Friday, May 17, 2013

Proverbs 23:12 “Apply your heart to discipline” NASB.

The Lord Jesus not only expects these Disciplines of us, He modeled them for us. He applied His heart to discipline. He disciplined Himself for the purpose of Godliness. And if we are going to be Christ- like, we must live as Christ lived.
Consider the people who will work hard at learning to play an instrument, knowing that it takes years to acquire the skills, who will practice hard to lower their golf score or to improve their sports performance, knowing it takes years to become proficient, who will discipline themselves throughout their career because they know it takes sacrifice to succeed. These same people will give up quickly when they find the Spiritual Disciplines don’t come easily, as though becoming like Jesus was not supposed to take much effort.
1.     There is danger in neglecting the Spiritual Disciplines.
Nothing was ever achieved without discipline; and many an athlete and many a man has been ruined because he abandoned discipline and let himself grow slack. Coleridge is the supreme tragedy of indiscipline. Never did so great a mind produce so little. He left Cambridge University to join the army; but he left the army because, in spite of all his erudition, he could not rub down a horse; he returned to Oxford and left without
a degree. He began a paper called ‘The Watchman’ which lived for ten numbers and then died. It has been said of him: “He lost himself in visions of work to be done, that always remained to be done. Coleridge had every poetic gift but one—the gift of sustained and concentrated effort.” In his head and in his mind he had all kinds of books, as he said himself, “completed save for transcription.” “I am on the eve,” he says, “of sending to the press two octavo volumes.” But the books were never composed outside Coleridge’s mind, because he would not face the discipline of sitting down to write them out. No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached it ever maintained it, without discipline. William Barclay
a)     By neglecting the Spiritual Disciplines we face the danger of bearing little spiritual fruit. The mere presence of spiritual gifts, however, does not guarantee abundant fruitfulness. Just as with natural gifts, spiritual gifts must be developed by discipline in order to bear spiritual fruit.

2.     There is freedom in embracing the Spiritual Disciplines.
The Spiritual Disciplines, which many see as restrictive and binding, are actually the means to spiritual freedom. The Disciplines are the “Door to Liberation.”
We can illustrate this principle by observing the freedom that comes through mastery of any discipline. Watching a Christopher Parkening or a Chet Atkins play guitar gives the impression that these guitarists were born with the instrument attached to their bodies. They have an intimacy and a freedom with the guitar that makes playing the thing look easy.
We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom . . . that we are most free when we are bound. But not just any way of being bound will suffice; what matters is the character of our binding. The one who would be an athlete, but who is unwilling to dis- cipline his body by regular exercise and abstinence, is not free to excel on the field or the track. His failure to train rigorously denies him the freedom to run with the desired speed and endur- ance. With one concerted voice, the giants of the devotional life apply the same principle to the whole of life: Discipline is the price of freedom. Elton Trueblood
 “Freedom and discipline have come to be regarded as mutually exclusive, when in fact freedom is not at all the opposite, but the final reward, of discipline.” Elisabeth Elliot
3.     Freedom is the reward of discipline.
What is this freedom of Godliness? Those who are “free” to quote Scripture are those who have disciplined themselves to memorize God’s Word. We may experience a measure of freedom from spiritual insensitivity through the Discipline of fasting. There is a freedom from self-centeredness found in Disciplines such as worship, service, and evangelism. The freedom of Godliness is the freedom to do what God calls us to do through Scripture and the freedom to express the character qualities of Christ through our own personality. This kind of freedom is the “reward” or result of the blessing of God upon our engagement in the Spiritual Disciplines.

But we must remember that the full-grown freedoms of discipline-nurtured Godliness don’t develop overnight or during a weekend seminar. The Bible reminds us that self-control, such as that expressed through the Spiritual Disciplines, must persevere before the mature fruit of Godliness ripens. Notice the sequence of development in 2 Peter 1:5-8—“and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness.” Godliness is a lifelong pursuit.
There is an invitation to all Christians to enjoy the Spiritual Disciplines. All in whom the Spirit of God dwells are invited to taste the joy of a Spiritual Disciplines lifestyle. Discipline without direction is drudgery. But the Spiritual Disciplines are never drudgery as long as we practice them with the goal of Godliness in mind. If your picture of a disciplined Christian is one of a grim, tight-lipped, joyless half-robot, then you’ve missed the point. Jesus was the most disciplined Man who ever lived and yet the most joyful and passionately alive. He is our Example of discipline. Let us follow Him to joy through the Spiritual Disciplines.

By DONALD WHITNEY, Navpress, Colorado Springs

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