“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
When it comes to being disciplined, Jesus is a tough act to follow. This is especially the case when following His example means not only imitating his external behavior but also the internal heart motivations. He was completely God and completely man and His desire was to follow the will of God the Father. So how do we do it? Is it even possible to come close? As with all else, Jesus makes a way.
Jesus modeled for us what we call “spiritual disciplines”. That is, during his ministry with teh disciples, He modeled for us ways of living or habits that make us more spiritually fit and deepen our personal relationship with God. The word “discipline” as it stands alone means the practice of teaching people how to obey rules or a certain code of behavior. Spiritual discipline then is the training of oneself to be obedient to God’s rules and to follow His code of behavior.
Although we have not had the honor and pleasure of physically walking with Jesus and hearing Him speak on the Mount of Olives, we do have the Bible, God’s living and breathing Word, to reveal to us what Jesus said and did.
Highlighting five spiritual disciplines that Jesus would have modeled during His life on Earth is a great place to start. The subjects of study, praying, worship, fellowship, and sharing the Gospel are great examples of Christ’s spiritual habits and are ones we can also make our own with some practice and knowledge of the basics.
Study God’s Word
Reading the Bible is an absolutely essential way to maintain spiritual discipline. It is like a letter that God has written to us to instruct, guide, and show His love for us. By learning how to study this discipline, we are learning the importance of who God is, what His will is for us, but also, how He loves us as His children and desires to have a relationship with us.
Jesus was no stranger to the Scriptures. On many occasions in the New Testament, Jesus used some adaptation of the phrase “it is written”, referring to passages of Scripture, or quoted the Old Testament. A example of this is when Jesus was fasting in the wilderness and was being tempted by the devil:
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:1-4 (ESV)
Jesus knew the Scriptures and with them, was able to guard Himself against the devil’s temptations, not once but three times before Satan finally left Him!
Know your Bible. Committing to memorizing verses is a great way to incorporate the Scriptures into your disciplines. These may be verses that are specifically helpful to you as you share Jesus with others, see yourself through a tough time, or even follow Jesus’ example to fight off the temptations of the evil one.
Prayer is such a powerful tool and a great discipline to get into the habit of because it is how we communicate with the God of the universe. He is always listening and always available.
No one knew God the Father better than God the Son, yet Jesus, Himself, often resorted to prayer to communicate with His heavenly Father as we too are able to talk to Him. He never prayed to make Himself look good—as He warned us not to do (Matt 6:5-6)—but instead would seek seclusion so that He could humbly pray to the Father in private.
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35 (ESV)
We too should have the discipline to pray daily, with frequency, and not pray to impress others, but out of a desire to grow deeper in our relationship with Christ. When we consider prayer as a spiritual discipline the importance of faithful prayer becomes more evident—we pray more and with earnest intensity. Establishing a daily prayer time is a great way to accomplish this. Whether it’s casual conversation, a time of deep distress, or just a Tuesday, the God of the Universe desires relationship with us – what a gift!
Worshiping is simply this: showing reverence, respect, and honor toward God. To Him and Him alone belongs the glory, and when we worship Him, we are giving Him the glory due to His name.
Jesus knew the importance of worshiping God the Father. Again, we come back to the account of the devil tempting Jesus in the wilderness. When the devil tried tempting Jesus to worship him, Christ replied:
“Be gone Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Matthew 4:10 (ESV)
When you worship the Lord, you are showing a focused response to God’s infinite worth. It goes beyond singing hymns on Sunday mornings. It is deeply recognizing the greatness of God and giving Him the respect and honor He deserves because of it. When we think about how awesome He really is, we surely cannot help but worship Him.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24
Fellowship is the coming together of brothers and sisters in Christ not only to support and pray for one another and to worship God but to give testimony to the rest of the world.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 (ESV)
Jesus had fellowship with His disciples as He walked with them for three years during his earthly ministry. They traveled, served and broke bread together. And when He sought time alone from the rest of the group, it was so He could have fellowship with God in Father in prayer. Jesus understood how important it was to have a relationship with the Father and in turn have relationships with others.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
When we unite as believers, we strengthen one another, build each other up, and encourage each other to serve Jesus. We also protect one another in numbers when the enemy may seek to destroy the work that God has done in our lives. Fellowship is a mutually beneficial discipline for all believers. A simple way to practice this discipline: get involved in a local church/chapel.
Share the Gospel
Sharing the Gospel, witnessing, evangelizing—it’s about telling the world about the Good News and salvation that only Jesus Christ can provide. It is most definitely a spiritual discipline because sharing the Gospel does not simply happen by accident; you have to be completely intentional about getting out there and telling people what Jesus has done for you.
Sharing the love of God was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. His desire was to bring men to God so they could be saved through Him.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 (ESV)
Sharing the Gospel is not simply a nice thing that we should consider doing, it is a cornerstone of the church and the final command Jesus gave His disciples before He ascended into Heaven.
“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’” Mark 16:15 (ESV)
Pray often for and seek out opportunities to share about Jesus. There may be more people out there than you know who are experiencing rough times and would love to learn more about the Savior.
Remain in Christ to Grow Strong in Christ
What spiritual disciplines are you seeking to strengthen today? Being a follower of Jesus is an active call to imitate Jesus in both word and deed.It is a path that requires discipline and intentionality, and it’s not something we drift into. Jesus is always calling us into a deeper relationship with himself. Paul in his first letter to Timothy compares and contrasts spiritual discipline to physical fitness, holding the first in much higher regard.
“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)
Seek things of eternal value. When we read the Bible, pray, worship God, fellowship with one another, and share the Gospel, we are are seeking out things that hold true value. We have a personal relationship with God and we share about Him with others.
Want to learn more about this awesome God we serve, and learn how to lead the lost to Him? Check out ASM’s Warfighter’s Study Bible. Built to help you strengthen habits (disciplines) in studying the Word of God, this Bible provides daily readings that help you fan the flame by consistently engaging with Scripture on a daily basis.
Keep up those spiritual disciplines. In doing so, you create good habits to maintain a solid connection with Christ. And as you abide in Him, you’ll find that you will grow and flourish.
“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” Psalm 92:12-15 (ESV)