As we continue learning more about spiritual disciplines, it’s important to keep in mind that regimens are different than rhythms, which are part of the flow of daily Christian living. You can read about spiritual rhythms here. This second part is geared toward helping you explore more spiritual regimens and the purpose behind them. Remember, these should be approached prayerfully and not by just “plowing into them.” Regimens are often considered practices of abstinence, meaning they use self-restraint to avoid or to get rid of something. In that sense, they often feel abrupt and difficult.
The spiritual disciplines are a key means of growth for the Christian. They're how we "get on the road" to becoming more like Jesus. Some are meant to be part of the normal rhythm of daily life. (I wrote about those here.) Others, the regimens, are meant to interrupt our daily life and invite God to something new or different in us. You can see my introduction to the regiments here.
I've written about spiritual practices, both rhythms and regimens, to supplement to the Following the Masterstudy. Spiritual disciplines do not directly cause growth but rather put us in the stream of God's grace so the Spirit can do His work in our hearts to transform us. In an earlier article, I reference Dallas Willard saying, "God's address is at the end of your rope." What did Willard mean and how does this connect with the spiritual disciplines?
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.
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:7, "…but train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." There is a rigorous training in the Christian life, but it's not the kind of training that focuses primarily on your will to accomplish something. For instance, one should not look at the fruit of the Spirit, or any command in the Bible to be virtuous and approach it as if they could make themselves be "that".