Activities that enable us to live in the fruit of the Spirit traditionally are referred to as “spiritual disciplines”. In Chapter 3 (“Training vs. Trying”) of The Life You’ve Always Wanted, author John Ortberg offers 3 distinctions between what does and does not constitute a spiritual discipline:
1. Spiritual disciplines enable us to grow in our ability to love God and people. Spiritual disciplines are not a barometer of our spirituality. As the author notes, we can devote copious amounts of time to practicing spiritual disciplines and do it in a way that makes us less loving. The Pharisees were “excellent” role models for that type of behavior.
2. For an activity to count as a spiritual discipline, people assume that by definition it must be unpleasant. Pastor Ortberg, however, states that we need to develop disciplines that “regularly produce in us rivers of wonder and gratitude”.
3. Spiritual disciplines exist for our sakes, not for God’s! They are helpful to the extent they transform us, as we grow toward the life that Jesus so graciously offers to us. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
“We must therefore attempt to recover a true understanding of the mutual relationship between grace and discipleship. . . . Happy are they who know that discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship.”