our mission is to stimulate spiritual formation among our readers. © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without written permission from NavPress, P.O. Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935. www.navpress.com NAVPRESS, BRINGING TRUTH TO LIFE, and the NAVPRESS logo are registered trademarks of NavPress. Absence of ® in connection with marks of NavPress or other parties does not indicate an absence of registration of those marks. ISBN 08910-97597 Unless otherwise identified, all Scripture quotations in this publication are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version® (NIV®). Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Another version used is the New American Standard Bible (NASB), © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. Printed in the United States of America 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 / 08 07 06 05 FOR A FREE CATALOG OF NAVPRESS BOOKS & BIBLE STUDIES, CALL 1-800-366-7788 (USA) or 1-416-499-4615 (CANADA) Our Guarantee to You We believe so strongly in the message of our books that we are making this quality guarantee to you. If for any rea- son you are disappointed with the content of this book, return the title page to us with your name and address and we will refund to you the list price of the book. To help us serve you better, please briefly describe why you were dis- appointed. Mail your refund request to: NavPress, P.O. Box 35002, Colorado Springs, CO 80935. 00fmwhitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:27 PM Page 2 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. Lesson One THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES . . . FOR THE PURPOSE OF GODLINESS 5 Lesson Two BIBLE INTAKE (PART 1) . . . FOR THE PURPOSE OF GODLINESS 15 Lesson Three BIBLE INTAKE (PART 2) . . . FOR THE PURPOSE OF GODLINESS 24 Lesson Four PRAYER . . . FOR THE PURPOSE OF GODLINESS 32 Lesson Five WORSHIP . . . FOR THE PURPOSE OF GODLINESS 41 Lesson Six EVANGELISM . . . FOR THE PURPOSE OF GODLINESS 49 Lesson Seven SERVING . . . FOR THE PURPOSE OF GODLINESS 57 Lesson Eight STEWARDSHIP . . . FOR THE PURPOSE OF GODLINESS 66 Lesson Nine FASTING, SILENCE, AND SOLITUDE . . . FOR THE PURPOSE OF GODLINESS 76 Lesson Ten JOURNALING AND LEARNING . . . FOR THE PURPOSE OF GODLINESS 86 CONTENTS 00fmwhitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:27 PM Page 3 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. CENTRAL IDEA The only road to Christian maturity and Godliness (Christlikeness and holiness) passes through the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines. These personal and corporate disciplines promote spiritual growth and have been prac- ticed by God’s people since biblical times. Jesus modeled them for us and expects us to pursue them. In doing so, we will taste the joy of a Spiritually Disciplined lifestyle. WARM-UP 1. Describe a time when you disciplined yourself in order to reach a specific goal, or when you did not discipline yourself and failed to reach a specific goal. What Is the Purpose of Spiritual Disciplines? ❝When it comes to discipline in the Christian life, many believers feel it’s discipline without direction. Prayer threat- ens to be drudgery. The practical value of meditation on Scripture seems uncertain. The real purpose of a Discipline like fasting is often unclear. 5 L E S S O N O N E THESPIRITUALDISCIPLINES. . . FOR THEPURPOSE OFGODLINESS ✥ Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. (1 Timothy 4:7, NASB) 01whitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:14 PM Page 5 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. 6 It is said of God’s elect in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God’s eternal plan ensures that every Christian will ultimately conform to Christlikeness. We will be changed “when he appears” so that “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). This is no vision; this is you, Christian, in a few years. So why all the talk about discipline? If God has predes- tined our conformity to Christlikeness, where does discipline fit in? Although God will grant Christlikeness to us when Jesus returns, until then He intends for us to grow toward that Christlikeness. We aren’t merely to wait for holiness; we’re to pursue it. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy,” we’re commanded in Hebrews 12:14, for “with- out holiness no one will see the Lord.” This leads us to ask what every Christian should ask: “How then shall we pursue holiness? How can we be like Jesus Christ, the Son of God?” We find a clear answer in 1 Timothy 4:7—“Discipline your- self for the purpose of godliness” (NASB). The only road to Christian maturity and Godliness (a bib- lical term synonymous with Christlikeness and holiness) passes through the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines. Godliness is the goal of the Disciplines, and when we remem- ber this, the Spiritual Disciplines become a delight instead of drudgery. God Commands Us to Be Holy The original language of the words “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” makes it plain that this is a com- mand of God, not merely a suggestion. Holiness is not an option for those who claim to be children of the Holy One (1 Peter 1:15-16), so neither are the means of holiness, that is, the Spiritual Disciplines, an option. The expectation of disciplined spirituality is implied in Jesus’ offer of Matthew 11:29—“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” The same is true in this offer of disciple- ship: “Then he said to them all, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and fol- low me’” (Luke 9:23). These verses tell us that to be a disci- ple of Jesus means, at the very least, to learn from and follow Him. Learning and following involve discipline, for those who only learn accidentally and follow incidentally are not true disciples. That discipline is at the heart of discipleship is 01whitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:14 PM Page 6 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. confirmed by Galatians 5:22-23, which says that spiritual self-discipline (i.e., “self-control”) is one of the most evident marks of being Spirit-controlled. The Lord Jesus not only expects these Disciplines of us—He modeled them for us. What Are the Spiritual Disciplines? The Spiritual Disciplines are those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth. They are the habits of devotion and experiential Christianity that have been prac- ticed by the people of God since biblical times. Whatever the Discipline, its most important feature is its purpose. Just as there is little value in practicing the scales on a guitar or piano apart from the purpose of playing music, there is little value in practicing Spiritual Disciplines apart from the single purpose that unites them (Colossians 2:20-23, 1 Timothy 4:8). That purpose is Godliness. Thus we are told in 1 Timothy 4:7 to discipline ourselves “for the purpose of godliness” (emphasis added). On the one hand, we recognize that even the most iron- willed self-discipline will not make us more holy, for growth in holiness is a gift from God (John 7:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Hebrews 2:11). On the other hand, we can do some- thing to further the process. God has given us the Spiritual Disciplines as a means of receiving His grace and growing in Godliness. By them we place ourselves before God for Him to work in us. The Spiritual Disciplines are also like channels of God’s transforming grace. As we place ourselves in them to seek communion with Christ, His grace flows to us and we are changed. That’s why the Disciplines must become a priority for us if we will be Godly. The Fruit of Spiritual Disciplines We must remember that the full-grown freedoms of disci- pline-nurtured Godliness don’t develop overnight or during a weekend seminar. The Bible reminds us that self-control, such as that expressed through the Spiritual Disciplines, must persevere before the mature fruit of Godliness ripens. Notice the sequence of development in 2 Peter 1:6—“and to self- control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness.” Godliness is a lifelong pursuit. 7 01whitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:14 PM Page 7 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. 8 If your picture of a disciplined Christian is one of a grim, tight-lipped, joyless half-robot, then you’ve missed the point. Jesus was the most disciplined Man who ever lived and yet the most joyful and passionately alive. He is our example of discipline. Let us follow Him to joy through the Spiritual Disciplines. (Taken from chapter 1 of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.) Persevering in the Practice of the Spiritual Disciplines Three things, when understood, will help you persevere in the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines: the role of the Holy Spirit, the role of fellowship, and the role of struggle in Christian living. The Holy Spirit. The role of the Holy Spirit is to produce within us the desire and the power for the Disciplines that lead to Godliness. That He develops this in every believer is evident from 2 Timothy 1:7. The Bible doesn’t explain the mechanics of the mystery of the Spirit’s ministry to us. But these two things are clear: (1) He will be ever faithful to help each of God’s elect to per- severe to the end in those things which will make us like Christ, and (2) we must not harden our hearts, but instead respond to His promptings if we would be Godly. Fellowship. No one should read of the Spiritual Disciplines and imagine that by practicing them in isolation from other believers they can be just as Christlike, perhaps even more so, than Christians who are active members of a local body of Christ. To measure progress in Christlikeness only in terms of growth in fellowship with God is an incom- plete measurement. Spiritual maturity also includes growth in fellowship with the children of God. Struggle. There is an element of struggle in Christian liv- ing. Many forces combat the spiritual progress of those still on this side of Heaven. Practicing the Spiritual Disciplines and progressing in Godliness will be accompanied by strug- gle. The victory that we actually experience over the forces opposing our progress in the Disciplines will come through the practice of the Disciplines. (Taken from chapter 13 of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.)❞ Pondering Spiritual Disciplines 2. In the past, how have you felt about Spiritual Disciplines 01whitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:14 PM Page 8 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. such as Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, and fasting? Be honest. 3. What single purpose unites the Spiritual Disciplines? (Colossians 2:20-23, 1 Timothy 4:8) The Importance of Holiness (Godliness) 4. What does 1 Peter 1:15-16 say about the importance of holiness in believers’ lives? 5. Describe a Godly person you know who has reached spir- itual maturity through discipline. Which practical Spiritual Disciplines has he or she practiced regularly? Catalysts That God Uses to Make Us More Christlike 6. People. Often God brings people into our lives whose input leads us to become more Christlike. Read Proverbs 27:17. Describe a time when God used someone to file away your rough, ungodly edges. 7. a. Circumstances. We’ve all faced trying circumstances that God uses to make us more like Himself. What does Romans 8:28 say about our difficult circum- stances? 9 01whitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:14 PM Page 9 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. 10 b. As a group, discuss how God uses circumstances in life to move you closer toward Godliness. 