I hear, whether explicitly or implicitly, this question from people on a fairly regular basis. Usually, it's when a concern has come up about whether or not salvation can be earned and are spiritual disciplines part of the "works salvation" movement. My answer is "Yes." Jesus loves people who fast more than those who don't. Sorry.
Alright, that's completely sarcastic but the question is good - what are the spiritual disciplines for if they don't earn us a different spot in heaven?
Here are four quick notes on the discussion that will hopefully help clear a way through:
1. Heaven is not simply a destination for dead people, but is first and foremost a Kingdom for living people. It is the place where transformed lives reveal the grace of God.
2. Transformed lives don't happen overnight - overt, visible sin can be dealt with fairly quickly but the motivations and drives that lead us there must be discovered and dealt with for real and lasting transformation to take place.
3. Disciplines train us to be funnels - conduits - of God's grace so that we open up space for the Holy Spirit to claim more and more real estate in our hearts. The disciplines help train us in Kingdom ways of thinking and acting, and that training defuses the bomb that is our broken system of motivations, drives, and desires.
4. The disciplines then make us more like Christ in our living so that our lives might truly and powerfully impact the lives of those around us. This is the heart of "formissional" life - being transformed so that those around us might be blown away by the overflow.
Those are my thoughts on this humid Friday in Chicagoland. Be well friends.