In turning his attention to the spiritual disciplines of engagement (study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, and submission), Dallas Willard writes,
“The disciplines of abstinence must be counterbalanced and supplemented by the disciplines of engagement. Abstinence and engagement are the outbreathing and inbreathing of our spiritual lives, and we require disciplines for both movements. Roughly speaking, the disciplines of abstinence counteract the sins of commission and the disciplines of engagement counteract tendencies to sins of omission. Life … does not derive its power of growth and development from withdrawal but from action – and engagement. Abstinence, then, makes way for engagement…. If the places in our souls that are be indwelt by God and his service are occupied by food, sex, and society, we die and languish for lack of God and right relation to his creatures. A proper abstinence actually breaks the hold of improper engagements so that the soul can be properly engaged in and by God.”
from The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, pp 175 – 176.
In discussing the spiritual disciplines of abstinence (solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, sacrifice) Dallas Willard has the following to say,
“In the disciplines of abstinence, we abstain to some degree and for some time from the satisfaction of what we generally regard as normal and legitimate desires…. Keep in mind that the practice of abstention does not imply there is anything essentially wrong with these desires as such…. An adequate course of spiritual discipline will single out those tendencies that may harm our walk with God. By the carefully adapted arrangement of our circumstances and behavior, the spiritual disciplines will bring these basic desires into their proper coordination and subordination within the economy of the life in his Kingdom.”
from The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, pp 159 -160.
Two weeks ago we looked at Richard Foster’s grouping of the disciplines as inward, outward and corporate. Below are some spiritual disciplines identified by Dallas Willard and a way he distinguishes the disciplines (from The Spirit of the Disciplines, page 158).
Disciplines of Abstinence
Disciplines of Engagement
This past Sunday the minister mentioned the “spiritual discipline of thankfulness” in his sermon “Choose to Be Thankful” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), so this seemed an opportune time to add Thankfulness/Gratitude to our list of spiritual practices.
“Gratitude is a loving and thankful response toward God for his presence with us and within this world. Though “blessings” can move us into gratitude, it is not at the root of a thankful heart. Delight in God and his good will is the heartbeat of thankfulness.”
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
From Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, p 29.
In Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (page v) Richard Foster distinguishes between inward disciplines, outward disciplines and corporate disciplines.
The Inward Disciplines
The Outward Disciplines
The Corporate Disciplines
This may help us remember that ultimately the spiritual practices are not a private, self-focused matter.
“Utter delight and joy in ourselves, our life, and our world as a result of our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty, and goodness.”
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice.” — Philippians 4:4
from A Year with God: Living out the Spiritual Disciplines edited by Richard J. Foster and Julia L. Roller, introduction to days 346-365.
“The inward reality of single-hearted focus upon God and his kingdom, which results in an outward lifestyle of modesty, openness and unpretentiousness and which disciplines our hunger for status, glamor, and luxury.”
“We brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” — 1 Timothy 6:7
from A Year with God: Living out the Spiritual Disciplines edited by Richard J. Foster and Julia L. Roller, introduction to days 326-345.
“Closing off the inner self from “sounds,” whether noise, music, or words, so that we may better still the chatter and clatter of our noisy hearts and be increasingly attentive to God.”
“For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.” — Psalm 62:5
from A Year with God: Living out the Spiritual Disciplines edited by Richard J. Foster and Julia L. Roller, introduction to days 306 – 325.
“Deliberately forsaking the security of satisfying our own needs with our resources in the faith and hope that God will sustain us.”
“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” — Romans 12:1
from A Year with God: Living out the Spiritual Disciplines edited by Richard J. Foster and Julia L. Roller, introduction to days 286 – 305.
“Subordination to the guidance of God; within the Christian fellowship, a constant mutual subordination out of reverence for Christ, which opens the way for particular subordination to those who are qualified to direct our efforts toward Christlikeness and who then add the weight of their wise authority on the side of our willing spirit to help us do the things we would like to do and refrain from doing the things we don’t want to do.”
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” — Luke 1:38
from A Year with God: Living out the Spiritual Disciplines edited by Richard J. Foster and Julia L. Roller, introduction to days 266 – 285.