Whole Person Spiritual Disciplines

It is nothing new to hear someone saying you ought to bring God your heart rather than [some other thing].  Or conversely to hear that You ought to sit at His feet, but forsake doing [some other thing]. Behind all this I suspect is a writer who struggled with something, and is swinging the pendulum a bit far the other direction.  Example: Being told we need to bring God solely our hearts. We must not let the pendulum swing there–we need to keep it balanced at loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He created us as whole beings–we must not dichotomise life, or segment our worship.  

All this to say–your whole self matters.  You are not a soul with a body, or a body with a soul.  You are a person. You are not a feeling thinker, or a thinking feeler, or a type of a person.  You are a person, created in the image of God. And if Christ dwells in your heart through faith, you must not imagine that only your soul matters to God.  Or that your body has no bearing on your mind, or your mind has no bearing on your spirituality. You, beloved, the whole you, is created in the image of God.  If you are His, He has created you anew in Christ Jesus, in the righteousness and holiness of truth, for good works. His delight is in you (not just your heart, or just your soul, or just your vocation).

What does this have to do with Spiritual Disciplines, you may wonder?  Turn with me to Romans 6:12-13, 16-17, 22 (Read the whole chapter, but here I quote only these verses)

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.  But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derives your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

There is so much here to unpack–really these verses should be a beautiful lifelong meditation.  As you present yourselves, your members–your whole self, heart soul mind body etc; as you obey–you enjoy His work in you, the results of righteousness and sanctification.  God is showing that we are an active part of His work in us. He draws us into obedience, not into laziness; He draws us into His kingdom work. We are no longer slaves of sin, we are committed from the heart to the teaching we find in the Word of God! We are committed, whole person commitment.  We will listen, study, meditate, memorize, journal, speak to one another, pray from this Word, sometimes with fasting, sometimes leading to corporate prayer and worship, sometimes engaging in solitude.  We are committed, and so we present our whole self to God as one alive from the dead. The Spiritual Disciplines are a means of presenting ourselves.

As you journey on in faith, living day to day, there will be time to practice different disciplines–some that affect your body more than others (fasting); some that affect your emotions and affections (meditation, worship, study), or your thinking (journaling, study, hearing the Word preached), or stretch you in how you spend your time (solitude, silence, prolonged seasons of prayer).  

We present our whole being to God.  A simple prayer of “Here is my mind…”  “Here is my heart…” “Here are my affections, my thoughts, my doubts, fears, worries…”  “Here is my body, my abilities and disabilities, my aching knees, my eczema scarred hands, my desire to use this body enjoying Your world and experiencing Life with the community around me.”  “Here I am, I am Yours, my Lord. Here I am, to obey.”   

I’ve recently finished reading a new book by philosopher J.P. Moreland, titled “Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace.”  I have been delighting in, meditating on, and praying through Romans 6 for many years now. It was refreshing to read how these same practices helped bring peace into his life after years of debilitating anxiety.  I highly recommend this book.  

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