Resolutions or Disciplines? (Spirit of the Disciplines Preface – Chapter 2)

January is often the time people make resolutions. They promise to eat better, get out of debt, spend less time on-line and more time with real people, start a Bible study, or work on a relationship. You probably have at least thought about some kind of change that needs to take place in the coming year.
And yet, more often than not, New Year’s resolutions do not stick. There is no lasting change, just a temporary adjustment. Unfortunately, this is often what we find in the lives of those who claim to be Christians. There may be temporary changes, but there is no lasting change.
On the first page of The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard states, “Amid a flood of techniques for self-fulfillment there is an epidemic of depression, suicide, personal emptiness, and escapism through drugs and alcohol, cultic obsession, consumerism, and sex and violence – all combined with an inability to sustain deep and enduring personal relationships.”
And then, he says that the answer must obviously be a spiritual answer. But, he is right when he adds, “Christians are among those caught up in the sorrowful epidemic just referred to.” Those who claim to be Christians are in such a bad condition that the world looks at us and concludes that Christian faith has no power to change anything and is in fact irrelevant.
Willard says that the answer to the incredible low ebb of spiritual life in Christianity today is to rediscover transformation through spiritual disciplines. He says we will never really change until we regularly discipline ourselves to change. Like an athlete who daily trains in every aspect of the game they play, we must train ourselves daily for godliness.
Unfortunately, this is not what we do. Willard is right to say, “Some people would genuinely like to pay their bills and be financially responsible, but they are unwilling to lead the total life that would make that possible…Many people lament the problem of today’s tragic sexual behaviors, yet they are content to let the role of sex in business, art, journalism, and recreation remain at the depraved level from which such tragedy naturally comes.”
The disciplines are meant to change us and change the world around us. He says, “Holiness and devotion must now come forth from the closet and the chapel to possess the street and the factory and the governmental office.” When we discipline ourselves to live consistent lives that follow Christ, we find that Christianity is life changing. We find it is not some impossible ideal, but a practical reality.

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