Nature of the Spiritual Disciplines
Foster describes meditation as ruminating on God’s law, rehearsing God’s deeds, reflecting on God’s works, and listening to God’s word. (Foster, 15) Secondly Foster describes prayer as the main avenue that God uses to transform a person, (Faster, 33) and in this regard prayer is about uniting to God through communication with him. Third, fasting at its very nature is about separating one’s own self from the world in order to gain a deeper spiritual awakening. For Foster simplicity brings about freedom in that it reduces a person’s attachment to things, gives a person enough to share with others, and promotes truthful and honest speech. (Foster, 79-80) Foster describes solitude as like a time of sanctuary when people are alone, (Foster, 106) and in this regard solitude is like the separation from the noise and interaction of others to be alone with God. Foster describes submission as the giving up of our own rights for the good of others, (Foster, 112) and like it Foster describes the discipline of service in regard to the washing of the feet of the disciples. (Foster, 126) Lastly, Foster describes spiritual disciplines that are to be practiced among others and these are confession, (Foster, 143) worship, (Foster, 158) guidance, (Foster, 175) and celebration. (Foster, 190) Overall, the nature of spiritual disciplines is to do things individually in order to have greater communion with God and spiritual development and to do things together in order to increase spiritual development as well.
The spiritual disciplines are like avenues that are designed to separate a person from the world, unite Christians, have communion with God, and develop a person spiritually. The nature of the spiritual disciplines thus is to put a person in the best possible arrangement in order that God will work his will to give revelation, unite people, and to do his will through others. Overall, the spiritual disciplines are designed to allow a person to be able to grow, develop, interact with God, and do his will.
Purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines
According to Foster the purpose of the spiritual disciplines is to bring about the total transformation of a person, and they all aim to replace the old destructive habits of thought with new habits that are life giving. (Foster, 62) The spiritual disciplines thus have a purpose given by God, and those that use them are indeed transformed according to God’s purpose. One can thus easily conclude that the spiritual disciplines are not for those that will not receive the blessing of eternal salvation, but instead the spiritual disciplines are for those that God is bringing to salvation.
Greater sanctification is indeed the ultimate purpose of the spiritual disciplines, and in this regard a person increases their usefulness to God that they had been saved for. The point is that God saves people for a purpose, and the spiritual disciplines are what develop a person to be more productive to do what it is that God intends them to do. Overall, the person that practices the spiritual disciplines may not realize that they are becoming more productive to do God’s work and more aligned to his will to understand what needs to be done, but the fact of the matter is that the spiritual disciplines do develop a person’s usefulness to God.
Salvation by faith through works is indeed the fundamental doctrine of Bible believing Christians, but the spiritual disciplines, when practiced, are intended to give a greater perspective on both faith and works. The greater perspective is what would be purposed to not just be a mental understanding but both a practice and a view into the truth. Overall, the spiritual disciplines thus are intended to cause a person to live or to walk in the truth.
Process of the Spiritual Disciplines
Foster makes clear that the process of spiritual disciple should be guided by someone else that has experience in the spiritual disciplines. (Foster, 185) If the inward teaching of the Holy Ghost is understood by the process of the practice of the spiritual disciplines, (Foster, 185) then spiritual development occurs. Foster points out that, “we are to live in a perpetual, inward, listening silence so that God is the source of our words and actions.” (Foster, 166) The point to be made is that the process of the spiritual discipline is intended to bring a person greater discernment and spiritual development.
When a person begins the spiritual disciplines, they are often not at all spiritually developed. When the spiritual disciplines develop in use, the person begins to develop spiritually as well. Overall, the process of spiritual development can in fact lead to demonic activity if it is not properly guided (Foster does not dwell much on this issue), and that is why great measures of discernment need to be utilized in order to ensure that a person does not fall into the devil’s trap (a person also needs to be directed by someone else).
Study for example is said by Foster to be the perception into the reality of a given situation. (Foster, 64) If for example study is performed in a fallen way, then it may render fallen results that do not render the true reality of things. The point is that with all the disciplines, guidance needs to be undertaken in order to ensure that the process of utilizing the spiritual disciplines does not produce a hazardous and terribly treacherous path.
Product of the Spiritual Disciplines
Foster states that the path of the spiritual disciplines is what produce inner transformation and healing, (Foster 8) and in this regard the product of the spiritual disciplines is what brings about the new nature. (See Colossians 3:5-7) One example of this is confession in that Jesus in John 20:23 gives the apostles authority to forgive sins, (Foster, 146) and in this regard one could argue that the product of the spiritual disciplines (at least in terms of confession) is the work of intercession to apply the blood of Christ in a continual manner. Although Christ only died once and atoned for sins once at the crucifixion, the process of sanctification when worked by the spiritual disciplines utilizes Christ’s sprinkled blood on those that are set aside for his service. The product of the spiritual disciplines thus is what produces a path for salvation, and in this regard people walk or go through that path in order to be utilized by God as God would use them according to his will.
Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. New York, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1998.