“But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him” (John 4:23).
I started writing this post last month, and all I wrote was the bible verse. The message I wanted to share came in the night, but in the day, I lacked the discipline to pen it down. Now, the understanding evades me. But I’m going to do my best to get it out…
The post was meant to be about Christian discipline, which I have promised to write about for a few years now…and I’m still struggling to get together. I got some new insight that night about it, and about me. I settled on this title, because I believe it is the real point of the lesson I learned. Of what God ministered to me.
A few years ago, I wrote the post, Discipline and Christianity, and it touches on much of what I am trying to say here. The need to have discipline in our walk with God. However, very often, when we begin a spiritual discipline, it quickly becomes a “religious practice”, that becomes an unquestionable tradition, laden with “superstition”, that if we stop or change it, something bad or a series of bad things will happen, directly or indirectly to us.
I’m guessing this is because religious tradition is often passed down from generations, with a great emphasis on faithfulness to it, without an equal clarity on the “why”. Meaning, religious people do a lot of things because they have been told that is what they should do, by people who came before them, and not because they received understanding from God about said practices. There is a lot of trust in the lineage that the tradition has flowed through, and in the God, who supposedly started the tradition with His instructions to His disciples/prophets.
I am not saying this is wrong. That we shouldn’t do things because they have been shown to be right and have endured through time. What I am saying is that, we also need to know why we do what we do. And that’s where a relationship comes in and changes everything. We no longer do something because that’s what everybody does, but because we have a personal conviction from our relationship with God on these practices. So, though they may seem or be religious, to us, they are our Christian discipline, as disciples of Jesus Christ, who know His voice and follow Him.
This is another instance where we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We may reject some religious practices, but if we hang on to God, He may lead us into the same practices…and this time, we will obey from a place of knowing, and not from a place of doubt, anxiety, ignorance nor fear. So, though we might return to a practice we once forsook while seeking to know God’s will, we are not the same anymore. And if we maintain that direct connection with Him, we may yet move beyond these practices to something greater.
The point isn’t in the things we do, but in the relationship we have with God who directs our paths, and our actions.
This year, I made a decision to stop reading my bible every day, which is one of the religious practices that I and many Christians feel a burden to do faithfully. It was a personal decision, out of a new understanding of my relationship with God and the bible. I wrote in my post, Musing On The Maze, The Bible And The Christ, about how we are meant to transcend the scriptures, rather than to continue on an eternal pilgrimage through and around it. This is still my belief. That the bible is a witness and a medium to take us higher into God.
Well, I stopped reading and studying the bible diligently, and also let loose on some other religious practices. I rested in the knowledge that Even Without Religion, God is. But over time, my prayer life suffered, due to my lack of discipline. I didn’t feel a religious burden to keep up the discipline, and life happened. And then God ministered to me again about the importance of Christian discipline. That it isn’t being religious to do things faithfully to grow our relationship with Him.
In any relationship that one seeks to nurture, you have to be intentional. You have to be consistent. You have to be sacrificial. You have to be disciplined. And marriage is a classic example.
It may start to feel unromantic, when someone’s faithfulness and consistency becomes predictable, but there is also romance and safety in that. In that they value the relationship enough to faithfully continue to invest in it in this way. That they retain the vision for what they want, and so they won’t slack from their duties, because they know what is at risk. If they relent in faithfulness, the devil might find a foothold to come in and scatter what you are trying to build.
And so, even though it may look or feel religious, it is still a very good idea to pray and read your bible every day. We have to just remember why we do, and bring that awe into it, every time, instead of going through the motions. And even if it does feel like we are going through the motions, we have to remember why we make that sacrifice of time and faith…and be faithful.
So, I am continuing with my bible readings, and I am reading Ecclesiastes and the book of Daniel together. I felt a burden to read Daniel because of some things I am going through, and Ecclesiastes was my next book, after I stopped at Proverbs. It’s funny how it sort of feels like I am reading it for the first time. I’m getting so much from it.
So, I finally wrote this post. I hope I will now be able to settle down and write the one about Christian Discipline. But maybe I need more time, so that I will have more to impart. I hope this post inspired or encouraged someone. God bless you.
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