Are Spiritual Disciplines Legalistic?

Many charismatics don’t like the word discipline, as if it is something that conflicts with freedom. And many have abandoned a consistent habit of prayer, worship and study, as if these things are legalistic. John Mark Comer in the book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, gives a most helpful analogy. He likens the spiritual disciplines to the trellis that supports tender grape branches, giving it the support it needs to abide in the Vine. 

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
-John 15:4, NKJV

Religion/legalism is not the presence of godly habits but is simply the absence of intimacy that should be the motivation for them. Intimacy is the motivation, but how do you become intimate with someone you barely know? The same way you kindle the flames of any lukewarm relationship: you spend time together! So, intimacy is the motivation for non-religious spiritual practices. But those practices themselves give the space for intimacy to form. It’s a circular pattern, just like everything in the realm of the spirit.

The spiritual disciplines will produce fruit when they exemplify and facilitate the Three-Fold Law of Love: loving God and loving others as we love ourselves. Worship is loving God, and, of course, comes first. He always gets the firstfruit. Focusing upon Him sets the tone for everything else we encounter. And He actually makes it fun to worship Him, because He has created us to love music, dance, beauty and delight… all expressions of true worship.

Loving others can be expressed through things like intercessory prayer, ministry, giving, servanthood and sacrificial acts of kindness.  

We love ourselves by inquiring of God and receiving His practical wisdom for situations in our lives, by asking Him for what we need and receiving His abundant provision, by filling up with His presence, and by encountering Him (even though this has been happening with all the others, too). You just can’t out-give this One who IS love!

Can you see the Three-Fold Law of Love demonstrated in the prayer Yeshua modeled for us?

Pray like this:
‘Our Father, dwelling in the heavenly realms,
    may the glory of your name
    be the center on which our lives turn. 
   Manifest your kingdom realm, 
    and cause your every purpose to be fulfilled on earth,
    just as it is fulfilled in heaven.
   We acknowledge you as our Provider
    of all we need each day. 
   Forgive us the wrongs we have done as we ourselves
    release forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
Rescue us every time we face tribulation
    and set us free from evil. 
    For you are the King who rules
    with power and glory forever. Amen.’
-Matthew 6:9-13, TPT

If you’re feeling dry and purposeless, be encouraged. You are probably at the threshold of a season of new spiritual life. And, as Henri Nouwen says, “It is precisely in times of spiritual dryness that we must hold on to our spiritual discipline so that we can grow into new intimacy with God.

Until next time…

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