It seems to me that a series on Spiritual Disciplines should begin with exploring why (or why not) we should engage in any Spiritual Disciplines in the first place.
We’ll take the “why not?” question first.
Reason One: You should not engage in Spiritual Disciplines to earn favor from God
You’ll never meet anyone who wants to please God more than me. Really.
The problem is, many times I desire to do so for the wrong reason. As a recovering Pharisee I want to please God because I think I have to do so. I mean I am better about it than I used to be, but I still find my motivation for pleasing God is one of earning favor more often than I care to admit to.
This, of course, is completely contrary to the message of the gospel.
There is nothing anyone can do to make God love them more (or less) than He already does. Nothing.
Reason Two: You should not engage in Spiritual Disciplines to simply acquire knowledge about God.
It’s fine to learn about God. That is what Theology and Doctrine are all about and they are good things. But they are ALWAYS intended to point to God, and never intended to be ends in and of themselves.
The problem with most of us is that we already know too much – more than we can ever put into practice.
The other problem with Theology is that it only goes to a certain point then it poops out. I mean, Theology can answer the question “Can angels fit on a pin head?” (yes) but it cannot answer the question “How many angels can fit on a pin head?” (who knows? no one!). And it never will be able to do so.
When the emotions aren’t there, Doctrine and Theology are the bedrock that keep me sane. But having said that, I will also add that I’ve never been hugged by a Doctrine.
Reason Three: You should not engage in Spiritual Disciplines as a bargaining chip to manipulate God.
God doesn’t need you.
He uses you, but He doesn’t need you. He was doing fine before you came along and will be just fine after you are gone. Peter in the book of Acts tells us that “God is not served by human hands as though He needed something”.
You can’t make God cooperate by giving Him things He needs because He needs nothing.
Reason Four: You should not engage in Spiritual Disciplines out of guilt.
The only good guilt is guilt out of having done something wrong which drives you to the cross to get forgiven. Beyond that guilt serves no purpose.
If you use anything other than the forgiveness of the cross to try to ease your guilt it won’t work and you’ll feel even more guilty.
Reason Five: You should not engage in Spiritual Disciplines out of fear.
Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those of us who belong to Christ.
The unbeliever is at enmity with God, but not the believer. There is no condemnation. None.
If you belong to Christ, because God poured out all of His wrath on Jesus on the cross, God will never ever be angry at you. Oh, He might be disappointed with your sin sometimes. He might chasten you (Heb 12) but He will not be angry at you in a wrathful way.
If He ever is, then He didn’t punish Jesus sufficiently for all your sin. And we all know Jesus said on the cross, “it is finished”. That means it was done and all of God’s wrath was satisfied.
So if you are engaging in the disciplines because you are afraid of God’s condemnation then you don’t know Him and you don’t fully believe what Jesus did was enough.
Reason Six: You should not engage in Spiritual Disciplines to “keep up with the Joneses”.
I’ve heard a lot of manipulation used in the past to try to get people to engage in the disciplines. I’ve heard preachers use guilt to motivate. I’ve seen blog posts about so and so who used this reading plan to get through the Bible in such and such time.
And I, myself, am going to suggest some tools you might want to try in a later part of this series.
But be clear of one thing: please do not engage the disciplines just because everyone else is doing it or says you should do it.
Now that we’ve seen some reasons not to engage in the disciplines, in the next part of this series we’ll look at some reasons that we should. Stay tuned.
Questions: So what are your motivations for doing any Spiritual Disciplines? Do you feel guilty because you don’t do what you think you should be doing? Why? Do you feel pressured by others to “perform” in the area of Spiritual Disciplines?