Books

Ortberg on Spiritual Growth

John Ortberg has a great post on "taking (some) of the guilt and confusing out of spiritual growth." It's worth quoting in full:

When I first read Richard Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline, I did not like it. Its twelve chapters are organized around 12 spiritual disciplines. I felt like I was already not reading the Bible and praying enough–now I have ten more activities I have to feel guilty about?

Guilt, while very necessary to convict us (that’s why we’re only taking ’some’ away), is not a good long-term sustainable fuel source.

On the other hand, I don’t just drift into spiritual growth. So how do I know what spiritual practices might be helpful to me?


Here’s one of the most helpful insights I know, courtesy of Dallas Willard.

Sins can be divided into two types:
1. Sins of Omission (lovelessness, joylessness,–things I DON’T do)
2. Sins of Comission (lying, gossiping–things I DO)

Disciplines can be divided into two related types:

1. Disciplines of Engagement (study, worship–things I DO)
2. Discipines of Abstinence (fasting, solitude–things I DON’T DO)

Generally–when I wrestle with a sin of omission, I will be helped by a discipline of engagement. For instance, if I struggle with joylessness I will be helped by the practice of celebration. If I struggle with being miserly I will be helped by the practice of giving.

When I wrestle with a sin of Comission, I will be helped by a practice of Abstinence. If I struggle with gossip I will be helped by practicing silence; if I wrestle with ‘impression management’ I will be helped by solitude.

I personally wrestle with enough sins that I never run out of practices that can be helpful. But I no longer feel guilty about not keeping up with someone else’s devotional list. I have more important things to feel guilty about.

The disciplines are a means to an end. The end is–life!

3 comments:

mwh said...

I like how he sets these sins and practices up with each other--a very helpful way of looking at it.

Have your read Foster's book?s

Brian G. Hedges said...

Yes, I've read Celebration of Discipline, parts of it multiple times, and have read a good bit of Money, Sex, and Power (republished under a different title, I think). The disciplines of abstinence and engagement framework comes from Willard's Spirit of the Disciplines. But, honestly, Ortberg himself is (in my, ahem, 'humble opinion') better than Foster and Willard put together.

mwh said...

I've read Celebration of Discipline, but I didn't know Foster had another book. Unfortunately I've not read Ortberg or Willard.