Hello and welcome to the First Dallas iCampus! I’m Ben Lovvorn, and I’m the Executive Pastor here at First Baptist Dallas. I’m so glad you’ve decided to join us here on the iCampus. Our goal is to be a discipleship hub, with trusted content that can help you grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ wherever you are in the world and wherever you are in your walk with the Lord.
This series is going to cover what our Pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, calls the Five Habits of a Healthy Christian. Dr. Jeffress encouraged our church with these Five Habits in a spiritual disciplines initiative we started in the spring of 2022. As we were emerging from the pandemic, we all recognized that we had gotten into some bad habits spiritually. We were stuck in a collective rut. Many of us were feeling lethargic in our relationship with Christ, disconnected from one another, and in need of revitalization and direction.
So Dr. Jeffress challenged us all to practice five spiritual habits for eight weeks that spring. It was such a great encouragement to all of us. What we want to do in this series is dig a little deeper into these five habits. If you’re feeling stuck spiritually or looking to grow in your faith, then I think this series will be a great encouragement for you as well.
What are the five habits of a healthy Christian, then? They are:
- Habit 1: Weekly worship,
- Habit 2: Daily prayer,
- Habit 3: Daily Scripture reading,
- Habit 4: Regular giving, and
- Habit 5: Sharing your faith.
Each of these five habits is fundamental to the Christian life, firmly grounded in the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and in God’s Word. When we practice these disciplines together, we experience God’s power at work within us.
The interesting thing about this list is—none of the five habits is groundbreaking or revolutionary. People are always looking for a new trick or tip that will be the shortcut to an easier or better life. That’s not what these are. The five habits of a healthy Christian are just the basic elements of following Christ. They’re the fundamentals. And the truth is, we can always use a refresher on the fundamentals.
We see this in the sports world. Vince Lombardi, the legendary football coach, started the first practice of his 1961 training camp with this profound insight. He told the team, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Success in sports and in nearly every endeavor in life starts with mastering the fundamentals.
Our goal for this series isn’t to teach some new method no one’s ever tried before or to start a new fad or trend. It’s to reinforce and deepen what we already know we should be doing. We know that we should go to church, pray, and read our Bibles. We know that we should give and that we should share our faith. But we need to take a few minutes to reflect on these practices and examine ourselves.
Are we doing the basics? Are we doing them well? How does Scripture speak to these practices and how they should be shaping us? What is the goal that we’re seeking? These are all questions that we will tackle throughout this series as we talk about each of the five habits of a healthy Christian.
Three Important Questions
As we round out this overview, I want to tackle three big issues you may be wondering about as we get started with this series.
Question 1: Why does God want me to grow spiritually?
The first issue is: Does God really want me to grow? Someone might say, “I thought salvation was completely by grace! But now you’re saying that I need to do all of these habits and disciplines. Isn’t that like trying to earn God’s favor or work for my salvation?”
It’s important to understand—there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn our way to God. That is not the goal here. Spiritual disciplines and habits don’t earn us a spot in Heaven. It’s not that we do something and God then responds to us. Spiritual disciplines and habits are our response to what God has already done for us. We’re only able to desire Him and follow Him because He is doing a work in us. Scripture says that, because of His love for us, God always makes the first move. John writes, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
But when God loves us, when God by His grace acts to save us, then He begins a holy construction project. We call this “sanctification.” Sanctification is the process by which a person is made holy, the process by which we become more and more like God Himself. God takes us just as we are, but He doesn’t want to leave us just as we are. The theologian Augustine once described it this way, “[God] not only is holy, but makes holy; and [He] not only is righteous, but makes righteous.” As Paul says in Romans 8:29, God “predestined” us “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” And as we become more like him, we experience greater joy.
So just to sum this up: God does not save us by our good works; He saves us in order to do a good work in us. He wants to make us look like his Son, Jesus. The spiritual disciplines are how that transformation process happens and accelerates. These habits are the same ones that Jesus Himself practiced in His life. These biblical disciplines are the means by which the Holy Spirit can work in us, changing us from the inside out. God can shape the way we think and what we love, aligning our actions, our thoughts, and our desires to His good and perfect will. So the spiritual disciplines are God’s way of changing us and making us more like Him. That is what they are for.
