Salvation is a free gift from God. All Christians agree on this—it's the core of the Gospel, and represents the nature of mankind's relationship to the Creator of all things. We cannot achieve our own salvation, and must rely on God's mercy.
That does not mean God requires nothing of us. Once He claims us we follow, and following means turning our back on sin to embrace righteousness, love, and faith. This is also a gift; even those indwelt by the Holy Spirit can find no strength to do good on our own, but are empowered to seek God's face by Jesus Christ, the Maker of all good things.
Among the things He empowers us to accomplish are the spiritual disciplines: habits that lead to pure thinking, pure living, and selflessness in our relationships with God and other people. These include prayer, Bible reading, tithe and offering, meditation and contemplation, fasting, and caring for the needy.
While there is a high level of personal decision and commitment needed to accomplish these things, none of them are possible completely removed from accountability and community. Christ's body is a Church, not a bunch of disconnected individuals. If we expect to be successful in our pursuit of the spiritual disciplines, we must submit to whichever local assembly we belong.
"Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:19-23).
The world will know the Church by its love. This isn't limited to how we treat each other and those outside the Body (though those are certainly included); it also refers to our love of Christ and His Law. If we love Him, we'll do what He asks, just as Paul indicates in the passage above. This kind of attitude and behaviour doesn't develop overnight, it requires a lifetime of struggle and work.
When we say "work" in this context, we aren't talking about the work of Christ that saves. We're talking about the work on our part to follow and serve Him, to show our gratitude and the reality of our salvation. The spiritual disciplines are integral to this work. Below, we offer a variety of books intended to help you turn every moment to good account, to forsake the desires of the flesh, and to live as Christ commands.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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