Friday, January 26, 2007

training ourselves to be godly

My posts lately have been about our struggle, as those in Jesus, against sin. And our endeaver to be and be becoming, holy. I was thinking this morning (and kind of discussing this with a friend yesterday) about the dynamic of Chrisian formation, and the human element in that. The passage in 1 Timothy 4, on training ourselves to be gody, came to mind. I like the way Eugene Peterson renders it:
Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart.
There is much I can learn in the way of "spiritual disciplines". There are many wonderful practices Christians have done over the centuries, to help them draw near to God, such as lectio divina. Growing up and remaining a part of "low church" traditions, has not lended itself to me, for growing, or even going into this area, intentionally. And though I'm beginning to see the value of them now, I still am hardly a novice in it.

I tie "spiritual disciplines" into the passage from 1 Timothy as one part of how we, in Jesus, can train ourselves to be godly. The best I do is reading Scripture- speaking or reading it out loud, even if just in my mind, at least twice daily, and in a prayerful way (when I do it best). And to pray afterwards, more than just a few words, at my very best in doing it.

When I do it, it can seem at times, somewhat "mechanical" or something I'm just doing. My mind can wander. But I don't let those elements discourage me from continuing in it, and keeping at it regularly. Because at the heart of such practice, is the desire to come close to God. To meet God. To be helped by God. To interact with God.

Training ourselves to be godly goes on during the day. What if I'm trying to discipline my intake of food, so I can lose weight. And everytime I see a doughnut, I go for it. Of course I'm defeating my purpose, and will never reach my goal to lose weight. This is indulging.

We can carry that over to our lives in thinking about becoming godly. Where is my thought life? Am I endulging in thoughts and actions, even if they're "little", that compromise training? I'm talking here about sin issues. If so, then I need to take stock (which we should, regularly, anyhow), and bring this before God in confession, and seek to live in his grace given to us in Christ.

The most important aspect of training is to remember why we are doing it. This training is never an end in itself. That in itself would be a sin. No. It's solely to come near to God. It includes saying no to certain things, as we say yes, to Jesus, in the salvation and the way he has set before us, to live in and follow.

And at its heart is the love of God. To live in that love. And in doing so, to love God with all our being and doing. And to love our neighbor as ourselves. The Jesus Creed.

What thoughts come to your mind about this? Or experience you would like to share with us?


Anonymous said...

I've been intrigued lately by the idea of a rule of life. This idea seems to incorporate lots of disciplines into a plan for how I seek formation and make myself available to the Lord for his work in me. I haven't actually developed my rule yet; I've been "practicing" with some disciplines though in preparation.

The rule also seems to incorporate the disciplines into all of life rather than keeping them as a separate thing I do. This seems to be in line with Paul's idea of physical training, which I see as a pretty all-encompassing program if one is a serious athlete.

Lectio divina has been helpful to me in the past, though I am better at it in a group. I get pretty distracted with my thoughts if I'm by myself.

Good thoughts, Ted.

Ted Gossard said...

Charity, Thanks.

I find it interesting, the interest that is occurring among some evangelicals in ways you express. I find this healthy. But not so much a part of my generation, from what I've seen (maybe that's changing)- or my own life.

I need to work at lectio divina (or even just seek to understand it better). I think I read Scripture more that way. And I think these ancient practices can help us become settled into a place in which God can better change us. This certainly takes commitment on our part. If we can just see by some experience in this, the value, that could go a long way, surely.

Thanks for your thoughts.