THE DISCIPLINE OF SIMPLICITY

Richard Foster writes in Celebration of the Disciplines “Simplicity is freedom. Duplicity is bondage. Simplicity brings joy and balance. Duplicity brings anxiety and fear.” “The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life style.”

For the past year or so my wife and I have been attempting to downsize in anticipation of moving and leaving behind the harsh Chicago winter. In the course of this exercise we have realized how cluttered our life is with stuff. It was a painful reality even though we have been fairly disciplined about running out and getting the latest big thing, we still have too much regular stuff.

The Trinitarian Presence of God began speaking to me several years ago about letting go and living with my hands wide open. In beginning to process this I began to see Simplicity has a sister discipline as well and that is Submission. For me when the inward reality speaks submission is required to realize the joy of the outward expression of simplicity.

I believe simplicity is just not about material possessions, though that is a good deal of it, it is also about control in all aspects of our life. Holding loosely those things as well as those people that we love!
Though we will live on eternally with those we love who know Jesus we need to understand all of it on this side is temporal.

Foster goes on to comment “Of all the Disciplines simplicity is the most visible and the most open to corruption.” This goes to my thoughts on the video below, the three traps of simplicity that will lead to the bondage of a duplicitous and not a simple way of life.

So how do you begin. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Get with God and seek His will for you. To do this you must engage in other disciplines such as solitude and scripture meditation to still yourself and hear well. The focus upon the Kingdom produces the inward reality and without that our life results in an endless cycle of duplicitous legalism.

We really want an Apple iPad but do not have the money, we covet it but overtly tell our friends, etc we have no desire for such a device.

We fellowship among believers who authentically practice simplicity, but again we would love to have a new flat screen 42 inch TV. We have the money but feel it would be a stumbling block to the others if we got the TV. So we forgo it.

We tend toward the gospel on the left and are really into our churches social justice campaign. The pastor reminds us of our excessive materialistic lifestyle compared to the rest of the world and exhorts us to begin to live with significantly less than what we do now. We obey the pastor and verbalize that wherever we go.

None of these examples involved a process of the individual making a decision based upon their time with God.
The end is great. The means is death. Duplicity and legalism drives commendable behavior. But freedom is absent and they carry around their denial of whatever they covertly really still desire like a ball and chain.

Conversely when living with less and holding loosely everything in life is a response driven totally by seeking and hearing God clearly abundance and freedom result. But rarely do any of us take the time to hear God and let Him choose what HE wishes to finger loose from our lives.

God will meet you’re every need but not your wants. You will understand this and love it the more you seek Him as His apprentice. All you really need is the Trinitarian Presence of God and truly all else will be taken care of. I believe we give this idea great lip service but put little skin in the game. This leads to great instability among the Body of Christ. We desperately need to give up and let the Trinity lead our lives every moment of every day. It is possible. God would not ask of you something that you could not do. So He gives you GRACE to accomplish what you could not otherwise do.

In reviewing Richard Foster’s chapter on Simplicity he concludes with a to do list. It’s very wise advice. But again those of you who are familiar with my writing know how sensitive I am to mortal telling mortal what to do. I believe it marginalizes the influence of the Trinity in our lives. Abraham did not have Foster or Willard, to tell him what to do. “Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness”. Gen. 15:6.
This is the kind of people we need to become and when there is a strong influence standing in between God and us, God is not only marginalized but we lose out on the opportunity to gain the necessary experience through knowledge to know He is sufficient. If we do not have first hand knowledge then our trust and confidence in Him is weak and if it is weak we are reluctant to be His apprentice.

Having said that please don’t stop reading the great books on spiritual formation and listening to Sunday sermons but at the same time put them in the proper perspective as there is no substitute for Matthew 6:33. It is mandatory for you to go forward, as the source of a life of abundance is not a great book or a Sunday sermon it is the constant and intimate presence of the Trinity in your life.

So let’s go, get alone and let the Holy Spirit begin to finger loose the stuff of your life and learn to live loosely in all of life.

Eagerly anticipating your comments on your experience with Simplicity!

georgea

7 thoughts on “THE DISCIPLINE OF SIMPLICITY

  • March 12, 2010 at 10:23 pm
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    I confess….my coveting simplicity is a continual quest. Every now and than there is a dramatic break through and I feel the powerful presence of Christ walking beside me. More often than not though, the tyranny of the urgent at work, at church, in ministry, or in family rules the day and I am left with just fleeting uncluttered moments with Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t resent the demands of those around me, after all those needs represent an opportunity for me to “be Christ” to those folks.

    While my heart’s desire is for simplicity, I will allow the attainment of that simplicity up to God’s timing.

    By the way…..is it a sin to covet simplicity? I hope not!

    Maybe its about having a simplicity of heart attitude and not about the busy activities of life. If I am looking for Him, Christ is probably able to cut through the clutter and grab a hold of me. Ya think?

    Dean

  • March 13, 2010 at 8:51 am
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    Dean:

    You wrote:

    “I will allow the attainment of that simplicity up to God’s timing.”

    It must be driven by God or it’s all ego.
    I pray you can hold everything loosely.

    Please keep talkin’ to us!

    georgea

  • March 16, 2010 at 1:19 pm
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    Random thoughts on Simplicity. It seems much of today’s Christian landscape is certainly Trinitarian; Jackson, Grant, and Franklin. I’m not even surprised anymore with Crystal Cathedrals, designer suits, Rolex watches, 80 million dollar church additions, lavish homes, and publishing empires. We have commercialized Jesus.

