Do I have to Keep a Journal?

BY DONALD S. WHITNEY

Occasionally I am asked, “Does a Christian have to keep a journal in order grow more like Jesus Christ?” Of course not. There is no command in Scripture, explicit or implied, requiring the followers of Jesus to keep a journal. And while I’ve written and spoken of the benefits of keeping a spiritual journal, I’ve never written or said that the Bible anywhere obligates Christians to keep a journal. In fact, I have never read or heard anyone making such a claim. Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence, biblical or otherwise, that Jesus kept anything like a spiritual journal. While we credit the Lord Jesus Christ (since He is a member of the Triune Godhead) with the ultimate inspiration of all the written Word of God, the only account of Jesus physically writing anything during the days of His humanity is when He stooped to write on the ground in John 8:6. That is not to imply that the omniscient Son of God was illiterate in His incarnation. For the New Testament refers to Jesus reading Scripture aloud (Luke 4:16), and it is hard to imagine Him receiving an education where one is taught to read but not to write.

So if the Bible does not require a Christian to keep a journal (indeed, a person can be both a devoted Christian and yet completely illiterate), and if Jesus did not keep a journal, why do I encourage followers of Jesus to consider journaling and why did I include entire chapters about this practice in some of my books? I recommend to Christians the discipline of keeping a spiritual journal because (1) something very much like journaling is modeled in Scripture, and because (2) believers throughout church history have found journal-keeping so beneficial to their growth in grace.

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Spiritual Disciples Free Audio Download

Perhaps one of my favorite books from my college years was Donald S. Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. In it, Whitney proclaims that instead of being constricting and binding Spiritual Disciplines lead to freedom and Holiness in our pursuit of God. There was a phrase in his book that really challenged me as a young lad, “Godly People are Disciplined People.” If you are blessed by God to be naturally disciplined you probably love that statement. You probably also from time to time struggle with judging others who are not as disciplined as you if you have not used your natural self-discipline to “discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness.” as the apostle Paul commands us to in 1 Timothy 4. If on the other hand, you are heading on the path to “living in a van, down by the river.” as it were, you might not like that phrase so much. I myself did not enjoy it when I first heard it. I kind of like to take life as it comes. I have realized though that taking the time to plan for instance, allows me the freedom to change if something should come up. Whereas when I don’t plan I don’t have the freedom to change the plan, at least not with the peace that everything important is being taken care of.

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Let me put Whitney’s paragraph in here because he says it even stronger.

“Godly people are disciplined people. It has always been so. Call to mind some heroes of church history – Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Bunyan, Susanna Wesley, George Whitefield, Lady Huntington, Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, George Muller – they were all disciplined people. In my own pastoral and personal Christian experience, I can say that I’ve never known a man or woman who come to spiritual maturity except through discipline. Godliness comes through discipline.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above quote. Especially if you disagree with what he says.

Whitney talks about how Bible Intake, Prayer, Worship, Evangelism, Service, Stewardship, Fasting, Silence and Solitude, Journaling and Learning can all be used of the Lord for our sanctification. While the list is not complete it does get to the core of how God has worked in many people’s lives over the course of history.

For the rest of the month of March the Audio version of this book is available as a free download from ChristianAudio.com. Go to http://christianaudio.com/product_info.php?products_id=833 and use MAR2009 as the coupon code and you’ll get the audio for free. If it’s after March 2009 when you read this page it’s always worth the cost of the book on Amazon. Even though I have read it through a number of times over the years when I just picked it back up to find the quote I was excited to read it again and be challenged anew to pursue the Lord for the purpose of Godliness.

Proverbs for Today

This Sunday I was reading the introduction to Proverbs in The Message and it inspired me to continue to dig into Proverbs on a regular basis and to meditate on the proverbs that God uses to speak to me.  In one of the videos I share the story of how Proverbs 11:2 impacted me years ago and again yesterday it was the verse that God was using to conform me to the image of Christ.  Anyway, I hope this introduction will inspire you like it inspired me.

Many people think that what’s written in the Bible has mostly to do with getting people into heaven—getting right with God, saving their eternal souls. It does have to do with that, of course, but not mostly. It is equally concerned with living on this earth—living well, living in robust sanity. In our Scriptures, heaven is not the primary concern, to which earth is a tag-along afterthought. “On earth as it is in heaven” is Jesus’ prayer.

“Wisdom” is the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living. Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves. It has virtually nothing to do with information as such, with knowledge as such. A college degree is no certification of wisdom—nor is it primarily concerned with keeping us out of moral mud puddles, although it does have a profound moral effect upon us.

Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in honoring our parents and raising our children, handling our money and conducting our sexual lives, going to work and exercising leadership, using words well and treating friends kindly, eating and drinking healthily, cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes toward others that make for peace. Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do. In matters of everyday practicality, nothing, absolutely nothing, takes precedence over God.

Proverbs concentrates on these concerns more than any other book in the Bible. Attention to hear and now is everywhere present in the stories and legislation, the prayers and the sermons, that are spread over the thousands of pages of the Bible. Proverbs distills it all into riveting images and aphorisms that keep us connected in holy obedience to the ordinary.

-Eugene Peterson