Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life

Reading. The benefits of doing it are enormous. In a media-saturated culture where everyone wants to get everything from video and flashy images, reading still outweighs those forms of communication for individuals by leaps and bounds. I’ve mentioned before the myriad benefits of reading. And though it’s been quite some time since the last book review that was done here, you can expect more to come in the year 2018.

Our first book review for this year is from Donald S Whitney titled Spiritual Disciplines Of the Christian Life. Originally published in 1991, this book is one of the few books that have made it onto my list as must-reads next to Scripture. It is that important and that serious. In reading this book, it has changed my life. It has enriched my walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a better man for it.

The book begins by laying out the foundation and impetus for all of the Christian disciplines in the first chapter: for the purpose of godliness. Whitney notes:

The spiritual disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the spirit-filled pursuit of godliness.… godly people or discipline people. It is always been so… I can say that I’ve never known a man or woman who came to spiritual maturity except through discipline. Godliness comes through discipline.

He’s correct. This should come as no surprise to any Christian. We are called to be disciples of Christ, that very word meaning discipline and learning.

The book lays out several Christian disciplines that we should have as the people of God in Christ Jesus. There are some that we don’t normally think of that are listed like stewardship, fasting, and silence and solitude. These are some of the neglected disciplines that a vast majority of professing Christians don’t even consider as part of the equation of the Christian life.

One of the disciplines that impacted me greatly was the chapter on journaling. It’s not that I didn’t know anything about journaling before I read this chapter. Early in my Christian life, I understood what journaling was and there was a small interest in it. But I was more interested in learning about the word of God. I could not see the benefits of journaling until recently. I read a lot, and something that the Lord had brought mind was the fact that some the godliest people kept journals. These quotes I was reading were quotes from their journals. There was something there I had missed all this time. Reading the chapter on journaling he crystallizes some things for me. I had already to journaling before I had read the but reading it solidified in my heart that it was something that was necessary to go further in my walk with Christ. Listen to what Josiah Pratt said:

The practice of keeping a diary would promote vigilance. Lives of many are spent at a sort of hazard. They fall into certain religious habits: and are perhaps under no strong temptations. They are regular at church and sacrament, and in their families. They read the Bible and pray daily in secret. But here it ends. They know little of the progress or decline of the inner man. They are Christians, therefore, of very low attainments. The workings of sin are not noticed, as they should be, and therefore grace is not sought against them: and the genial emotions of grace are not noticed, and therefore not fostered and cultivated. Now, a diary would have a tendency to raise the standard to such persons by exciting vigilance.

Many such quotes are peppered throughout the book and the book is organized in such a way that you will see the value of doing each of the disciplines as he gives reasons why these disciplines are important. This makes this a book that you don’t just read once but that you go back to continue only for reference. This is why it has made it onto my list of must reads.

One of the disciplines towards the end of the book that may take some people by surprise is the discipline of learning. It shouldn’t take us by surprise because disciple actually means learner. But it is something that churches have jettisoned in place of feelings and emotions. If we haven’t jettisoned it, then we have definitely decreased the value of it. But listen to what Whitney says as far as the importance of the spiritual discipline of learning:

Growth in godliness involves a mental renewal that cannot happen without learning. In the alternative to transformation via learning is conformity to the world… The absence of the discipline of learning explains why many professing believers seem to grow so little and godliness… Besides more conformity to the world and a lack of growth and godliness, those were not discipline learners have little spiritual discernment and become prime targets for the cults, New Age influence, and other false prophets. The Bible tells us to be like Christ, but it also warns us not to be foolish, untaught, naïve, or ignorant.

This book is for everyone. I’ve been walking with the Lord for over 20 years and it has been a catalyst for transformation in my life. I highly recommend you get this book, read it, and go back to it on a regular basis to remind yourself of those things that should be a part of your life to grow in godliness. We’ve added it to the Resources section of our site here.

I grade books from A to F and this is definitely an A. Get it. Read it. Live it.

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