- 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).


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