This summer, we have been reading Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life together. With certain goals for us as individuals, we all desire to grow in grace and personal holiness. The purpose of this study is to help us make necessary adjustments in our spiritual lives that will enable us to achieve such goals by incorporating the use of spiritual disciplines. Today marks the end of this study and I trust it has been profitable to your soul. If you would like to add to the discussion, as always, post your comments below.
The Role of the Holy Spirit
In this section, Don Whitney reminds us that the Holy Spirit makes us more like Jesus through the Disciplines. It’s not our effort in the Disciplines that produces the change. Don Whitney quotes D. A. Carson in a needful warning regarding the pursuit of godliness.
D. A. Carson warns, “What is universally presupposed by the expression ‘spiritual discipline’ is that such disciplines are intended to increase our spirituality From a Christian perspective, however, it is simply not possible to increase one’s spirituality without possessing the Holy Spirit and submitting to his transforming instruction and power.”
The point is clearly made in this final chapter that no matter how dedicated a person is in practicing the Spiritual Disciplines, without the Holy Spirit the effort will be in vain. However, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the child of God will have a desire for godly pursuits. Don Whitney writes, “Wherever the Holy Spirit dwells, His holy presence creates a hunger for holiness” (290).
The Role of Fellowship
One of the most important statements in this book is found on page 293 as Don Whitney writes, “No one should read of these Disciplines and imagine that by practicing them in isolation from other believers he or she can be as Christlike—perhaps even more so—than Christians who are active members of a local body of Christ” (293). He goes on to write, “One obvious reason we can’t take the Spiritual Disciplines and become spiritual recluses is that many biblical Disciplines—public worship, united prayer, participation in the lord’s Supper, serving other disciplines, and more—cannot be practiced without other Christians” (293).
No matter how dedicated a person is regarding the Spiritual Disciplines, they will never reach true godliness apart from the local church. The point is, we need one another for fellowship and we need the corporate worship and service as a means of Spiritual Discipline in our lives. What a critical mistake it is when people pursue godliness apart from the local church. Consider Acts 2 and the fellowship of the early church. Consider 1 John 1:3-4 and the mention of fellowship. Consider Hebrews 10:25 and the necessity of assembling with the church. Consider the model put forth in Titus 2 for the older people to train the younger people within the church. You can’t pursue spiritual maturity while remaining disconnected from the local church. It’s an impossible and fruitless pursuit.
The Role of Struggle
Don Whitney reminds his readers, and appropriately so, that the Christian life is not an easy life. He seeks to encourage us all by warning us of the struggle that accompanies the Christian life. Paul makes this point clear as he writes in 1 Timothy.
1 Timothy 4:7-8 – Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;  for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
1 Timothy 4:10 – For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
When we hear sermons and read books where people suggest that the Christian life is easy if you follow a certain rules or steps along the way – they’ve missed true Christianity. Read the New Testament. Look at the struggle. Look at the hardships. Look at the challenges. Look at the tears. Look at the death. Look at the persecution. Look at the discouragement. Look at the pain. Christianity – real Christianity – is not an easy journey. We must discipline ourselves for the race of life.
Chapter 17 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith is on Perseverance. In paragraph three, the statement reads:
In various ways-the temptations of Satan and of the world, the striving of indwelling sin to get the upper hand, the neglect of the means appointed for their preservation-saints may fall into fearful sins, and may even continue in them for a time. In this way they incur God’s displeasure, grieve His Holy Spirit, do injury to their graces, diminish their comforts, experience hardness of heart and accusations of conscience, hurt and scandalize others, and bring God’s chastisements on themselves. Yet being saints their repentance will be renewed, and through faith they will be preserved in Christ Jesus to the end.
Catch up in this series:
Questions to Consider:
- Would you be godly? Then practice the Spiritual Disciplines in light of eternity.
- Would you be godly? There’s no other way by through the Spiritual Disciplines.
This is the final post in this study of Don Whitney’s book. I trust that you have found it profitable to your soul and challenging at the same time. If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can do so through the following:
Where to Buy the Book
I look forward to reading this book with you this summer. All that’s required of you is to purchase the book and read chapter 1 before June 2nd when the first article will appear here on the blog.
Ephesians 4:11-14 – And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Discussion: Post your comments, thoughts, and questions in the comments section. I will engage with you at times, but the purpose is to allow everyone to have a conversation regarding what we are learning and considering through this book. I do hope you will be encouraged.