I am reading "Life With God, Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation" by Richard Foster. I want to read the Bible, these living words for life transformation and heart change, not just head knowledge. I want them to mold and change me. In abiding I am finding Spiritual Discipline's to be of great help. Richard Foster explains what they are in such a clear and understand way.
WHAT IS A SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE?
Now, to move forward in this life, we must understand clearly what a Spiritual Discipline is in the first place. A Spiritual Discipline is an intentionally directed action by which we do what we can do in order to receive from God the ability (or power) to do what we cannot do by direct effort. It is not in us, for example, to love our enemies. We might even go out and try very hard to love our enemies, but we will fail miserably. Always. This strength, this power to love our enemies – that is, to genuinely and unconditionally love those who curse us and despitefully use us – is simply not within our natural abilities. We cannot do it by ourselves. Ever.
But this fact of life does not mean that we do nothing. Far from it! Instead, by an act of the will we choose to take up Disciplines of the spiritual life that we can do. These Disciplines are all actions of the body, mind, and spirit that are within our power to do. Not always and not perfectly, to be sure. But they are things we can do. By choice. By choosing actions of fasting we can learn experientially that we do not live by bread alone by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (Deut. 8:3; Luke 4:4). By choosing actions of study we can learn how the mind takes on an order conforming to the order upon which it concentrates, which is precisely why we seek to turn our mind toward all things “true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). By choosing actions of solitude we can become intimately acquainted with many things that control us so that we can be set free from them by the power of God (Mark 6:31). And so forth.
Now, the Spiritual Disciplines in and of themselves have no merit whatsoever. They possess no righteousness, contain no rectitude. Their purpose – their only purpose – is to place us before God. After that they have come to the end of their tether. But it is enough. Then the grace of God steps in and takes this simple offering of ourselves and creates out of it the kind of person who embodies the goodness of God; indeed, a person who can come to the place of truly loving even enemies.
Again, Spiritual Disciplines involve doing what we can do to receive from God the power to do what we cannot do. And God graciously uses this process to produce in us the kind of person who automatically will do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.
This ability to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done is the true freedom in life. Freedom comes not from the absence of restraint by from the presence of discipline. Only the disciplined gymnast is free to score a perfect ten on the parallel bars. Only the disciplined violinist is free to play Paganini’s “Caprices.” This, of course, is true in all of life, but it is never truer than in the spiritual life. When we are on the spot, when we find ourselves in the midst of the crisis, it is too late. Training in the Spiritual Disciplines is the God-ordained means for forming and transforming the human personality so that in the emergency we can be “response-able”- able to respond appropriately.
Richard Foster, Life With God; pages 16-18