I last wrote of the inward-out transformation that Jesus wants to work in our lives. Like everything else in the partnership that God has established with man, we also have our part. We never have the ability to achieve God's desire, but He expects us to walk side-by-side with Him in the process. In a moment, we’ll discus activities like solitude, silence, prayer, journaling, study, meditation, memorization, fasting, chastity, secrecy, confession, fellowship, submission, simplicity, stewardship, sacrifice, worship, celebration, service, and witness, all of which we commonly refer to as spiritual disciplines. But first we must understand how our part, the outside in approach works.
God has put us together as unifed persons – inner man and body – in His image and intends that we exist now and for eternity in physical form. Francis Schaeffer notes in True Spirituality that a wholly biblical view of spirituality involves a connection between the inward and outward aspects of humanness: “sweeping out of the inward positive reality, there is to be a positive manifestation externally.”
From a more direct point of view, Dallas Willard says it in The Spirit of the Disciplines “Human personality is not separable in our consciousness from the human body. And that fact is expressed by asserting the IDENTITY of the person as his or her body.” This fact is what makes it necessary for us to make our bodies, through the disciplines for spiritual life, the primary focus of our effort in our part in the process of redemption. Philippians 2:12-13 confirms the sentiments of both Shaeffer and Willard. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” I’m wholly dependant upon God to work in me towards sanctification, but connected all the way back to continuing God’s creative activity after He rested, I have my part to do.
Spiritual disciplines like those I rattled off earlier generally fall into two groups. The disciplines of abstinence include the likes of solitude, silence, and fasting and disciplines of engagement include reading, meditation, and journaling – we’ll begin with those three here.
If you’ve taken the time to read this post, you can probably also list several good reasons why reading God’s revelation of Himself to man sits atop the charts of spiritual disciplines. We’re here to become disciples or apprentices of Jesus. We set out to become like Him in every way. The only full picture of who Jesus is lies between the “in the beginning” of Genesis 1:1 and “the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people” of Revelation 22:21.
The multi-faceted nature of Scripture, along with the ever expanding illumination of the Holy Spirit make discovering Jesus a life long journey. If I live to 110 years old and spend each day basking in God’s story of His Son, I will not have gotten to the bottom of it. The issue is not whether God’s Word is enough, but whether I engage it enough. First, you must have a plan and that plan must include the entire Bible cover to cover. Reading the Bible straight through in a year might be your plan but cover to cover isn’t the only way to read. Some find it helpful to alternate between sections of the New and Old Testaments. Others augment they’re regular reading of other passages with a chapter of Psalms or Proverbs each day. You might find it helpful to park in one book for while, reading slowly or rereading certain passages. I know of only two necessities – read it all and read it daily.
Reading alone won’t accelerate knowing Jesus to extent we want. The depth of Scripture requires us to chew on it, mull it over, look at it from different angles, and wring it to extract every last bit the Holy Spirit has for us this day. We must read and meditate on what we read. As you read, pick out a verse or short passage that catches the attention of your heart, begin to ponder each word and phrase. Use your imagination to visualize the ideas expressed. Consider how these ideas fit into the bigger picture of the story of Jesus. Ask how they agree or disagree with your current condition. You might write down a verse that catches your attention and carry it with you for the day, taking time to reread it and ponder a little more. At times, you’ll have important “ah-ha” moments where the Holy Spirit takes what He has for you and holds it in front of your face. Other times, you might feel like you’ve accomplished nothing at all. This might require times of prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to reveal specific aspects of the passage or to assist your understanding. It might also require plain old perseverance.
The object of meditation is to make Scripture a part of you – to hide it in your heart, to let it richly dwell within you. During times of meditations the Holy Spirit will bring ideas, connect concepts, apply portions of Scripture to specific circumstances, use it to uncover hidden problems, and give us a broader idea of who Jesus is. Some of these events will develop over time and others will occur quite suddenly.
Spiritual disciplines are much like training in any other area of life. A hockey player who only works on a slap shot will never develop a sniper-like wrist shot. A golfer who spends all day in practicing with her driver will suffer when it’s time to put. We need to have a full quiver of discipline arrows. Since humans seem to have a knack for forgetting even the biggest insights the Holy Spirit reveals during meditation, Journaling provides a ready compliment to reading and meditation. Your journal becomes a safe place to store the daily treasures the Holy Spirit shares with you. I’m not talking about writing a treatise on some deep theological topic. A couple of short notes will do. Just enough to refresh your memory when you look back to your journal. Of course, nothing stands in the way of writing as much as you want. Much of what I post on this blog site began in my journal. However, mainly we want to create a record, a history of our spiritual development that will help us remember not only what we learn through reading and meditating, but how far down the pilgrim’s path we’ve come.
 This does not suggest that God has a body. God gives us bodies in order that we, like He, have a means of expressing the thoughts of our minds and emotions and carrying out the desires of our wills. Where God creates by imagining and speaking it into existence, we imagine and use our eyes, ears, mouths, hands, and feet to create.