Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Spiritual Exercises

There are many spiritual exercises recommended to help us in our walk with Christ. These are often valuable. But there is also a danger involved. It is easy for things that are done on a habitual basis to become a matter of course, and through that, a rote routine, Now it does say in Scripture that there is a place for spiritual discipline and exercise (1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:14; 1 Corinthians 9:25-27). But it also speaks against a superficial, external practice of such exercises (Matthew 6:1-18; John 4:23,24; Malachi 1:10). It  is important for us to find our way between the extremes. In this it does not matter if we are involved in corporate worship or individual  worship. I am convinced that our gatherings for corporate worship are the practice sessions for the game of life. It is there we come to be instructed and encouraged by each other to face the rest of life (Hebrews 10:24,25; 12:12,13; Colossians 2:19). But we need to put these exercises in proper perspective.

One of the most important things involved is attitude. We need to remember God's love for us in sending His Son to pay the price for our sins (John 3:14-18; Romans 5:6-8; 1 John  4:9-10). It is based on this that we come to love God (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Matthew 22:36-40) and to desire to know Him (Jeremiah 9:23,24; John 17:3: Matthew 11:27). And from that we come to trust Him (Psalms 127:1,2; 37:3-6; Proverbs 3:5,6) as He works in us to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14). This results in our loving others as an overflow of our love for God (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13,14; 1 John 4:20,21). Now if we see certain spiritual exercises as a way to learn to love and know God and from that to love others, rather than having just an attitude of duties to be performed or a checklist to run through, it makes a difference.

But this is always a struggle. There is always a danger of slipping back into simple routine. In this I believe God often honors our efforts in ways that are beyond what our efforts deserve (Acts 12:1-17; Ephesians 3:20,21; Mark 9:24). But I also believe we need to pursue genuinely loving and knowing God and not just go through a form (Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 12:1,2; Romans 12:1,2). For God sees beyond the outward appearance; He sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Romans 2:16; Matthew 23:23-28).

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