Celebration of Discipline (5)
This is part four of my series on Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline”. This post focusses on the fifth chapter of the book, “The Discipline of Study”.
Being a nerd I suppose I think I’m good at study. My mother sums me up by saying “he’d only need to read something once and he’d remember it”, and I suppose that’s often true. Whenever I develop an interest in something I study up on it. I must know how something works and why it behaves the way it does. However, the Christian spiritual discipline of study is different from secular study and from my “nerding up” on things.
The discipline of study is mindful, purposeful observance; the purpose being the renewal of our minds for our own transformation to being more like Christ (Romans 12:2).
Foster says that there are four steps of study:
I wonder how exactly repetition looks in practice, it seems fine for smaller things, but if I am studying a large book do I read it over and over again? Then again, study like that can take a lifetime so I suppose the answer to my question might be a plain “yes”. Can a Christian ever really say that they are finished studying?
When we repeatedly concentrate on the object of our study we begin to comprehend it. Simply comprehending something though, is not enough for Christian study, even if it may be enough for secular study. We have to reflect on what we have learned and the aim of our study is always the renewal of our minds to become more like Christ and less like the world.
Foster encourages us to study more than just books, to study nature and the world around us, to pay attention to, think deeply on, and reflect on life.
This chapter is essentially encouraging greater depth in the Christian life, to move beyond slogans, bumper stickers and our favourite collections of Bible verses. Without serious (but joyful) study, how can we hope to progress beyond a sentimental but weak and easily swayed faith into true conviction and faith that involves not only our hearts, but our God-given minds?
Jesus made it unmistakably clear that the knowledge of the truth will set us free. “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). Good feelings will not free us. Ecstatic experiences will not free us. Getting “high on Jesus” will not free us. Without a knowledge of the truth, we will not be free.