SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES BY JAMES EARL MASSEY
If you have been around the BCM long enough, you have read Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Don Whitney. It is a great book worth reading, but not the one I am talking about today. The book recommended to you is Spiritual Disciplines: A Believer’s Openings to the Grace of God by pastor and theologian James Earl Massey.
“Discipline is education; it results when we properly respond by accepting and obeying that which instructs and cultivates us for the concerns and issues of a godly life.” (pg. 3)
The spiritual disciplines are a means by which God’s grace is revealed to us and through us. What Massey also takes time to emphasize is that your disciplines for the life of godliness are directly linked to your conversion, your faith and repentance. Without the teachings of scripture working in you to produce healthy disciplines that spur on faith and repentance, you will often find your spiritual life dead or in decay. Those who have been converted will follow Christ in living according to his word because “where there is life there is conversion; where there is no life there is no conversion,” (pg. 13).
Massey takes time in the rest of his book to explain and explore four spiritual disciplines that should be practiced in the life of a christian. First is the discipline of meditation and prayer. He shows how both biblical meditation and prayer should go hand-in-hand as a means for God to break new ground within our human spirit. Next he gives practical guidance for disciplined fasting. His biblical survey of how fasting is used in the bible shows why fasting is more than just abstinence. Rather, “it is an affirmative act; it is a way of waiting on God; it is an act of surrender,” (pg. 66). Third he speaks on the christian’s worship of God and how our temperance, traditions, and the truth can influence how we worship God.
The fourth is one you may have never thought of as a spiritual discipline. It is not one we take significant time to develop and practice. This is the spiritual discipline of dialogue. His words on dialogue are worth quoting at length. He says….
“Our lives depend in large measure upon our use and exchange of words. We are shaped considerably by the [world of words] in which we live. The words we share (or shout) represent our intentions and our range of concerns. Nothing so calms (or terrifies) me about my relationships with others as the way I hear them speak about me. Their speaking conveys more than sense; it also conveys the spirit of our relationship.” (pg. 75)
If we have learned nothing else from our social media feeds, relationships with friends and family, and the political sphere, the words we say (or do not say) and how they are said can harm or cultivate relationships with others. This is extremely important as we consider our gospel witness on campus and in the world.
That chapter itself is worth the price of the book, but still read the whole thing. You will not be disappointed. We all could use a little sharpening in our spiritual disciplines and James Massey is the right guy to help us.