Question 2: Do spiritual disciplines lead to an inauthentic spiritual life?
Another important issue for us to tackle from the outset is related to authenticity. All this talk about disciplines and habits can sound very stuffy and inauthentic. It might seem like we’re trying to create new Pharisees, people who are religious and righteous outwardly but have no genuine heart for the Lord. You might wonder: “If we’re going to have a real and living relationship with the Lord, shouldn’t it flow naturally? Shouldn’t we wait and only pray and read Scripture when we truly want to? Isn’t that the only way to be genuine and Spirit-led?” Do all these disciplines just lead us into hypocrisy?
Well first let me say that of course it’s not bad to be spontaneous and responsive to God’s Spirit. If He leads you to pray, then pray. If He leads you to give, then give. If He leads you to share the gospel with someone, then share with them. We should always be ready and eager to do God’s will in these things, in every situation that we find ourselves in.
However, just because something is a “discipline” or a habit doesn’t mean it’s inauthentic or fake. On the contrary, disciplines are the way we become who we were made to be. If you have bad habits, that’s who you are becoming. If you have good habits, that’s who you are becoming. Our habits are how we become authentically Christlike. We have to act like Christ over and over until it becomes second nature to us.
We can see this easily if we think about other areas of our lives. For instance, think about the perennial challenge that parents have in getting their kids to eat vegetables. Parents want their kids to be healthy. The ultimate goal is that the kids would grow up and eat healthy foods by choice. But most kids don’t want to eat broccoli or spinach on their own at first. Instead, on a daily and weekly basis, we have to do all kinds of things to convince them. Our goal is that eating the vegetables, a little at a time each day, would eventually become part of who they are and what they enjoy. We hope they’ll grow up to choose vegetables on their own. But it’s the discipline that gives rise, over time, to being an authentic vegetable-eater. We wouldn’t say an adult who eats vegetables is a fake just because they didn’t like eating them as a kid. We would say that this person has become a genuinely healthy person.
Or think about the greatest athletes who compete in the Olympics. Year after year, they get up every morning to train and improve in their craft. We wouldn’t say they weren’t “genuine” athletes if, from time to time, they grow tired of their training. We wouldn’t say they were “inauthentic” because they made themselves go to their workouts even when they didn’t feel like it. In reality, it is their willingness to push through and continue with their habits, even when they don’t feel like it, that defines them as true athletes. The habits make them who they are over a long period of time.
The same principle holds true in our spiritual lives. When we stick to these disciplines, God begins to shape us to become a certain kind of person. When we worship regularly, we become a worshipful person. When we pray daily, we become a prayerful person. When we give regularly, we become a generous person. The practices and disciplines open up space for the Holy Spirit to perform what Dallas Willard has called a “Renovation of the Heart.”
Richard Foster, who has written extensively on the spiritual disciplines, describes the “disciplines of the spiritual life” as a “means of receiving [God’s] grace.” They “allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.” As Paul says in Galatians 6:8, “he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Foster argues that the disciplines “are a way of sowing to the Spirit,” of “getting us into the ground” where God “can work within us and transform us.” Foster warns us that without the Spirit, “the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing.” What they do is “get us to the place where something can be done” by God’s power and grace.
Question 3: Are Spiritual Disciplines Just for Spiritual Giants?
The third question it’s important to talk about is: “Are spiritual disciplines really for me?” You might say, “Alright, you convinced me. These are important and it’s good to do them. But these sound hard, like something a monk or a pastor might do! How can I actually do this?”
Richard Foster answers this question directly. He writes: “We must not be led to believe that the Disciplines are only for spiritual giants and hence beyond our reach, or only for contemplatives who devote all their time to prayer and meditation. Far from it. God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children, who wash dishes and mow lawns. In fact, the Disciplines are best exercised in the midst of our relationships with our husband or wife, our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors.”
So I want to encourage you—you can do this! You’re not in this alone. This is something we get to do, something we get to work at, because of God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ. It’s something that will bring you so much joy and bear fruit in your life. Just start small and be persistent. And we hope the rest of this series will help you think biblically about these spiritual habits, as well as giving some practical advice to help you along the way.