Archives For Spiritual Disciplines

The video above is from the Desiring God Ministries website with a lightly edited transcript below. Here Steve exposes the common danger we all face in learning the “how” of spiritual disciplines without the “why.” He presses us to think about our heart motivations to read the bible and pray more, so we will cultivate not only our minds but also our heart’s affections leading us to greater joy in God.

An Inherent Danger in Spiritual Disciplines

An inherent danger in spiritual disciplines is a propensity of the human heart to look to self-effort or practices or methodologies for growth. It is important to understand what is going on underneath the disciplines. What is the motivation for the discipline?

Picture two people running. What motivates each runner? On the outside, you can’t tell the difference. One of them may have an illegitimate, displeasing-to-God motivation, such as vanity. The other may have a good and virtuous motivation for running that honors God. The problem is you can’t tell on the outside.

This illustrates one of the greatest dangers of spiritual disciplines: learning how to run but not understanding why you run, or learning how to do things versus why we do them. So one of the most significant things in spiritual disciplines is understanding the affections of your heart. Is the motive Christ? Is the means Christ?

“One of the most significant things in the spiritual disciplines is understanding the affections of your heart.”

Take for instance, the proverbial quiet time. If you ask someone anonymously, or maybe on a survey, What do you really think? What do you really think is happening when you have your quiet time or when you don’t have your quiet time? I think most evangelicals actually believe they phase in and out of God’s love based on their performance.

Consequently, the quiet time often becomes simply a means by which they follow the discipline of reading Scripture versus a time where they use the Scripture to adore and worship God in Christ for who he is and for all he has done for them. But what is fascinating is: You can’t tell when you are just looking on the outside.

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Two Monks Parable Photo

There is an ancient parable about two monks. They are walking in silence when they see a young woman trying to cross a river with a strong current. She was frightened and asked if they could help her cross to the other side. The two monks glance at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman. Then, without a word, the older monk picks her up, carries her across the river through the dangerous current, and sets her down. The two monks continue to walk in silence for several hours. Finally, the younger monk breaks his silence: “You shouldn’t have done that because monks are not supposed to even touch a woman.” The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, are you still carrying that woman? I put her down hours ago.”