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Abundant life in Christ
March 12, 2012
by Rev. Bill Hillyer, Saving Grace Lutheran Church, Delano

How much time do you spend seeking after God?

King David says in Psalm 63:8, “My soul seeks hard after You!” Are you seeking God in your daily activities, and in quiet times throughout the week?

The Lenten season gives us a chance to do just that. It is a time to reflect on all those habits in our life that may be keeping us from God or pulling us away from Him. It is the season where we can turn our lives back towards the ways of God. Lent is a time to seek hard after Him.

The early church took for granted that believers in Jesus would live their lives in certain ways. This included living a lifestyle where certain “spiritual disciplines” were practiced which helped the believers draw closer to God.

God invites His people to go deeper during Lent into our journey with Him and into the good life made available through Jesus: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). But entering into this abundant life takes more than wishful thinking or just going through the motions; it takes a well-thought-out, disciplined life of faith.

Christians over the years have learned that certain disciplines and practices help them keep their heart turned toward God. These spiritual disciplines help Christians move from “surface-level” Christianity into the real depths of a life lived for God.

What makes something a spiritual discipline is that it takes a specific part of your way of life and turns it toward God. A spiritual discipline, when practiced faithfully and regularly, is a habit or regular pattern in your life that repeatedly brings you back to God and opens you up to what God is saying to you.

Spiritual disciplines are to be practiced three ways: inwardly, outwardly, and corporately. Lutherans practice the corporate disciplines in the public worship service. The inclusion of confessing our faith publicly, and confessing our sins publicly are both corporate disciplines that are designed to draw God’s people closer to their creator and to each other.

Spiritual disciplines help to keep our relationship with God in good working order, and even help develop our intimacy with God. These “inward” spiritual disciplines include meditation (personal devotions), prayer time, fasting, and Bible study.

The “outward” disciplines are simplicity of life, solitude, submission, and service. These disciplines oftentimes find themselves being worked out in our lives as we respond to the Gospel within us.

Spiritual disciplines are not an option to the Christian life, they really go part and parcel with walking the Christian life. Note in Matthew 6:16 that Jesus said, “When you fast . . . ,” not “if you fast . . .”

Being able to live a balanced, Christian life means that God has priority in every area of your life – there is not one area that should be kept from Him.

If you are looking for ways to become more disciplined in your Christian walk, or would just like to feel closer to God, ask your pastor for help. He/she will be able to direct you to a good Bible reading plan, some good books on the devotional life, or maybe even a good Internet blog that can assist in your spiritual journey.

The time of Lent can be an exciting time in the Christian’s walk with God. I like to think of it as spiritual spring cleaning. Cleaning isn’t always fun – but it is always worth the effort. And Lent gives us the time to clean up our own spiritual house so that we can be prepared for Easter morning and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and His victory over sin, death, and the devil.

Of course, we don’t do these spiritual disciplines to be “better” Christians. And we don’t practice these habits thinking that somehow we are “earning” our way to heaven (we cannot earn what Christ has freely given us through His grace). No, we discipline ourselves as Christians because, as the apostle Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” Philippians 3:10-15.

May this Lenten season be a time of reflection, repentance, and reprioritizing as you seek hard after God – and learn to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.