Posts Tagged Spiritual Practices


by Roger Severino

[vimeo 106430266 w=640 h=360]
When I was in seminary, I was encouraged to develop a working definition of worship that I could modify as needed over time. What I came up with is probably not original to me. Here’s my definition: “Worship is a response to who God is and what He has done for us.” OK, let’s break that down.

  1. “Response.” A response means that worship is the “effect” side of a cause-and-effect relationship. Many of our modern worship songs want to rush us to the “effect” side of the equation without giving proper focus to the “cause.” The lyrics express some feeling of emotion (love, gratitude, awe) without showing us the reason for this type of reaction. We have not yet contemplated who God is nor what He has done for us, and yet we are guided into a response. There is nothing wrong with emotions; at some level, our emotions should be touched by genuine worship. Worship, however, is not merely an emotional catharsis to make us feel better. It’s not about us. God is the focus.
  1. “Who God is.” Idolatry is when we worship something or someone other than the one true God. God is not merely an abstract notion such as Love or Peace. Yes, God is love (1 John 4:8) and we have peace with God through our faith in Christ (Romans 5:1). Yet, when we limit God to one characteristic, we can end up with a God who is love but not holy, or a God who brings peace but not division. When we worship, we need to make sure that we are responding to the God revealed by Jesus Christ and by Holy Scripture, and not merely a God I have made in my own image.
  1. “What He has done for us.” Often, the Psalms offer worship and praise to God by recounting His saving acts, whether reflecting on how God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt, or a more personal remembrance of God’s salvation in the life of the psalmist. When we worship God, we too remember all He has done for us. For those of us on this side of salvation history, we reflect on the saving act of God through Jesus’ death and resurrection. We recount how He raised us from spiritual death to new life in Christ. We tell of the sufficiency of the cross to pay for all our sins and to reconcile us to God. We praise God for the gift of His Spirit who indwells us and empowers us for God’s work in the world. Worship is being appropriately astonished by God’s grace and voicing gratitude and praise. Genuine worship should not merely be an experience but should lead to spiritual transformation.

Finally, worship is not limited to an event (i.e. Sunday morning worship) or to singing.  Worship is much, much greater than a church service or merely singing psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs. Worship is a lifestyle. Offering our lives to God as living sacrifices is perhaps our greatest spiritual act of worship (see Romans 12:1).


by Roger Severino

 But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. [1]
I like to be in physical shape. I try to exercise about four times a week in order to be somewhat physically fit. There are benefits to this, including the way I feel, my physical appearance, my energy level, my overall health, etc. These benefits are good, but limited. Over time, the body breaks down and gets older, no matter how much exercise you do.
Spiritual exercises, however, are beneficial in every way because they affect every area of life, and don’t decrease over time. In fact, the benefits extend even beyond this life into eternity!
These ancient disciplines were practiced by Jesus and believers throughout church history who were serious about their spiritual formation. Things like Bible study, prayer, worship, service, fasting, silence and solitude, and journaling can all be helps for our walk with Christ. Their purpose is to cooperate with God’s work in our lives and put it in a position for Him to change us to be more like His Son (see Romans 8:29).
Here are three perspectives I have experienced about these spiritual practices throughout my life.

  1. Guilt: When I first came to faith, I was instructed to start reading and praying and having daily devotions. These were helpful and enhanced my spiritual growth. I went to church, and that was beneficial as well. I was told that if I really wanted to grow, I should be at church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and Tuesday night visitation. I was serious about my spiritual growth so I took the challenge. What started out as helpful, however, was soon a source of guilt and obligation. If I ever missed a “quiet time”, I felt a nagging sense of guilt all day. If I had to miss church, I felt like I had failed. What was meant to bring me life became a source of spiritual death (or at least guilt). This is what I call my legalism stage.
  1. Avoidance: Over time, I recognized what was going on and the enslavement I was under. I also was encouraged by a different group of Christians about the dangers of legalism and how it distorts my relationship with God. We are in right relationship with God based on what He has done for us through Christ, not based on any self-effort or trying to measure up to a standard. This was very helpful teaching and a truth I still hold firmly today. But, since many in this crowd were “recovering legalists,” there was an aversion to any form of spiritual practices and a fear that any effort on our part was a return to trying to score brownie points with God. This led to a more passive attitude on my end towards the Spiritual Practices. I might call this my passive stage.
  1. Meaningful: “Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning,” said Dallas Willard. God is at work in my life. I am already accepted by Him because of what Christ has done for me on the cross. That doesn’t mean, though, that the Christian life is passive. I can cooperate with God’s work in my life and develop certain spiritual exercises and habits that will put me on the path to becoming the man I want to be. If I miss a day of Bible reading, it’s OK. God still loves me. But I also realize that over time, I will develop a deeper relationship with God as I renew my mind with His truth, and put myself in a position to allow him to transform me rather than being conformed to the world (see Romans 12:2).
    Photo credit: Joe Hendricks
    Roger Severino, Adult Discipleship – Leadership Minister

    We don’t drift into holiness. My default mode will take me down a path away from Christ, not towards Him. That’s why I find the Spiritual Practices meaningful. They are the means of grace that God provides which put me in a position to hear from God and allow Him to change me. My prayer is that this is a stage of meaningful engagement and spiritual growth.

Which spiritual discipline do you want to practice that will make your walk with Christ richer, deeper, and more meaningful? Are you drifting away from God, or actively pursuing Him?
[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), 1 Tim. 4:7–8.