Regimens in the Christian Life

People fall along a diverse spectrum of spiritual maturity. You have beginners, which are both new Christians as well as those who simply haven't thrown themselves into the means of grace to help them grow. Those are the people who most need to jump into practicing basic rhythms in their life. But then you also have seasoned Christians, who have known and walked with the Lord for years and who readily practice the rhythms of the Christian life, yet may describe their spiritual growth as stagnant. There is great temptation to settle as if that's as good as it’s going to get. And this is where the regimens come in! Regimens are those spiritual practices [disciplines] that are best done in short spurts because of their intensity. 

In 313 CE the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great issued an edict that Christian worship would no longer be considered a criminal action. This effectively ended the persecution of Christians. But some of the early Christians noted that persecution brought with it a built-in mechanism for spiritual growth. When your life is on the line, you tend to get real clear on what's worth giving your life to. So with the end of persecution some of the early Christians, the Desert Fathers, retreated to the Nile desert region in Egypt and embraced "asceticism," or giving up bodily comfort and material possessions, as a way to "re-create" the effects of persecution. Of this phenomenon, Helen Waddell wrote in The Desert Fathers, "Now that the Church and the State were at peace, the idea of martyrdom… [gave way to the ideal] of asceticism [as] a substitute for the shedding of blood." 

This is similar to what regimens do: they turning up the heat, so to speak, and strip away some unnecessary things so that what remains is the gospel. Your character can then be forged by the Holy Spirit. In reality, this is what trials and difficulties do in general. If the spiritual disciplines/practices are intended to get us to the end of our own resources to declare our utter need for God's grace, the regimens are short-term, abrupt, "disruptive" practices that reveal our hearts and point us to God's gracious love while having a refining effect.

Regimens would include solitude, silence, fasting, simplicity, certain types of prayer, contemplation, mission, and secrecy. A wonderfully complete resource to pick up would be Adele Calhoun's book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. There's a bit more in it for us to master, but there's something helpful for all of us no matter where we are on the spectrum of maturity.

Just like how there are different spiritual rhythms, there is a variety of regimens that can boost your motivation to be transparent before God. With so many distractions in the world today, spiritual regimens reveal our struggles and hopes through the work of the Holy Spirit. 

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