    However we need to be careful not to spiritualize poverty or to vilify wealth, as some do. It’s where the heart is with respect to these issues. For a great discussion on this topic see Dallas Willard’s chapter “Is Poverty Spiritual” in The Spirit of the Disciplines.

    Great Definition of Simplicity from the Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible “The inward reality of single-hearted focus upon God and His kingdom, which results in an outward lifestyle of modesty, openness, and unpretentious and which disciplines our hunger for status, glamor, and luxury.”

    See Phil 3:4-8: Most of us are not called to live this radically in practice but we should all be living this radically in spirit. We are to live in such a way that no matter what we gain or what we lose, we don’t care as long as we know Jesus.

    Personally, even though we have down-sized by 90%, I still struggle with money. Not possessions as much as the need to be financially secure. I pray about it often and continue to struggle with complete trust that Jesus will meet all my physical needs even if I’m broke. I’m sure some of it stems from growing up in a household that constantly struggled financially.

    Recently, while working my part-time patrol job, I had the opportunity to view homes that were being prepared for complete auctions. Everything gets sold. Usually the homeowner has passed away. As I walked through and looked at his/her possessions it all seemed so meaningless. Car collections, knick-knacks, plates, spoons, Hummell figurines, tools, paintings, glassware, etc. etc.. You could almost blink your eyes and imagine the home completely empty, and from an eternal perspective that is all it was. What we don’t leave behind is our relationship with Jesus. May we strive to live every day with His love, grace, and mercy as our “treasures”.

    Greg

  • March 22, 2010 at 8:01 am
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    I’m pondering whether the spiritual “discipline of simplicity” has become the most neglected spiritual practice within the modern day Church. This seems so. Its a practice so easy to miss in our modern fast paced culture. And technological advances have greatly multiplied the distractions from a simple life style which scripture encourages.

    Many years ago I heard a sermon that challenged me to the core of my being. The Pastor’s message was that “busyness” often is just a symptom of and the pursuit of the fatal disease of “worldliness”. At that time in my life, I was “proud” of my hectic fast paced life style. Regrettably, it was displayed as a badge of honor in my pursuit of fame and fortune. The sad reality was that in my inner life, I was empty, lonely and depressed. The light in many Christians today glows dimly because we have forgotten this “simple” truth and reality.

    The pursuit of money and wealth is ALWAYS a very poor substitute for what really counts in this life and in eternity. Paul makes this abundantly clear. In I Timothy 6: 6-8 he declares that “godliness with contentment is great gain” and that we “bring NOTHING into this world and can take NOTHING OUT OF IT! The whole point is that when we are walking in a close intimate daily relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we don’t need the material stuff! Its not that its not there, but that our material possessions become of minor importance and priority to us. Our pursuit of the more valuable relationship and community with the triune God and other believers become the prize of infinite worth and value –our security and our joy! Loving relationships, care and concern for other people, become more valuable than the pursuit of temporary stuff.

    I must admit that this is still a daily struggle. God–grant us the grace and desire to jettison any of our stuff that we value more than You and Your mission for our lives.

    Terry

  • March 25, 2010 at 4:47 pm
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    I like Matthew 6:21 (for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also) for helping me to maintain simplicity in my life . At any point in time, I can reflect on my life and know where my heart is focused. Is it focused on Jesus and living my faith, or am I more concerned with the material world. Am I spending time in study, prayer, solitude, and serving others, or am I spending all of my time on “me”. When I inventory my heart, I know when I’m off track and need to get rid of the clutter. I know that when my life is focused on Jesus, material things don’t seem to matter and I have more peace within myself. In our culture it seems pretty easy to get sucked into the “me” syndrome. For me at least, I need to step back when I sense that clutter and make sure my heart is in the right place.

    Craig

  • November 15, 2010 at 9:10 pm
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    Thanks George. if we don’t initiate this on our own, our Father helps us learn it… he’s the best parent, and orchestrates to the max!
    “For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discip…line is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

    Susan

  • December 14, 2010 at 6:35 pm
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    George, thank you for reminding me that simplicity is a spiritual discipline. Ron and I had both been feeling a call to simplicity in recent months but had only taken small steps toward living a “life of simplicity”. The problem with me is that I not only was not practicing the discipline, there was idol worship going on. That’s a far cry from simplicity. There are several layers in between. They are being pulled off one by one. 🙂

    Last spring I attended the Freedom Ministry at Gateway and realized my greatest fear was that Ron would lose his job. That told me I was worshiping his job as an idol. I repented, laid it down, and asked God to take it away…(the worship part) 🙂 –
    Well, he did.

    A few months ago we were told this Ron’s job had become “redundant” and just last night his retirement was formally announced. As I have been preparing for the changes in our income, I am finding that God has also been using this as a way of showing me all the other idols in my life. All that had to come before I could begin to practice the discipline of simplicity.

    I wonder how many of us can’t get to that practice because we are so far far away…worshiping other idols, to the point that “simplicity” makes no sense.

    The book Dream to Destiny by Robert Morris is what is pulling me back into the simple basic truths to get me back on track with wherever God is leading me.

    I’m glad God has big hands to hold the big bottles needed for the big avalanche of tears I’ve been giving him in the last month! Although painful, it is a great blessing and I am so thankful for it! This needed to happen for so many reasons on so many levels and I’m sure you are rejoicing as you see your prayers are being answered.

    Keep on praying. We need it and cherish your love and care for us. There is something wonderful happening in both of us and we need protection prayers as well.

    Blessings,
    Susan

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