Sunday, July 20, 2008

Developing discipline

Following off of some of the recent posts, what does it take to build a lifestyle of discipline - of committed dedication and consistent effort toward Godliness? This is an important question for us to answer if indeed we wish to develop such an ethic of life.

First and foremost, when it comes to heart change and spiritual growth, we cannot make the change ourselves. Only God is capable of changing human hearts - in that first great step, of exchanging hearts of stone for hearts of flesh, but also in developing Christlikeness in us. We are incapable of disciplining ourselves in our own strength; only by the grace and through the power of God, dwelling in us, can develop self-control and self-discipline. (You'll note that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit - not a fruit of man's intent to change himself.)

This means that for our part, we must begin by recognizing our own inability to make real change in our lives. It's one thing to build a disciplined life in terms of physical health; it's entirely another to build spiritual health ourselves. We must recognize our need for the work of Christ in our lives, for His transforming grace working in us by the powerful actions of the Holy Spirit. And then we have to act on that recognition by asking for His help. And He will certainly give it: He delights in giving us things that are in line with His will and purposes - and working toward being in the image of Christ, dedicating ourselves to lives disciplined to conform to His life, this is very surely in line with His will.

Then we move to what the world calls the practical part of this - but we recognize that the first step is the most perfectly practical step in the whole equation. These latter steps depend entirely on it, for without the help of God they will take us nowhere.

We need a plan - a concrete set of steps to reach our goal. That requires us to know our goal as well. Utlimately, of course, it is Christlikeness. What are the small goals along the way? What are the waypoints, the check-stations along the way that we use as our goals and benchmarks for progress? Here we must be careful, recognizing that works alone do not equal righteousness, nor merit salvation, but salvation and growing righteousness do produce good works.

We must identify the areas in which we are weak, and seek Christ's help to make them strong. We must consciously engage those areas, and prayerfully work through the sin roots behind our problems. (Our issues are not primarily psychological, whatever the world may believe, but spiritual: the roots of all our conditions, even those that are psychological, are sin - either in a general sense, leading to the fallen condition of our bodies and minds, or in a specific sense, leading to our particular issues.)

We need time for studying Scripture. We need dedication to memorizing Scripture. We need to be devoted to prayer. We need fellowship and accountability - we desperately need community.


My thoughts are somewhat scattered tonight; I am tired. I hope I am less so tomorrow.

- Chris

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