I’d heard about it years ago but I just finally got around to reading the classic book, “Celebration of Discipline”. I admit, I had been scared off by the title. “Discipline” sounds very challenging and no fun. We find discipline especially difficult in our culture which runs on us trying to fulfill our every desire asap. However the book wasn’t nearly as “bad” as I had expected. In fact, I found that I was already doing many of the things discussed (though I can always improve).
One idea which I love and think is brilliant is found in the first chapter. Unfortunately, conservative evangelical Christianity has often focused on sin management. The priority has been on getting people to behave more morally. So sermons are often motivational speeches exhorting us to do better in one way or another. People try to not sin, then fail, discover they can’t fix themselves, get frustrated and feel guilty. The bible is quite clear that we can’t make ourselves not sin. Paul in the letter to the Romans states that even though he really wants (wills) to follow the Law, he finds he can’t do it. This leads him to conclude that there’s really something wrong with himself—he is broken (Romans 7:14-25).
Richard J. Foster, the author of “Celebration of Discipline”, affirms this. The only way we can break free of sin is through the power of the Holy Spirit. The spiritual disciplines are the way we connect with God and connect with the Spirit Foster says. He likens it to a garden. A gardener has no power to make anything grow. However, he can plant seed, water, pull weeds, etc., in order to create the best environment for growth to take place. So the disciplines are like the gardening we do to allow God to grow us into spiritual maturity.
There is a lot of ground covered in this book; it is really packed with material. Each chapter is almost it’s own subject, though they do interact. However, because of this, I won’t attempt to discuss every item even in brief. However I have decided to include my rough outline and notes from the book. Most of the notes likely won’t make sense without reading the book. But this will give you a glimpse of the material, and could potentially be a good reminder to those who have read it previously.
Inward 1. Meditation Hear and Obey, receive from God Inner sanctuary in the heart; picture Christ in me Not the same as eastern religions' meditation Detach from "noisy" environment in order to attach to God Read bible passages as a personal message 2. Prayer Learned Listen first to know God's will Use of imagination/visualization 3. Fasting Traditional fast on Wednesday and Friday Reveals things which control us Turn to the word of God Balances, refocuses our life 4. Study Learning through truth, understanding reality a. Repetition b. Concentration c. Comprehension d. Reflection Humility necessary a. Books Intrinsic 1. Understanding 2. Interpreting 3. Evaluating Extrinsic 1. Experience 2. Other books 3. Live discussion b. Nature, events, actions, ourselves, etc. Outward 5. Simplicity Freedom from attachment to things Begins by inward foundation on God External from internal God intends us to have adequate provision Seek God's kingdom first, don't worry View things as a gift, God takes care of it, available to others a. Purchase for usefulness not status b. Reject addictions c. Give away d. Don't be convinced by advertising propaganda e. Enjoy without owning (library, park, etc.) f. Appreciate nature g. Avoid debt h. Plain, honest speech ("Let your 'yes' be yes and your 'no' be no.") i. Reject oppression of others j. Shun distractions from God's kingdom 6. Solitude/Silence Freedom from attachment to others Abstain from need to justify one's self Dark night of the soul Change our relationship with others 7. Submission Freedom from having to get our way Allows us to value others Upside down power in God's kingdom 8. Service Freedom from human hierarchy Listen Accept acts of service Corporate 9. Confession Both give and receive Pray and visualize the cross of Christ in between you and the other 10. Worship Our response to "seeing" God Worship in spirit and in truth Worship God for who he is and what he has done Form is secondary Worship proceeds service (actions are fruit of love of God, not the first priority themselves) Prepare: quiet our hearts, pray, commune with God through the week, be expectant Praise, sing, involve our physical bodies (posture and or movement) Obedience is the fruit of worship 11. Guidance Individual guidance leads to corporate guidance Being truly lead by Christ, as opposed to reason, majority vote, etc. Seeking others' counsel Unity Spiritual directors 12. Celebration Central to the disciplines Joy is what fuels us Obedience is the only path to joy Don't celebrate falsely When we focus on the good, it can overshadow the bad Keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously Singing, dancing, laughing, etc. Creativity
“…Meditation heightens our spiritual sensitivity which… leads us to prayer. …Prayer involves fasting… Informed by these three Disciplines, we can effectively move into study… Through simplicity we live with others in integrity. Solitude allows us to be genuinely present to people when we are with them. Through submission we live with others without manipulation, and through service we are a blessing to them. Confession frees us from ourselves and releases us to worship. Worship opens the door to guidance. All the Disciplines freely exercised bring forth the doxology of celebration.”