When we hear the apostle Peter’s admonition to, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15), we tend to focus our attention a little too narrowly, and prepare ourselves to answer questions people might pose about the facts of the Gospel.
But there’s more to the Gospel than the fact that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins. The Gospel is also about transformation. We are to live as transformed people.
How do we train ourselves to live like that? This is where spiritual disciplines come into play. These disciplines are activities we engage in to prepare ourselves to live transformed lives.
Navigators are known for their commitment to the practice of certain spiritual disciplines. Ask someone to describe a Navigator and you’ll hear references to Scripture memory, regular in-depth Bible study, prayer, sharing the Gospel, and being part of a challenging accountable fellowship.
As important as those things are, they are not ends in themselves. A disciple doesn’t memorize Scripture just so that she can impress others with her ability to recite verses. A disciple doesn’t study the Bible just so that he can increase his knowledge. Someone isn’t a “better” Christian because he or she spends hours in prayer.
Instead, the motivation behind practicing these disciplines is to be equipped to live differently—and to help others do the same. The apostle Paul admonished Timothy to, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). He also pointed out that training (discipline) in godliness, “has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
We need to remember why we practice these disciplines. What’s really at the heart of our activity?
Longtime Navigator and best-selling author Jerry Bridges once wrote, “When I was first introduced to the idea of discipleship, I was given a list of seven spiritual disciplines I should practice every day including: a daily quiet time, Scripture memorization, Bible study, and prayer. But I came to believe that my relationship with God depended on how faithfully I performed those disciplines. Soon, I was passing on this legalistic attitude to those I was seeking to disciple.”
Jerry cautioned that, “The foundation of our discipling should be the Gospel, not the spiritual disciplines. Only a person who is firmly established in the Gospel can handle the important disciplines of the Christian life without falling into legalism1.”
As you read the accounts of ministry and the practice of spiritual disciplines in the following pages, remember that these disciplines are intended to help us to live as transformed people—who pass that transformation on to others.
1From How to Develop Learners Not Legalists. Disicipleship Journal, March/April 1993. Used by permission of NavPress.