A Personal program of spiritual exercise = achieving deeper spirituality

I am motivated to share this post out of personal testimony.  Anyone who has read my earliest posts likely has a sense of how just over a year ago my life underwent a deep shift.  The beauty of what took place in my life stems from the nature of the change I experienced – it was deeply organic, rising from deep within the depths of my heart and soul.  Which to me means it has the ingredients of being a lasting change – provided I continue in doing those things that draw me nearer to Him on a daily basis.  Whereas at other times in my life when I enjoyed spiritual “stretches” of time – from a few months to a few years, yet in the end, I was led to abandon my faith for a time.  I believe it is because I had never fundamentally experienced that true, deep, abiding change of heart which I have now experienced.  The past 15 months for me have been unlike any before in my life – and what’s more, I understand how to remain in this proximity to Him.

Thus when I came across this “formula” during my personal daily study, I felt a great sense of satisfaction because I can sincerely state that it matches the pattern or formula I had organically set for myself over a year ago.  Because my experience is deeply personal, though I recognize that basic elements are constant and required elements for anyone to draw themselves near to Him, I was hesitant to define a “formula” believing such might be better left to each individual.  Not now.  Not after finding this outlined in scripture and matching perfectly my own experience.

So in deep humility, but out of an earnest desire to share with others that maybe one of you, who has what I possessed in the beginning – nothing more than a desire to try – simple as that effort might initially be – and see if it would bear fruit.  It is to you that I primarily direct this post together with this statement:  Put God, and your Savior, Jesus Christ, to the test.  Test the promises given by the Apostle Paul.  Test those words uttered by your Savior who said “…know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me…” (John 8:28), and see if they do not endow you with the healing power of the Atonement.  See if they do not bless your simple desire combined with your smallest but consistently sincere effort and lift you up.  I DARE YOU! 🙂

Fear, suffering, worldliness, foolish speech, unbridled passion, idle speculation – each can destroy spirituality.  But pursuing excellence requires more than just recognizing obstacles.  You may realize you have a spiritual illness, but now you must find a cure.  Positive values must replace negative influences.  Confidence and endurance must replace fear and suffering; Godliness must transform worldliness; self-control must conquer unrestraint.  Paul understood this and provided you the key.

“I know whom I have believed,” Paul wrote in beginning his epistle to Timothy. (2 Timothy 1:12)  His contrast between knowledge and belief is significant.  The Savior taught that knowing God, rather than merely believing, constituted eternal life; and he listed such knowledge as the first of his spiritual gifts (John 17:3, Doctrine & Covenants 46:13).  How can you come to know God?  On this, the teaching of the former and modern prophets is plain and provides you with the key to spiritual greatness.

A.  A Scriptural Overview of How You Attain Spiritual Greatness

1. WE MUST KNOW THE FATHER AND THE SON TO ENJOY ETERNAL LIFE

John 17:3“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”                     Doctrine & Covenants 132:24“This is eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law.”

2.  WE LEARN OF THE FATHER BY KNOWING CHRIST

John 5:19, 30:  – 19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”                                                                  30I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”

John 8:19, 28, 29: – 19 “Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.”                                                                                                                                28 – 29 “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.  And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.”                                                                                                    

John 14: 6-9:   Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.  Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.  Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”

3. WE KNOW CHRIST BY DOING HIS WORKS AND BY FOLLOWING HIS EXAMPLE

1 John 2:3-6: – “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.  And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.  This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  f we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:”

Doctrine & Covenants 93:1 – “Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;”

4.  SUCH KNOWLEDGE ALLOWS US TO ENDURE TO THE END

2 Nephi 31:16 – “And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.”

B.  The Goal:  To Know Christ in a Real, Personal, and Close Association

The first step in knowing Christ is to learn all that wee can about him.  President J. Reuben CLark, Jr., has offered the following advice: “…I am quite a believer in studying the life of the Savior as an actual personality.  That is not often done.  Our students of the Bible and of the New Testament, seem to refrain from trying to build a biography of the Master….

“…try to go along with the Savior, live with him, let him be an actual man, half divine, of course, but nevertheless moving as a man moved in those days.” (Behold the Lamb of God, p.8.)

Once you have begun to understand Christ’s true attributes and personality, please these characteristics into your life.  When confronted by a circumstance, ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”  “Many of my decisions have been motivated by this question,Elder Marion G. Romney has testified.  “Doing what I have thought He would have done has always brought satisfaction and joy.” (“Jesus Christ, Man’s Great Exemplar.” Speeches of the Year, 1967, p.2.)

C.  Spiritual Exercise Brings the Power Necessary

So that you might have the strength and sensitivity to follow Christ’s pattern, design a personal program of spiritual exercise.  Notice that Paul recommended a similar course.  Spirituality will never be attained merely by avoiding the negative pitfalls to its development, however important that may be.  The full strength of the Spirit will come only as you make positive spiritual activity an integral part of your daily life.  Such a program should at least include the following:

1.  A Daily Resolve to Follow Christ’s Example.  Commit yourself at the beginning of each day to emulate the Savior’s life.                2 Timothy 1:8 – “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;”  (What did Paul mean when he warned Timothy – and you – not to be “ashamed” of the testimony of Christ?)

2.  An Organized Study Program.  Devote at least 20 – 30 minutes daily to gospel study, especially a study of the scriptures.                2 Timothy 3:14-16: – “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”  (Paul counsels that the scriptures can make you “wise unto salvation through faith.”  How can you include faith in your scriptural study?)

3.  Daily Prayer.  No less than every morning and evening “enter into they closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to they Father…in secret.” (Matthew 6:6)                                                                                                                                                     2 Timothy 1:3 – “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;”  (Paul’s counsel is by example.  Why is it important that your prayers, like Paul’s, reveal a compassion toward others? – Ask yourself this: If you could listen to yourself pray, what would you learn about yourself and your relationship with God?)

4.  Daily Service.  The Savior’s paradox remains the key to spiritual happiness:  As you lose your life in service to others, you shall actually find it. (Matthew 10:39)                                                                                                                                                                  2 Timothy 3:17 – “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”                                                           Titus 3:8, 14: – 8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.”                                                                               14 “And let ours also learn to maintain good words for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.” (Paul stresses the need for “good works” but urges that they be fruitful.  In what circumstances could service be “unfruitful”?  how can secrecy and selflessness enhance our works?)

D.  Then Comes Confirmation by the Spirit

Finally and ultimately, knowledge of Christ will come through revelation (Matthew 16:16-17).  The whispering of the Spirit will give your soul the assurance that the Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Savior, and as you increasingly take upon yourself his example and become more spiritually attuned, such knowledge will deepen and grow more real.  This is part of what the scriptures define as the “power of Godliness” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:21 – “And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;”)  for such knowledge will give you spiritual power.  Truly this conviction became the rock of Paul’s testimony and the reason that he successfully endured mortality’s trials and faced death with calm assurance.

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