May 14, 2012


Luke 18:9-14

“I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
—Luke 18:12


When you hear the phrase spiritual disciplines, you might think of missionaries who travel to foreign countries or people who have taken vows of poverty. You might think spiritual disciplines are reserved for eccentric or unique individuals who love the Lord—and you might not consider yourself a person like that.

In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees defined their spiritual stature by their disciplines. They believed they were superior because of their spiritual habits, such as fasting. That kind of mindset leads lots of people to believe that spiritual disciplines are only for the “spiritual elite.”

But when Jesus tells his followers the traits he is looking for, he does not mention disciplines such as prayer, fasting, or confession. He indicates that he is looking for lives that have been transformed. He wants to see followers who feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, and clothe the naked (see Matthew 25). The purpose of disciplines is not to show our holiness. They are exercises that help us grow nearer to God.

Spiritual disciplines do not earn us favor with God, but they can help us grow. Even if you have never thought about practicing spiritual disciplines, you probably already have some habits that help you grow nearer to God. Whenever you pray, attend worship, read the Bible, or do daily devotions, you are setting aside time to develop a habit to help you know God more fully.

Holy Spirit, may the habits of faithful living draw me nearer to you. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

About the author — Bill Sytsma

Bill Sytsma is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary (M.Div) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min). He is the author of the book Follow the Leader and is serving as the pastor of New Life Christian Reformed Church in Highland, Indiana. He and his wife, Staci, have hosted support groups for families built through adoption. He and Staci are the proud parents of three active boys: Luke, Isaac, and Nico.

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