by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
Spiritual disciplines do not make us holy. Only g-d’s grace makes us holy. Disciplines, rather, make us sit loose to the world, and therefore, make obedience possible.
The lack of will to submit to spiritual disciplines belies a person who cannot be saved, by this I mean ‘the person cannot submit to the proper conditions for grace to flourish or operate.’ Without disciplines g-d’s grace has no traction.
This opinion stands in contrast to the Evangelical opinion which versejacks Paul’s words in Romans 10:9-10
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Yet Paul goes on to say in the next sentence “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”TRUST is big word. Our Reformed penchant for rationalism (mental thinking only) empties TRUST of any real force of habit or action, and only leaves us with a passive private salvation within the heart. I can only resort at this point to state the old line: “just because I BELIEVE I can fly doesn’t mean I am willing to go jump off the roof.” Why? I know better. I’ll fall.
Of course the flight metaphor falls apart because even with a very disciplined flapping of the arms my flight will be short and fast. Unless by “discipline” I mean seriously learning how humans have figured out how to “fly.” By applying myself I can learn to use a parachute, hang glider or even better, learn the discipline of using an airplane. At this point the flying metaphor is back in full strength: disciplines are never cheap, flippant, shallow or vague, but very concrete and measurable, even academic or scientific – and like using an airplane to fly, we should take them so serious as to mean life or death – we either soar or crash.
To crash as a Christian means we are no different than the world. To be different the Christ follower will handle money differently, entertain differently, think and act regarding the poor and disenfranchised differently, and “involuntarily” tell a Jesus story out of their daily life within g-d’s Presence.
But to soar means we practice scripture memorization, tithing, alms-giving, generosity, hospitality, habitually serve the poor, Lectio Divina, pray the divine hours, fast, etc. *(You should assume I mean for all of these disciplines to be done in community – not alone.) Do these disciplines sound exciting?
- But someone will say, can I not be saved – that is, get into heaven when I die – without any of this? Perhaps you can. God’s goodness is so great, I am sure that He will let you in if He can find any basis at all to do so. But you might wish to think about what your life amounts to beforeyou die, about what kind of person you are becoming, and about whether you really would be comfortable for eternity in the presence of One whose company you have not found especially desirable for the few hours and days of your earthly existence. And He is, after all, One who says to you now, “Follow me!” -
– Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, p17