8. Spiritual Disciplines. Rather than externally coming from people and/or circumstances, this catalyst works from the inside of our lives and goes outward. Also, God grants us more choice regarding our involvement with this catalyst than with people or circumstances. Describe a time when God used your prayer time or Bible meditation to change you from the inside out. Spiritual Disciplines: A Way to Seek God and Know Him Better Today people place great emphasis on physical exercise as a means of staying healthy. Spiritual Disciplines are similar to physical exercise, in that when we exercise ourselves spiritu- ally we promote Godliness in our lives. Let’s look at two Bible stories that reveal how two people put themselves in the path of Jesus and sought Him. As a result, their lives were forever changed. 9. Bartimaeus: Luke 18:35-43 a. What strikes you about his response to Jesus? b. In response to Bartimaeus’ faith, what did Jesus do for him? 01whitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:14 PM Page 10 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. 10. Zacchaeus: Luke 19:1-10 a. How did this tax collector pursue Jesus? b. What does this story tell us about Jesus’ mercy? 11. How do these stories encourage you to seek God? The Spiritual Disciplines Are Like Channels of God’s Transforming Grace 12. According to the text, as we place ourselves in the Spiritual Disciplines in order to seek communion with God, “His grace flows to us and we are changed.” Describe a time when you sought God and His grace flowed into you and changed you. The Lord Expects Us to Pursue the Spiritual Disciplines 13. What do the following verses say about what it means for each of us to be Jesus’ disciple? Matthew 11:29 Luke 9:23 Galatians 5:22-23 11 01whitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:14 PM Page 11 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. 12 The Consequences of Being Spiritually Undisciplined 14. Why do people who will discipline themselves for years to become proficient at their careers or recreational sports quickly stop pursuing the Spiritual Disciplines? Has this happened to you? 15. “The gold of Godliness isn’t found on the surface of Christianity,” states the text. “It has to be dug from the depths with the tools of the Disciplines.” Think back on your activities last week. Were you able to use the tools of the Disciplines to dig for the “gold of Godliness”? If yes, what steps will you take to maintain your discipline? If not, what steps can you take to practice Spiritual Discipline this week? Spiritual Disciplines Bring Freedom 16. a. “Freedom comes through mastery of any discipline. . . . The freedom of Godliness is the freedom to do what God calls us to do through Scripture and the freedom to express the character qualities of Christ through our own personality.” In which areas of life have you expe- rienced this freedom? b. If you haven’t experienced this freedom, what steps will you take to bring yourself closer to this freedom? 01whitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:14 PM Page 12 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. Spiritual Disciplines Take Time 17. Read 2 Peter 1:3-6. Why must self-control persevere before the mature fruit of Godliness ripens? God Invites All Christians to Enjoy the Spiritual Disciplines 18. When we practice the Spiritual Disciplines with the goal of Godliness in mind, our discipline has direction. Jesus is our example of discipline. Look up these verses: Matthew 4:2; Luke 2:46-47; John 13:2-6, 17:4. What does each say about Jesus and His pursuit of the Spiritual Disciplines? Persevering in the Practice of the Christian Disciplines 19. Through the Holy Spirit, we have the power to persevere in the Spiritual Disciplines. Read 2 Timothy 1:7 and then describe why this truth should encourage us. CLOSING PRAYER Focus on God’s deep love for you and on His desire to com- municate with you through the Spiritual Disciplines. Ask the Lord to help you become willing to practice these Disciplines during the coming weeks of this study. GOING DEEPER (Extra questions for further study) 20. These days “denying oneself” is not a popular viewpoint. How does what Jesus said in Luke 9:23 relate to the prac- tice of the Spiritual Disciplines? 13 01whitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:14 PM Page 13 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. 14 21. Why is self-control one of the most evident marks of being Spirit-controlled? (See Galatians 5:22-23.) 22. What do you think the text means by, “The Spiritual Disciplines . . . are also like channels of God’s transform- ing grace”? 23. According to 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, everyone has been given spiritual gifts. Why do you think Spiritual Discipline is so important in the development of these gifts? 24. What practical steps are you willing to take this coming week to begin building more Spiritual Discipline into your life? 01whitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:14 PM Page 14 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com. CENTRAL IDEA No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There simply is no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. Bible intake is not only the most important Spiritual Discipline, it is also the most broad. It actually consists of several subdisciplines. It’s much like a university comprised of many colleges, each specializing in a different discipline, yet all united under the general name of the university. WARM-UP 1. Describe the Bible intake that took place—or didn’t take place—in your home and church as you were growing up. Has that affected your view of Bible intake today? If so, how? 2. Have you—and your family, if you are married—devel- oped a consistent pattern of Bible intake? If so, describe 15 L E S S O N T W O BIBLEINTAKE(PART1). . . FOR THEPURPOSE OFGODLINESS 02whitneySG_RPRT12 1/19/05 12:17 PM Page 15 ISBN 9780891097594 © 1994 by Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, see www.navpress.com.