The practice of the Classical Spiritual Disciplines has fallen into disfavor in the last several centuries. Many point to the paradigm shift produced by the Reformation as the primary cause. The emphasis upon God’s grace as the ONLY force involved in human salvation led to a disdain for anything that smacked of human effort being relevant. The disciplines lost their purpose and fell out of practice.

          We need a more balanced understanding of the purpose of the spiritual disciplines. To accomplish that, however, we must first recapture a biblical view of human salvation.

          Salvation involves more than merely washing human sins away. It also involves a reversal of the consequences that our sin has had on our character. In other words, our salvation includes our present transformation into the image of Jesus Christ. This transformation is for the glory of God and for the benefit of all human beings on the earth.

          Human transformation (a major component of human salvation) is a collaborative effort between the Creator and us. To overemphasize one person’s role over the other is to miss the harmony that God is trying to achieve in this communal effort at human redemption.

          And so the Spiritual Disciplines are not “works of merit” that earn us brownie points in heaven. Instead, they are spiritual exercises designed first and foremost to reveal to us our own human impotence—our own state of spiritual ruin. Hopefully this will produce a profound sense of humility within us that will, in turn, transport us into the presence of God. In His presence the grace He extends to all human beings of faith can transform us into the image of Jesus Christ.

          The skill we must learn is that of disciplined dependence. We must discipline ourselves to depend upon God for our salvation. We must trust that we are going to heaven when we die; we must also obey Him now so that His Spirit can recreate us into the instruments He desires here on earth.

          Once we understand these objectives the purpose of the Classical Spiritual Disciplines will become evident. Perhaps the practice of the disciplines will become common among God’s people again as well.

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