“We are at this moment as close to God as we really choose to be. True,
there are times when we would like to know a deeper intimacy, but when
it comes to the point, we are not prepared to pay the price involved.”
(J. Oswald Sanders)
I’ve been looking forward to this series for a long time. I had planned
to teach this series last year during Lent, but decided to do something
in correlation with the release of the movie, “The Passion of the
Christ.” So I am excited be be talking about the habits (disciplines, practices) of growing disciples (Christ-followers).
“Habits are to the soul what the veins and arteries are to the blood, the courses in which it moves.” (Horace Bushnell)
I want to begin by talking about why this is important to me, and why I
think this is important for us. And to do that I need to share a little
bit about my faith journey.
I grew up in a Christian home that was very active in the life of the
church. My grandfather was a preacher who was dedicated to God and the
church. During my teenage years, however, I drifted away from God and
my spiritual heritage. It was my mom’s death when I was 19 years old
that became a turning point in my life. I immediately returned to the
church, and within months had recommitted my life to Christ. And I have
been following Christ ever since!
Those early years of following Christ were especially passionate, and
the spiritual growth was quick and intense. Thankfully, I grew up
around people who were extremely passionate about God. Some of these
people were willing to go wherever God led them, and to do whatever God
called them to do. They were passionate people — passionate about God!
Now, my passion is to know God, and to lead others to know and follow
God, too. I want to travel with passionate, revolutionary
Christ-followers on this amazing adventure we call life. It is in this
context that I begin this series of talks on “the habits of growing
disciples,” which seeks to answer the question: “What kinds of habits,
disciplines, spiritual practices do passionate Christ-followers live
From the time of Moses, when God gave the Law (Torah), the Torah
was been the centerpiece of life for God’s people. In those days, most
people had the Torah memorized. The Torah is not just a collection of
rules and regulations; it was called “the Way.” If you wanted to know
the best way to live, you went to the Torah.
Habits for Followers of ‘The Way’
As we begin, I want to emphasize the importance of guarding against compartmentalizing our lives — work, worship,
recreation, play, and so on. In the Hebrew language (the language of the Old Testament), there’s no word for
“spiritual.” Using the word “spiritual” implies that some things are not spiritual. And for
followers of the Way, everything is spiritual. IOW, God can be
worshiped in anything, by doing it to honor God!
John Wesley’s 3 General Rules …
- Do no harm, avoid evil of every kind
- Do good of every possible sort
- Attend upon all the ordinances of God (i.e. practice the spiritual disciplines)
“Cultivate only the habits that you are willing should master you.” (Elbert Hubbard)
1 — Love God
This should sound familiar. This is the most important
commandment, according to Jesus. Disciples love God in everything they
We express our love to God in many different ways — worship, prayer,
honoring God in any way we can. The ways of loving God are endless!
2 — Internalizing Scripture
For early followers of the Way, internalizing Scripture usually meant
memorizing the Torah. For us, it means getting as much Scripture in us
as possible, through reading, meditating, reflecting, listening, and studying.
I love Deuteronomy 6.6-9 in The Message — “Write these
commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get
them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about
them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk
about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall
into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder;
inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.”
3 — Pass on what you’re learning
Not only get Scripture inside of yourself, but also inside your kids
and your family. Passing onto others what we are learning and
experiencing is an important part of our growth.
4 — Ooze the things of God all the time
In fact, don’t just get Scripture inside you and your family, but ooze God and the things/ways of God all the time.
5 — Love people
Though the text doesn’t specifically say, “Love people,” I think it’s
implied. If we’re going to pass on the ways of God, we must love
people! We pass on
the things of God to benefit and encourage others.
6 — Find ways to keep our focus on God
For early followers of the Way that meant writing Scripture on pieces
of parchment and tying it to their clothes. For us it could mean
listening to the Bible while we’re traveling, or writing out a passage
of Scripture and posting it on the refrigerator or on the door so you
see it when you go out into the world.
It takes commitment
Follow the Way with all your heart, all your soul, and all your
strength. It takes commitment and dedication! Now, we all have habits.
As Christ-followers, we need to work at developing the habits that will
help us grow in our walk with God.
That may involve neglecting some things, even some good things. Someone
once asked a concert violinist in New York’s
Carnegie Hall how she became so skilled. She said that it was by
“planned neglect.” IOW, she planned to neglect everything that was not
related to her goal of being the best violinist she could be. If you
and I are going to be the most devoted Christ-followers we can be, we
must learn to neglect a lot of things that distract us from our goals.
“Good habits result from resisting temptation.” (Ancient Proverb)
Why develop the habits? … To build character
“’Reputation is what folks think you are. Personality is what you seem
to be. Character is what you really are.” (Alfred Armand Montapert)
“Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.” (Unknown)
Let’s finish with six question from “The Disciple-Making Church” (Glen McDonald) …
- Who is your Lord? (everyone serves someone or something)
- Who are you? (who has God called and gifted you to be?)
- Who is your Barnabus? (who is your encourager?)
- Who is your Timothy? (who are you mentoring)
- Where is your Antioch? (small group)
- Where is your Macedonia? (mission; where is God calling you?)
I am grateful that I’m not on the journey alone. There are many
others traveling with me — Barnabuses to encourage and
spur me on; Timothys to encourage to continue on the
journey; and, Macedonias to go to, to do God’s work. So, I’m
grateful for your companionship on the journey. And, I’m grateful for
God’s presence on the journey as well. I’m glad it’s not dependent on
my strength, but on God’s grace!