Last week, we talked about three mental habits that can help us combat the Enemy’s strategy for keeping us enslaved to sin. I encouraged us to lean into God’s goodness, to cultivate a balanced imagination, and to be honest about our motivations.
This week, I want us to tackle the issue of how spiritual disciplines are related to our struggle against sin. The spiritual battle is one that we are always fighting as every second of our lives go by. We have many gates open to the spiritual, not least of which the connection with the devine, usually attained via the use of a psychic medium. Of course, some mediums are more accompolished than others, and it can be hard to know which ones will give a satisfactory peep into the divine. Many usually find that comparing the Best Psychic Reading Reviews is an effective way of determining which psychic mediums are better than others. I claimed last week that “spiritual discipline” is an essential part of our fight, and we cannot be spiritually disciplined people without the consistent exercise of specific disciplines (prayer, Bible study, worship, fasting, solitude, etc.) in our lives. But what role do these disciplines play, and how effective are they in helping us to stop sinning?
What Spiritual Disciplines Cannot Do
Many people have been taught that all they have to do to stop sinning is pray about it or read their Bible. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we will see, spiritual disciplines—especially when they are practiced consistently over a long period of time—play an indispensable role in God’s work to set us free from sin. But that is not the same thing as saying that prayer (or reading of certain Bible verses) in and of itself can accomplish the deliverance we seek.
There are at least four reasons why this teaching is dangerous. First, it misunderstands the role of spiritual disciplines. Prayer, Bible reading, and the like are not magic spells that we can use to get what we want. They are actions that bring us into life-giving union with God. Remember, God is a deeply relational being. Just like any other relational being, He does not appreciate being related to only for what He can provide.
Second, teaching people that all they have to do is pray or read their Bible to obtain deliverance misunderstands the nature of sin. Very often, our immoral and destructive behavior is a misguided attempt on our part to meet some social or emotional need. Is sin a spiritual matter? Absolutely. But it derives from, and has an impact on, other areas of our lives, too.
Third, what happens when someone prays fervently to be delivered from a specific sin, only to have that sin persist (or even get worse)? I can tell you from personal experience that it isn’t good. Sometimes, people think that they simply do not have enough faith—a notion that is often reinforced by the people in their church. At other times, they question the validity of Christian moral teachings. After all, why should anyone put themselves through the pain of trying to do the impossible?
Fourth, when people hear from us that all they have to do is pray or read a Bible verse, what they really hear is that we do not want to be bothered with their problem. This is unfortunate because the kind of emotional and spiritual healing that has to take place in order for people to renounce sin is extremely difficult to obtain outside of a supportive spiritual community.
What Spiritual Disciplines Can Do
So, spiritual disciplines cannot, by themselves and over a short period of time, deliver us from sin. Nevertheless, spiritual disciplines do play an indispensable role in the work that God is doing in our lives to make us more like Christ. As we have already mentioned, spiritual disciplines draw us closer to God. By being in the presence of God, we experience God’s healing and transforming work in our lives. After all, holiness, healthiness, and truthfulness are endemic to God’s character, and He produces them wherever He is present.
There are other ways that specific disciplines can help us as part of a holistic strategy to overcome the sin in our lives. For example, Bible study helps us to know what God actually requires of us and why He requires it. Fasting (according to psychologist Jim Wilder) trains us to deny ourselves even when our body is experiencing a strong craving. Confession draws our sin into the light of day, which makes it both more real and less appealing. It also provides other believers an opportunity to give us the support that we need to fight our sinful urges with courage and tenacity.
Reflecting on My Own Experience
As I think about my own struggle with sin, and especially about the role that spiritual disciplines have played in it, one thing really sticks out. I found a lot more motivation to fight sin—and a lot more success in doing so—once I really believed that God loves me. As I reflected on God’s love, it occured to me that I was trying to avoid sin out of moral obligation rather than out of love for God.
Why didn’t I really love God? Because I didn’t believe that He loved me, at least not in the way that Scripture teaches. Why should He? I’m a dirty, rotten sinner. And the more I devoted myself to pursuing Him, the more I saw how messed up I really am.
In other words, I understood that God was the righteous judge, but I struggled to see God as the loving Father. And moral obligation was not enough to keep me from sinning, especially when my sin did not seem to be hurting anyone else. Moreover, my view of God and of the moral life left me empty and exhausted.
As I had more authentic experiences with God, however, I began to discover that God is worthy of more than just my allegiance. God is worthy of my love. Why? Because God loved me long before I ever thought about loving Him (cf. 1 John 4:19). That was my turning point. Now, I had something motivating me that could really stand up to the pressures of life. More importantly, I could really dive into my relationships with God, trusting that He has my best interests at heart.
My story illustrates how spiritual disciplines help us. As long as I was begging God for deliverance and holding our relationship hostage to His answer, nothing really changed. But when I began to pursue Him simply because He loves me and I love Him, good things really started to happen. Don’t get me wrong; there have been some really hard days, and I still struggle at times. But I am happier and more fulfilled in my relationship with God than I have ever been, and I have a confidence that I never had before that God will make me into what He wants me to be.