- Reader's Opinion -

January 28, 2012

Discipline, what's that?...

     I just listened to a sermon on discipline the other day that really impacted me. I feel like God has really been disciplining me in many ways in this recent season on my life. I would like to share some enlightening things I have been learning about discipline in the past several months. I would like to start out by acknowledging that many people have a very vague and distorted idea of what discipline really is. Generally, I see two main categories of people pertaining to discipline that are neither beneficial nor biblical:

Person Type One:
  • Views discipline as a bad, nasty idea that constrains their freedom

  • Absolutely hates 'routine'

  • Usually wants and expects quick results with little work

  • Experiences major failure in one or more important areas of life (e.g.-spiritually, relationally, health-wise, financially, etc.)

Person Type Two:
  • Obsessed with personal routine; never flexible with others' needs

  • Utterly despairs/beats themselves up if they fail with an aspect of their discipline

  • Legalistically imposes their view of discipline on others/judges people who don't follow their routines

  • Tends to be prideful with usual fruits of 'success' from self-discipline

     In the sermon I listened to call A Life Marked by Discipline by James Harleman, he was extremely helpful in defining what discipline really is. Discipline can be defined as instruction, teaching, correction, education, and rebuke. It's also interesting to note (as far as I know) the Bible does not mention "self-discipline." It does address "self-control," but this observation is curious and important. It leads us to recognize that fruitful, biblical discipline comes from God by the working of His Spirit, not solely ourselves. Hebrews 12:5-6 paraphrases Proverbs chapter 3 stating '"...My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives."' God does the disciplining to his children, but not out of anger because this verse brings to light that he disciplines out of love.

     So why does God discipline his children anyway? Simply put, God wants his kids to be more like his perfect son - Jesus. '...He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness" (Hebrews 12:10). Driscoll and Breshears write that "The church is disciplined for holiness. The heart of discipline is discipleship" (Doctrine pg. 311). The core of a Christian's life is being a disciple of Jesus, which means that every disciple must receive discipline from the Lord to progress the process of sanctification in their life. Interestingly enough, the word "Christian" appears in the New Testament only 3 times, while the word "disciple" appears about 260 times. How often do most people who claim to follow Jesus in American culture label themselves a "Christian" as opposed to a "Disciple?" Food for thought of the implications of this...

     Pastor Harleman also brings to light the important aspect of how our culture taints the lens of discipline. He mentions common movie icon roles that are pervasive such as Bill and Ted in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Marty McFly in Back to the Future, and Bill Murray in Ghostbusters. He brings up a valid point that all these character roles and plots depict the "slacker" type that ends up having an amazing adventure, triumphantly succeeding amongst adversity and lack of effort, and even gets the girl in the end too. I want you to ask yourself this: How can cultural media influences subconsciously affect my thinking of discipline? That rabbit hole probably travels pretty deep if you actually take the time to ponder that question...

     In closing, I also want to touch on the point that discipline is an end, not a means of salvation. In other words, a person is not saved by what they do or how disciplined they appear. A person has eternal salvation by simply believing upon Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He paid for sinners (like myself) by dying on the cross and resurrecting 3 days later. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). Spiritual discipline instead comes after salvation of a person as a natural response to God's Holy Spirit working within them. A person who truly knows God wants to read the Bible, wants to join a community of believing Christians, wants to share the Gospel with others, wants to pray, and wants to be disciplined by the Lord. Challengingly, Hebrews also says, "But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons" (Hebrews 12:8). I encourage those who call themselves a Christian to meditate on this verse and really ask yourselves if you are a true "son/daughter" of God or an "illegitimate child" in light of how you are doing in regards to receiving discipline from God.

     If you are interested further in the topic of discipline, I have read Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes - I highly recommend reading this book. There is also Disciplines of a Godly Woman written by his wife Barbara Hughes for the ladies reading this. I'm sure it is equally enlightening (even though I haven't obviously read it).


January 23, 2012

Doctrinal Discourse

So I have been doing some reading... (how antithetical to American culture anymore) ... and I've been learning some interesting things about Christian faith and doctrine. Appropriately titled, I have have been reading Doctrine by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears. It covers topics ranging from different biblical modes of worship to financial insight in the Bible to heretical beliefs held by many professing Christians today. Most importantly, it talks a lot about God the trinity and Jesus! I have about a chapter and a half left to go in the book. The topic that I passed just a little while ago was the chapter on God's Church. The topic that really caught my attention was subtitled "Why should Christians join a church?" Interesting enough, right?...

I have always believed that joining a church was optional for a Christian. This section really reinforced the opposite of what I believed. I knew that in my experience, joining other believers has always helped strengthen my own faith, so I've never been against church membership... just not really for "organized religion." Here are the 10 summarized points arguing why Christians should join a church:
1.) Salvation is not just merely a personal relationship with Jesus, it is also brings us into communal and missional relationships with others.
2.) Being a disciple means following Jesus. The 12 disciples were a group doing this together. The Bible refers to God's people as a flock, body, family, ect. An arm dies when removed from the body, a sheep is lost without a flock... that sort of thing.
3.) "Real disciples commit to the church because they know they need the help of others to keep following Jesus" (Pg. 333).
4.) 1 Corinthians 12 is mentioned when Paul talks about the body of Christ, exercising that every disciple has a gift or skill that is essential to make the Body as a whole function.
5.) Christians should join a church to allow themselves to be equipped properly for ministry.
6.) Christians need others to help keep the faith; check out Ephesians 4:14.
7.) Christians join a church because they are willing to risk loving others deeply (and sometimes risk being hurt deeply) just like Jesus did.
8.)"Disciples know that though the church is imperfect, Christ calls them to strengthen it by their presence rather than criticize it in their absence" (Pg. 335).
9.) In the beginning, God said "...it is not good for man to be alone..." - Community seems like a logical outpouring of the way God has created us as humans.
10.) Disciples of Jesus join and love a church because Jesus loves the Church and gave himself up for it as Scripture states in Ephesians 5:25.

Hm.. that is a pretty comprehensive list of reasons for Christians to join a church, isn't it? Although it is obvious that you don't have to go to church to be saved, Driscoll and Breshears make a pretty solid biblical argument for why Christians join a church. It is because believers should want to be in community and serve the church out of a regenerated heart, not obligation. If someone is truly striving to be a disciple of Jesus, joining a church is a natural step in spiritual growth.

This has really started making me ponder about my own stance on all of this. In the end, I agree with everything mentioned in the book. I am currently considering joining a local church and in fact I am checking out the membership class next weekend. If you are a Christian, here is a staggering statistic - About 70% of people (ages 18-30) who attended church in high school say they dropped going to church by 23yrs old. Of course, there are many implications to statistics like these... but that's not a small number by any means. If you are under 30 like me, I encourage you to get plugged into a local Bible believing and teaching church! If you don't know where to even try going and you live by me, let me know and I'd love to take you along with me to my church! I would love to hear any comments/feedback on this topic too!


January 22, 2012

At it again...

Here I am, getting the ol' blog all up and running again! I thought I might use this page to process a little life, theology, and whatever else comes my way. Definitely feel free to comment on anything I post!