It’s some serious talk I’m about to delve into here, trust me, I don’t particularly like to write about these things either, possibly because I don’t think I necessarily qualify to talk about it. It’s usually reserved for the deeply spiritual…
But then I thought, “Seriously, who are these people? Are they pastors, monks, evangelists, nuns…? Who?”
If spirituality (of the Christian kind) is born out of a relationship with the Father (God) and we’re all his children, then surely, we should all aim to be deeply spiritual if we’re not.
Anyway, me I’ve decided to count myself among the ‘number’ yes, I have decided to include myself in the group of the Spiritual (capital S to denote the Holy Spirit, not just any random spirit!). I‘m a child of God and I want to be more like my Father. The closest that man has even been to God in terms of the physical is the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to the earth as the physical manifestation of God. He had the fullness of God in Him…in short; He was “God with Us” (Emmanuel).
This man lived a life acclaimed by both friend and foe as extraordinary, and I seek in this writing to shed some light on how we can be more like Him.
Ok, I’m making an assumption here that most people who will read this actually want to be more like Jesus Christ. If you don’t, PAUSE right here and go and read the book of John in the New Testament, asking God to show Jesus to you. If by the time you’re done, your curiosity is piqued, then you can come back, if not, you can still come back, I’m hoping you’ll get more interested when you’re done with this.
It’s worth bearing in mind that although Jesus was God in the flesh, he was also completely man – subject to the same temptations and tensions that we are1. And so you wonder, how did He do the things He did? Natural mind says, if Jesus was actually wholly man, then it must have been burdensome to live the kind of perfect life He lived. We’d probably snap under the weight of God’s expectations if we were Him.
However, Jesus’ life, like ours, was not just about acts; it was also about habit, there was a life beyond the actions like healing the sick, feeding five thousand from a kid’s lunch box, and raising the dead, and beyond the reactions like turning the other cheek, and loving your enemies. And if we’re to become like Jesus it is that life we must seek to live.
Jesus didn’t seem burdened at all, indeed He spoke to others who were and are suffering under the weight of various real and imagined burdens saying: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”2
Imagine that! So not only was He not burdened, He also asks us to learn from Him. Interesting….more to this than meets the eye, how can a yoke be easy to bear, or a burden light??
I like the way Dallas Willard puts it “The secret of the easy yoke then is to learn from Christ how to live our total lives, how to invest our all our time and our energies of mind and body as He did. We must learn how to follow His preparations, the disciplines for life in God’s rule that enabled Him to receive His Father’s constant and effective support while doing His will. We have to discover how to enter into His disciplines from where we stand today – and no doubt, how to extend and amplify them to suit our needy cases.”3
I underlined the word disciplines in the paragraph above because that’s my main point. One of the meanings of the verb ‘discipline’ is:
“To train by instruction and practice, especially to teach self-control to”.
And the noun ‘discipline’ as used above means:
“Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behaviour, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.”
So basically, a discipline (noun) is used to discipline (verb)… A verb cannot be complete without a subject however, so we need that to complete this sentence.
Jesus’ life as can be seen from the Bible was “pervasively and deeply characterised by solitude, fasting, prayer, and service”45678. To practise these disciplines, He needed a body – and there we have the subject of our sentence above!
So basically, Jesus used solitude, fasting, prayer, and service to discipline his body. Whatever for? How important was His body? Surely you don’t need to focus on your body so much when it should be all about the spirit. Was He trying to earn approval of some kind? Who from?
Don’t forget He already had God’s approval; He had come to manifest God on earth, and to pay the price no one else could pay. He didn’t need to impress God at all.
The disciplines involve denying ourselves of primal cravings – company, food, and convenience, to “produce a specific character or pattern of behaviour” (see definition above). Jesus’ life was a life of the extraordinary; a life of power, a life that made the difference – a major factor in His life which enabled these was obedience.
His life, characterised and moulded by the disciplines produced obedience, thereby enabling the actions and reactions that we tend to focus on…we need to shift our focus and realise first that:
The life that Jesus lived is attainable by us – He proved it.
And secondly that:
Because that life is attainable, His works, and even greater11 are achievable
Let us stop hiding behind our bodies and their weakness – Our bodies are not a hindrance to our spiritual life, they are necessary for it. Spiritual disciplines are not applied to the spirit but to the body. Don’t be afraid to take out time to be quiet and reflect, don’t be wary of denying your body of food for periods of time, don’t be afraid to spend time in prayer for yourself and others, don’t be shy of the commitment that service requires…these things characterised the life of Jesus, and taught Him obedience enabling Him to please God…they didn’t in themselves impress God, but they enabled a life which brought God pleasure and brought His power on the earth.
Next time you engage in any of the disciplines, try to think about it this way, and through the Power of God’s Spirit, who lives in you, your life will bring God pleasure.
May you increase in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and may your eyes continually be opened to see more of Him.
9:15pm, January 29th 2009
1 Hebrews 4:15
2 Matthew 11:28-30
3 Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines – Understanding How God Changes Lives (New York: Harper Collins, 1988), 9.
4 Ibid., 29
5 Luke 21: 37-38, Mark 6:31, John 6:15
6 Luke 4:1-2
7 Mark 14:32-39
8 Mark 6:34
9 John 8:29, John 12:49
10 Matthew 3:17, 17:5.
11 John 14:12