Do discipleship practices really work?

posted in: Why am I here | 0

Don’t go away just yet. It’s a fair question. We need to ask ourselves if our lives and daily activities really reflect the transformation discipleship practices are intended to accomplish. It’s spring time and we have more daylight. Yet, darkness may still prevail in our souls. As our broken hearts are healed, our soul capacity develops more fully because we increasingly realize the extent to which God loves us and His commitment to us. Discipleship practices motivate us to trust more, to live differently, to think differently.

Or so it would seem. Which brings me back to the question.

We try hard to live as restored people, to walk out transformation. We engage in spiritual disciplines. Reading Scripture. Praying. Going to church. All the right things. Did you ever wonder why this discipleship process doesn’t seem to accomplish as much as it seems like it should in your life? Don’t feel guilty or ashamed. The Apostle Paul told the Galatians that as Saul, he was so advanced in his study of the Law and his observance of the Law, so extremely enthusiastic and zealous regarding the traditions that he exceeded many of his generation. (Galatians 1:14)

Yet, all his study and observance of the Law did not produce in his life what God intended. God had to open his eyes and get him on track. Paul would describe this opening his eyes and turning him from darkness to light when he talked to Jews. (Acts 26:18)

Move from darkness to light

Why aren’t we hearing and responding to the Word we read so it changes our lives?

Even as Christ followers, we are in the dark. While we are not experiencing total darkness in every area, we may experience darkness in some areas where shame still covers us, where we wrestle with confusion or disappointment. Where we live in darkness we are still living by and governed by flawed emotional responses, thinking patterns and desires.

Continuing to live with these dark areas is like trying to substitute darkness for light. Not so effective. It’s much easier to drive in daylight hours than in the dark, isn’t it? Rejecting God’s offers to help us hamstrings our journey to restoration and breakthrough.

Don’t be discouraged. I’m thankful we are qualified by what Christ accomplished for us to walk as saints in the kingdom of light, not darkness. 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:12 (NIV)

Why is it so dark in some areas?

You and I are not the first ones told to identify the dark areas for change. Paul talked to the people in the area of Ephesus about the same thing. Digging in to the passage may help us.

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. 20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24 (NIV)

Those words are hard words and seem like they apply to unbelievers, not Christ followers. That’s true. But if we are still content to live with some dark areas, are we believing God wants to help us? Or are we unbelievers in that area? How did Paul challenge the Ephesian Christ followers? He contrasted our journey as one of trusting God versus one of refusing to trust God.

Don’t live in the futility of your mind. He did not say futility of spirit. It’s in our mind. Futility of thinking and perceiving, thinking that is worthless and empty. Empty of soul. Not at all what God designed for you. How is our thinking made futile? Our understanding is darkened, our ability to consider and mentally debate what God says so we can separate our thinking from that of God. Our real life is cut off from God; we look good on the outside, but inside we are functionally dead. When our understanding is darkened, it is because our understanding is deprived of light, true Light.

We are hardened, insensitive, unable to acknowledge any guilt over our thoughts and actions. We even blame others for aspects of our lives. We become hard inside, insensitive and apathetic. It is the word from which we get our word, “analgesic.” We feel no pain emotionally.

Do you recognize yourself in any of those areas? I sure did. Not the prettiest image in the mirror. And I wanted to change it.

How can we let in the light?

The transformation process is about continually letting in more of the light. How do we let the light in? We must be willing to allow the flawed thinking to be exposed so we change it. Yikes! Hard to do because we lack confidence in God’s love; it isn’t like love we experience here. But we do not need to be afraid; we can come boldly to God. We will always discover He delights in helping us. He will always respond with gentle compassion. We are never condemned for coming to Him with our weaknesses (broken areas of darkness). I’ve certainly been testing that out, and I assure you it is true.

12 God’s word is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet. God’s word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions. 14 We need to hold on to our declaration of faith: We have a superior chief priest who has gone through the heavens. That person is Jesus, the Son of God. 15 We have a chief priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he didn’t sin. 16 So we can go confidently to the throne of God’s kindness to receive mercy and find kindness, which will help us at the right time. Hebrews 4:12-16 (GW) (photo from pixabay.com)

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to hang on, to trust that God will respond to us with love (mercy) and kindness because of what Jesus accomplished for us. We need not fear God. March right up to the throne with blunt boldness!

How can we use spiritual disciplines effectively to grow?

I find the key to transformation to be in the Bible. Life can really change when we acknowledge dark areas and move into light. Scripture will light the way for us. 105 By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. Psalm 119:105 (MSG)

Saul learned Scripture, but didn’t allow the Spirit to give it transforming life so he became what God planned. Once he met God, that changed. I want to meet God when I read Scripture. I want it to change me.

When I read Scripture, I ask the Holy Spirit to give me understanding. He makes the words come to life. God created with a word and He can recreate in us through His words. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26 (NIV) 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. John 6:63 (NIV)

When we allow the Spirit to give life to the words in Scripture, we will find our prayer life becomes special dialogue and we hear God easier. Our relationships will change. Our motivation to walk out this newness is activated and we find increasingly what we were created to be.

Be encouraged by these words from Ephesians 3 in The Passion Translation.

17 Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life. 18-19 Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God! 20 Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.

 

Carol Boggess, author and speaker, A Healing Journey

Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts

https://carolboggess.com

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