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Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Paperback – July 1, 2014
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About the Author
DON WHITNEY has been Professor of Biblical spirituality and Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, since 2005. Before that, he held a similar position (the first such position in the six Southern Baptist seminaries) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, for 10 years. He is the founder and president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality. Don is a frequent speaker in churches, retreats, and conferences in the U.S. and abroad.
Don grew up in Osceola, AR, where he came to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. After graduating from Arkansas State, Don planned to finish law school and pursue a career in sportscasting. While at the University of Arkansas School of Law, he sensed God's call to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. He then enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1979. In 1987, Don completed a Doctor of Ministry degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. He earned a PhD in theology at the University of the Free State in Bloemfonteine, South Africa in 2013.
Prior to his ministry as a seminary professor, Don pastored Glenfield Baptist Church in Glen Ellyn, IL (a Chicago suburb), for almost 15 years. Altogether, he's served local churches in pastoral ministry for 24 years.
He is the author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, which has a companion Study Guide. He has also written How Can I Be Sure I'm a Christian?, Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, Simplify Your Spiritual Life, and Family Worship. His hobby is restoring and using old fountain pens.
Don lives with his wife, Caffy, in their home near Louisville. She teaches classes for seminary wives and is an artist, muralist, and illustrator. The Whitneys are parents of Laurelen.
Don's website is BiblicalSpirituality.org. He's on Twitter @DonWhitney and on Facebook.
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Whitney bases the book around a simple command from 1 Timothy 4:7: “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” Whitney explains, “If your purpose is godliness—and godliness is your purpose if you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, for He makes godliness your purpose—then how do you pursue that purpose? According to this verse, you “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” It is absolutely crucial that the Christian discipline himself to live a distinctly Christian life.
In the first chapter Whitney dives right into the concept of spiritual disciplines, explaining that they exist for the purpose of godliness. They do not save us and do not make God love us more; rather, they are the means God uses to conform us to Christ’s image. “The Spiritual Disciplines are those personal and interpersonal activities given by God in the Bible as the sufficient means believers in Jesus Christ are to use in the Spirit-filled, gospel-driven pursuit of godliness, that is, closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ.”
Through eleven chapters Whitney explains and unpacks ten important disciplines. He covers the disciplines of Bible intake (which receives two chapters), prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning. As he does this, he provides a framework for living a God-glorifying Christian life.
The book has several notable strengths.
First, it is bounded by Scripture. It would be easy to go far beyond the limits of Scripture, and to make every good idea a biblical discipline. Whitney allows Scripture to speak and always submits to its authority. This is especially noteworthy since so many similar books tend to tip into mysticism or to advocate practices that are unbiblical. Whitney teaches nothing but what is modeled in Scripture. He advocates a sola scriptura spirituality.
Second, the book draws deeply from the Puritans and other Christians who have been committed to lives of godliness. Whitney pulls out many powerful quotes and illustrations drawn from days gone by.
Third, the book is broad, covering ten important disciplines ranging from those done in quiet and secrecy (fasting and solitude) to those done in public view (worship and evangelism). Through the eleven chapters, the reader will receive Bible-based guidance that will impact every area of life.
Fourth, the final chapter is a powerful call to persevere in these disciplines. If you are like me, you find it simple enough to maintain a discipline for a week or two, but then find your self-control lapsing and your old habits returning. These disciplines may bear some fruit if practiced for a week, but they will bear much better and much more lasting fruit if practiced over an entire lifetime.
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life was a book I read almost a decade ago—the first book I ever read on the subject of the spiritual disciplines. It proved foundational to my life and faith, and its lessons remain with me to this day. I am thrilled that there is now a second edition that has been both improved and expanded. I cannot commend it too highly.
I assume most are quite familiar with the first five, and likely stewardship as well, however he has a bit of a twist. When most people here that word in context of church, they think money (though, presently, some may start to associate it with the environment), but he talks about time as well. I think this is an interesting point, that I’ve never really heard discussed. Often in the American church it’s about what not to do, as in, avoiding sin, not instead, focused on what to do. Don’t spend your time getting hammered. Makes sense, that’d be a sin. However, what if you spent 12 hours on Saturday watching college football? Not a sin, but…is it really the best use of your time? Are you really being disciplined, are you gaining from that? Obviously, this hit home for me.
The others, many people are familiar with, but in the American Evangelical church, things like fasting and solitude sound a little too Catholicy, so I’ve never really heard them taught. I was especially intrigued with fasting. It is abundantly clear in scripture that this is something we ought to do. But, I’ve never in my life done it. I’ll admit, though he says you really aren’t supposed to ever tell, but I tried fasting based on this chapter and bits of Piper’s A Hunger for God, on Fridays during lent. I’ll write more on that later, but the book is probably worth the price just to read that chapter.
We get a little silence and solitude, and some journaling in the American church. However, I think journaling is still mostly considered a feminine thing or something for children. The list of men, great Christians giants of the past (as well as statesmen and thinkers) that judiciously journaled was astounding. So, that is something I’ve tried to do as well.
The final of the disciplines is learning. I think this is important in our era of anti-intellectualism and poor knowledge of scripture, theology and history. He points out the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God …with all your mind” (Mark 12:30). As well as Paul’s command to not be conformed, but transformed by the renewing of your mind.
The final chapter, as mentioned above, is focused on encouraging you to stick with the disciplines. They all help to build on each other, and if you are focusing on doing them all, you will start to form habits, which will help you stay disciplined.
*“Discipline without direction is drudgery.”
*“I define godliness as both closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ, a conformity that’s both inward and outward, a growing conformity to both the heart of Christ and the life of Christ.”
*“So the Spiritual Disciplines are those personal and interpersonal activities given by God in the Bible as the sufficient means believers in Jesus Christ are to use in the Spirit-filled, gospel-driven pursuit of godliness, that is, closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ.”
*“The word rendered “discipline” in the New American Standard translation is the Greek word gumnasia from which our English words gymnasium and gymnastics derive. It’s a sweaty word with the smell of the gym to it.”
*“Freedom and discipline have come to be regarded as mutually exclusive, when in fact freedom is not at all the opposite, but the final reward, of discipline.”
Highly recommended for anyone but especially for new believers.