The Need for Spiritual Disciplines
John Telgren

The messages of the world are often so subtle that Christians do not realize it when it creeps into their minds. Whether it is at work, the movies, the newspaper, or school, these messages permeate every sphere of public life. Here are some examples

1. Individualism. On the surface, this may not seem like a big deal. We live in a culture where individual freedom and rights stand supreme above all. Our culture prizes individualism, provided it does not hurt anyone else. But individualism ravages the world. It is the root of the first sin in the garden and the underlying cause for divorce, crime, murder, and a host of other ills. The Bible upholds community as the ideal, not individualism. God made man and woman to be companions. God redeemed the "nation" of Israel, not a bunch of individuals. Jesus established his "ekklesia/assembly/church, not a bunch of individuals. Even our God is a trinity of fellowship that sacrificially gives. Even so, individualism can plague even Christians. Some seek out a church that will do something for them rather than vice-versa. Some rate the worship service on how it did something for them rather than how they edified someone else or worshipped God. And the list can go on.

2. Spiritualism. The spirituality of our culture preaches that meaning is found somewhere within ourselves rather than in the God who created us. It worships the human will and truth "within" us. All you have to do is read some human-interest story or watch a movie and you will see it. This is nothing more than idolatry.

3. Sensualism. Many want to "experience" things for the thrill. We live in a sex-saturated, experiential culture that seeks the next thrill. In writing about sexual purity, Elisabeth Elliot wrote, "By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere."

There are other challenges, such as secularism, materialism, pragmatism, violence, a new type of existentialism, and a host of other challenges to our inner worlds. Many are hardly aware of these types of challenges. In fact, there may be those that are Christian outwardly; they go to worship, sing, pray, and do other activities that look Christian, yet inwardly think and feel as the world does.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we sometimes see the same problems in the church that we do in the world, such as law-suits, divorce, sexual problems, fighting, etc. We need to take the words of this proverb to heart:

"Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. (Prov 4:23)"

Our inner selves can become polluted by the world. We can be gently coaxed into evaluating and making decisions based on the worldly scheme of things rather than on God's. Sheer will-power is not enough to resist these low-key onslaughts and serve God faithfully.

Spiritual disciplines such as silence, solitude, simplicity, reading, meditation, prayer, and fasting are all tools God gives us to keep our heart-springs unpolluted. Even Jesus practiced spiritual disciplines regularly. Yet many live with the illusion that we can imitate Christ without imitating his spirituality. If we imitate Christ, we must also imitate his spirituality.