Recently a friend asked me and some others to weigh in on what we thought were necessary spiritual disciplines. He was compiling a list and wanted to see what each of us felt were vital to every believer’s spiritual growth. As the responses began to emerge they began to echo the typical mantra of most “spiritual discipleship” self help books: prayer, fasting, silence, giving, reading and memorizing scripture etc. Yet I found myself consistently veering off the beaten path with my simple offering…representation, the neglected discipline.
Representation. 46 passages in the book of John alone teach the necessity of representation over substitution. Jesus did what he saw the Father do, spoke what he heard the Father speak. The doctrine he taught was not his own, but the Father’s. He never substituted his for the Father’s. If our spiritual growth and hope of glory is Christ in us, it must begin with ‘not my will but yours be done’…representation.
This is not a talent some were blessed with and others were not. Representation is a discipline all are called to, but few embrace. To tell the truth most of us (myself included) play the part of King Saul and play it well. We go about our lives substituting our will and preference for God’s then indignantly feign ignorance and innocence when our substitution finds us out. But as my friend Eric Samuel Timm says, “We cannot live out of order and expect order!” More than anything else I believe its our substitution which leads to our perpetual state of spiritual infancy and our eventual demise.
Comparatively it is easy to read. Its easy to pray and give. Its even easy to fast. These are all things that can be accomplished through sheer will power. Just look at the Pharisees. What is difficult is dying to your own will; completely surrendering to embrace the will and identity of another. Because it is difficult it is often neglected. I would go so far as to suggest that many times our offerings of prayer, fasting, giving and reading are in fact an act of substitution RATHER than representation. I’m not saying we should neglect these things, but like Jesus, I am saying we ought to do these things while not leaving the weightier issue undone! Often we will give theses acts of service in place of truly dying to ourselves that Christ may completely consume us and have preeminence.
Until we embrace the revelation “not my will but yours be done” we will never experience the full glory that is Christ in us. In the end the neglected discipline ought to be our primary discipline. Without it everything else aren’t spiritual disciplines. They’re just works of the flesh…an un-asked for offering…a shallow substitute…a death sentence.