Generations of Christians have rightly championed the practice of spiritual disciplines. Whether it be prayer, Bible reading, singing, worship or fasting, Scripture calls us to practice these things and to grow in our practice of them. They are the building blocks of the Christian life and means through which we grow in our walk with the Lord in Christ-likeness.
There are several classic works on the spiritual disciplines which have served Christians for decades and will continue to do so. Building on these works, pastor, teacher, and author Philip Nation has written Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out (Moody, 2016).
Habits for Our Holiness is written in a way so as to show us what the spiritual disciplines are, how they are to be practiced individually and in community, and how they send us out into the world. While Nation does not necessarily break new ground in explaining the disciplines, he does provide the reader with a fresh look at them and seeks to broaden our view of what constitutes as a discipline and the contexts in which we are to practice them.
Nation roots all of the disciplines in love. “Love is the central discipline of the Christian life (13),” and as such “love is what propels habitual holiness and the desire to follow God into the world for His redeeming mission. Internal transformation (founded in our love for Christ) manifests itself in external action (Bible reading, fellowship, prayer, serving, giving, etc.) (25).” If the whole law can be summed up in the commands to love God and others, and Jesus’ life is perfectly marked by that same love (whom we are to follow), then it is only fitting to see the practice of the spiritual disciplines as expressions of love; love for God and love for others.
But Nation goes further than encouraging Christians to plant these spiritual disciplines in their lives. He weaves in the challenge to practice these disciplines with the body of Christ. As the subtitle states, what grows us up ought to draw us together. So when we pray, read the Bible, worship, evangelize, serve, and lead we don’t just practice these things for their own sake or our own selves. We do them in the context of the community of the faith – the body of Christ. We love others when we practice these disciplines with others. We study the Bible ourselves but we also do it with other believers. We pray by ourselves but we also pray with other believers. On fasting in community Nation says
As believers, fasting is a practice that can greatly strengthen our relationships with one another. Rather than allowing ourselves to remain at the proverbial surface level, we must be committed to another person’s spiritual well-being to enter a fast with them. It becomes a powerful testimony to friendship and ministry to each other when you skip meals as friends, a small group, or an entire church for the purpose of crying out to God for help and comfort. (97)
Finally, the disciplines that grow us up and draw us together also send us out. We don’t just practice them for our own selves or the body of Christ but we also practice them as a way of sending us out (missional) into the world to share the love of God in Christ so that they too might share in the blessings of these disciplines once they are brought into Christ’s salvation. For example, prayer can turn missional “when you seek for God’s kingdom to reign in the hearts of those living in your community.” (79)
Seeing the practice of the spiritual disciplines, not just in the personal arena but in the communal and missional as well, roots them within the context of discipleship which contains all three spheres. If we stop at personal application then we cut our own discipleship short. We cannot grow in the fullness of Christ-likeness if we merely relegate the practice of the spiritual disciplines to the personal realm. We must practice them in personal, communal, and missional contexts.
Habits for Our Holiness is a great book on the spiritual disciplines that should be read by Christians for generations to come. It is rooted in the history of its content and accomplishes the task of broadening the scope of the subject into communal and missional applications. If you want a fresh take on the spiritual disciplines to help you grow more then this is the book to read. Nation rightly applies the practice of the spiritual disciplines within the whole context of Christian discipleship.
I received this book for free from Moody Publishers for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”