Have you ever gotten into a debate with someone over which wing of an airplane is more important, the right one or the left one? I certainly hope not. The whole idea of one wing being more important than the other is simply absurd.
Yet I have seen zealous Christians enter into such absurd arguments.
One the one debates that results in regular spiritual plane crashes in the spiritual health of some believers is the fight for the personal spiritual discipline wing of the Christian life or the fight for the corporate spiritual discipline wing of the Christian life.
There have been those who have written passionately for a particular wing due to the neglect or dismissal of one of the wings in the teaching or practice of some people who profess to be Christians. I understand and am encouraged by such writings and teachings because many of those who are speaking up are zealously calling for proper balance rather than a one-winged Christian life.
We looked at the delights and dangers of spiritual disciplines – namely their intended use and common misuse – in the first part of this series; and today we will look at Donald Whitney’s call for a balanced approach of the personal and corporate spiritual disciplines for a healthy Christian life in his book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health:
A Call to Balance Regarding Spiritual Disciplines
Besides a wrongly motivated usage of the disciplines, another danger is imbalance. Strangely enough, some of the Christians most active in church are most in need of examining their relationship to the disciplines. Remember that we are called to engage in both corporate and personal spiritual disciplines. Many believers so enthusiastically engage in the corporate disciplines that they have little time to practice the personal ones…
Serving in the church is a virtue – a corporate discipline that is practiced less and less today because more and more people have a consumer’s view of the church, not a family view. But some who serve so faithfully have not time for prayer or Scripture meditation, the two most important personal disciplines to practice…Working for Christ is right; it is healthy Christianity. But working for Christ in a way that leaves insufficient time to be alone with Him and His Word is spiritually unhealthy and wrong.
If in public worship a person really does worship, how can he content himself with only a weekly experience when such a glorious and satisfying God can be experienced in private worship all throughout the week?…Jonathan Edwards was even more pessimistic: “If persons…are often highly affected when with others, and but little moved when they have none but God and Christ to converse with, it looks very darkly upon their religion.” Even a corpse can be made warm by a fire of another. But those who have been made alive to God also have a fire within them – the Holy Spirit who kindles the flame of their love for God every day of the week.
At the other extreme, those submerged in their own private “spirituality” need the balance of the corporate disciplines. While God-centered solitude and the other personal spiritual disciplines are essential for growth in Christlikeness, so are public worship and prayer, fellowship, service to and with other believers, the hearing of God’s Word preached, and the communion of saints around the Lord’s Supper, just as we find in the practice of Christ’s people in the New Testament. Any who think it pleases God for them to seek Him in private while rejecting His people are greatly mistaken (pp97-98).
A Call to Action Regarding Spiritual Disciplines
Devote yourself more to the pursuit of Christlikeness and the enjoyment of God through the spiritual disciplines than to the pursuit of efficiency and the completion of to-do lists. The increasing pace of life and the inexorable roll of “progress” in our culture foster neither the growth of the soul nor the improvement of relationships, either with God or with others…In our frustrating and futile efforts to keep up with the demands of life maintenance, our souls have shriveled…What good is our multitasking, the accomplishment of more and more, and the acquisition of wealth, if we are not – by the means God has given us – becoming more like Jesus, the One we live for and the One who will evaluate our lives?
Resist the temptation to believe in microwave spirituality or shortcut Christlikeness…Theologian R.C. Sproul emphasized, “There are no quick and easy paths to spiritual maturity. The soul that seeks a deeper level of maturity must be prepared for a long, arduous task. If we are to seek the kingdom of God”…But whatever time and effort is required, the pursuit of intimacy with and likeness to Jesus Christ is worth it all.
Stoke your spiritual life with at least one perceptible poke. When a well-wooded fire in my stove burns low, usually a good nudge or two with the iron poker restores its vitality. Having now invested part of your life in reading this…don’t turn from it without choosing at least one sharp spiritual discipline to make at least one noticeable nudge in the fire of our soul’s growth (pp 99-100).