Following Jesus requires discipline. Every day we have a choice to die to our flesh and live in the Spirit. The way of Jesus isn't easy, yet He gently leads us while making us more like Him every day. He leads us into greater intimacy through discipline, obedience, and love. Over time, our hearts are softened towards His voice and led fully into the depths of who He is. This is the life of a disciple of Jesus.
This isn't a popular message. In our world today we are used to hearing messages about how loved we are by God and the way He blesses us daily. While this is true, it isn't the whole message. A life of following Jesus isn't just being loved by Him, but it's also living with discipline and putting to death our old ways of living.
Being a disciple of Jesus means learning His ways
The definition of a disciple is "a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher." As a disciple of Jesus, we are meant to follow Him wholeheartedly. This means we have to let go of how we lived before knowing Him and instead relearn how to live as His disciple.
When you went to school, think of what is was like learning things like math, science, and English. At first it's really challenging and foreign to you. It doesn't seem right sometimes and it can feel very confusing. This is how it feels to follow Jesus sometimes. When we start to learn His ways and let ourselves change, we struggle with the disciplines and things God calls us to do. We struggle when we hear about waiting for marriage to have sex or going faithfully to church every Sunday. It sounds confusing and wrong a lot of times. Oftentimes, the people around us are telling us that we are doing it wrong or that we have changed for the worse. They tell us we are being rigid and religious. In contrast, our Teacher, Jesus, says "Well done, good and faithful servant."
How can you be student of our Teacher? The life of a disciple is becoming a student to our Creator. It looks like sitting at His feet and learning from Him. It looks like letting go of things that bring death and living in the Spirit.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. || Romans 8:13
Being a disciple of Jesus requires being disciplined
Just as a student has to be disciplined in finishing homework, so do we have to be disciplined in following Jesus' way. This means practicing spiritual disciplines like silence and solitude, prayer, and Bible reading can be incredibly life changing in our relationship with Jesus. "The Bible has no comprehensive 'spiritual disciplines list' we should practice, but it does give us commands to do certain things on a regular basis. And when we do, they produce fruit in our lives." (Bible Study Tools) In school, doing homework helps us learn and grow into a better student. In a similar way, practicing spiritual disciplines often makes us a better student of Jesus. We start seeing ourselves change slowly because of the way we've been developing these daily transformative habits of discipline.
There are many spiritual disciplines mentioned in the Bible. A few are listed below that you can start practicing.
Silence & Solitude
Did you notice how much Jesus got away on His own to talk to His Father? This is our model today. The practice of silence and solitude is getting away to a quiet place in order to hear from our Father. This discipline isn't easy. It takes self control and taking our thoughts captive. Try starting with five minutes of silence and waiting upon God to speak. Come to His presence without expectations and only craving to be with Him. Silence and solitude isn't just being externally quiet, but also silencing your mind in order to truly just focus on Jesus.
Living as a Christian means living a transformed life. In order to do this, we have to be in the Word constantly. Through the Bible we learn how to live, love, and be truly free of sin. Psalm 119 states, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." We are meant to be guided by the Word day in and day out. It isn't something that is just a part of our lifestyle, but rather it needs to be leading our every movement and thought. Take time to breath in new life through the Word of God.
Fasting is the act of giving up something in order to become closer to the one who gives us life. It is denying ourselves in order to recognize who is in control and who is our King. In today's world, we worship a lot of things or people. However, the act of fasting is denying to be like the world and instead choosing God above everything else. This could look like taking a break from eating sugar for a week or it could be deleting social media for a month. Fasting is a personal journey and decision with Jesus that each person has to decide for themselves. Fasting is an incredible time to be intentional in hearing God's voice and re-centering ourselves on our Creator.
The practice of sabbath is taking one day off a week to rest and remember who God is. When God created the Earth, He rested on the seventh day. It was a time of celebrating and delighting in what He had made. On sabbath we choose to restrain from any form of work and instead spend time doing things like worship, hanging out with friends, eating good food, and whatever else you love to do. It's a time to remember the goodness of God and take delight in all He has given us.
Being a disciple of Jesus is an inward to outward transformation
As you see, a lot of these disciplines are physical acts of obedience. Practicing disciplines is choosing to align our heart, soul, and body with the one who breathed life into our bodies. It's an act of surrendering to His will and goodness in our life. These disciplines can be incredibly transformative in our journey with God. It creates a habit of worshipping God in everything we do.
What spiritual disciplines can you start implementing today? Look at this list of spiritual disciplines to explore the other practices you can incorporate. The life of a disciple of Jesus requires obedience and discipline. Is God asking you to practice a discipline in your life? Ask Him and let Him reveal it to you!