Saturday, March 5, 2016

Book Review: Habits for Our Holiness

Habits for Our Holiness. Philip Nation. 2016. Moody Publishers. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I found Philip Nation's Habits for Our Holiness to be a thought-provoking, remarkable read. I knew it was a book about the spiritual disciplines. So I thought I knew the kind of book it would be: read your Bible daily, pray daily, praise God daily, go to church, give your money and time to the church, if you've got kids, raise them well, be kind to your neighbors and coworkers, be active in your community, etc.

I did not expect it to be both inspiring--encouraging--and challenging--penetrating. For example, here's a question from the introduction:
What are we doing to participate in God's process of teaching others how to love Him?
And here are a few other 'wow' sentences that grabbed my attention:
The king of the universe has a deeper desire to redeem people than we can begin to imagine. Amazingly, He invites us into the work. When we love Him deeply, He will form us to mirror his heart; and He has a missionary heart.
When the truth lays hold of our souls, we should feel the compulsion to share it....The world should benefit from our spiritual growth.
God is not calling you to promise greater allegiance through a disciplined life or living out a fake spirituality. He is asking you to love him for who He is. We are not to love him to find some nebulous meaning for life or to obtain personal comfort or physical well-being. God's sole intent is that our lives will reflect His LOVE.
Our worship is setting the stage for the next generation of worshipers.
You've never accidentally met anyone. Instead, God--being God--organizes your life so that you can have an effect on every person you meet.
The approach to this 'spiritual disciplines' book is different and refreshing. It ties all the spiritual disciplines together. This is evident from the start by how he defines the term 'spiritual discipline':
A spiritual discipline is a mental and physical act and a habit that expresses our love for God and fosters a greater display of His glory in our lives and a deeper understanding of His character and agenda.
Love is the central discipline of the Christian life. Everything else will flow from that as the centerpiece of spiritual formation....Love is to be the theme of our life in Him.
The go-go-go and do-do-do attitude by Christians is often born from the idea that God has secured our eternal destiny but I need to work hard to make Him love me. In that we are completely wrong.
As you might expect, however, it does talk a lot about the Bible, about worship, about prayer, about service, about HOW to live life in a way that pursues holiness, our sanctification. He ties each chapter, each discipline, back to the world: how does that discipline impact our mission--the great commission. Every chapter it seems is about evangelism, about sharing the gospel with a world that desperately needs to hear the good news--the GREAT NEWS--that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

For example,
Each discipline can be used for God to form you into the likeness of Christ. Through the spiritual disciplines we are seeking to serve as He served, pray as He prayed, and submit as He submitted. The disciplines can increase our intimacy with God so that we can work to extend His reign in the lives of those around us.
The worship of the church should spill into our everyday language. If God is the most important Person in the universe--and He is--then we should speak about Him. Worship is an opportunity for an unbelieving world to look over our shoulders and see the celebration of the gospel.
The Scriptures, God's revealed Word, are for everyone. We must dig into it so we can grow up in it. Then as we grow up in it, we can reach out because of it.
Prayer is not a separate discipline from God's mission. Prayer informs us of our role in His mission.
Drive-by ministry devalues the lost and is insulting to the Christ who died for the sake of redeeming broken people.
The mission of God included your salvation but it did not end with it. You have the hope of Christ in you and you're growing in it. Now it is time to share it with the world.
Quotes about 'the big three' the foundational spiritual disciplines.

Worship is the intimate encounter that morals have with our immortal God.
The gospel fundamentally changes who we are so that we can move from an existence of constant rebellion to one of pure worship.
Worship transpires when we show the willingness for God to penetrate every arena of our life; thoughts, desires, hopes, ambitions, relationships, possessions--everything....Every thought is taken captive for Him. Each possession and relationship placed under His sovereign rule.
Prayer is a moment of worship when God's people declare that He is true and trustworthy.
The Bible
And that's why many Christians suffer from immaturity their whole lives. Having come to know Jesus, they never really study to grow in their faith. The Scripture that could grow them up, draw them close to the church, and propel them out to God's mission simply sits as an idle companion to their boring religious life. They have decided that Bible study is too tedious. By ignoring it, they ignore their own growth.
When we do not allow God to speak His powerful truth through His Word, spiritual apathy and sin becomes the habit.
As we encounter God in the pages of the Bible, it should drive us to introduce the rest of the world to Him. Two groups in our culture need special attention: the Nones and the Dones. The Nones are those who claim no religious affiliation. It is a growing group that includes atheists, agnostics, and those who just don't think about it. The Dones are those who once attended church and then something happened. Whether through pain, abuse, or plain disenchantment, they decided to be done with religion. So they left. The Bible is for both of these groups, but we must engage them in healthy conversations.
Poetically prayer is our response to the echoes of Eden where we long to walk with God in the cool of the day. To state it as simply as possible, prayer is two-way communication that is initiated by His love.
Worship is when we talk to God about God. Intercession is when we talk to God about others. Petition is when we talk to God about ourselves.
Worship gives us the right attitude to ask for the right things. By recognizing God as our source, we can then gladly receive any answer He offers.
Prayer is the tool that He uses to give us space to mature.
Other disciplines discussed in the book:
  • fasting
  • fellowship
  • rest
  • simplicity (contentment)
  • servanthood (service, stewardship)
  • submission
  • leadership
  • disciple-making
I would recommend this book to EVERYONE. It is thorough and thought-provoking. It is challenging and encouraging. It is about LOVE and GRACE and sharing that love and grace with the world. It is the first spiritual disciplines book that I've read that focuses OUTWARD, not merely inward.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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