Discipline and the Disciple of Jesus
As I begin to formalize my research and study in support of my DMin major project from Knox Theological Seminary, I will be sharing my research and findings here. To begin, I’d like to give a justification or argument for my research.
We live in a frenetic world, our attentions and energies constantly vied for by spouses, families, work, church, sports, television, social media, marketers, ad infinitum. Even typing the list raised my stress level. Amidst all the chaos, we are expected to find time (make time) to spend in Bible study and prayer, not to mention other disciplines like worship, fellowship, service, fasting and the like.
Unfortunately, we often treat these “spiritual” activities as less significant, even optional. We justify their neglect with misapplied biblical doctrines like justification by grace not works and the unconditional love of God. While these doctrines are valid and true, they are primarily about justification and less about ongoing sanctification. We are most certainly saved apart from our deeds. And it is (thankfully) true that God’s love is not diminished or amplified by the depth and length of our quiet times.
In reality, the quality and richness of our lives is directly related to our faithfulness in walking with the Lord. Jesus told us that we are to abide, remain, in Him and that apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5) Much like the deceptive serpent in the garden planted a seed of doubt in Eve (“surely you won’t die”), experience demonstrates that there is much that we can do apart from Christ. Just as eating the fruit resulted in spiritual death and eventual physical death, our efforts apart from Christ yield nothing significant or substantial.
Even for those in “professional” ministry, established and mature believers, this vital connection is prone to neglect. It could be argued that pastors and missionaries are more susceptible to this tendency by virtue of their ministry. Since they are about the things of God, their day is full of prayer, Bible study, evangelism, etc., and these activities can supplant personal devotional acts. Sustainable service must overflow from a well that is continually refilled through communion with God. When one pours into others without being himself refilled, the well eventually runs dry and burnout occurs.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to emulate our master and obey his commands. A disciple, by definition, is one who practices discipline. To follow Christ, we must discipline ourselves to say no to certain things and yes to others. The Bible prescribes certain activities and practices intended to make us more like our master. The more we engage in these disciplines, the closer we grow to God, the easier we are able to discern his will and the more genuinely we are able to share His love with those around us.
In a world of competing priorities, how do we justify these spiritual activities that seemingly have no tangible, concrete results or rewards? The truth is that God, the creator of the universe, has designed the human being and thus knows the optimum operating conditions for humanity to thrive. In the weeks to come, I will share some of the physiological benefits of the Christian disciplines. Perhaps, once we understand that these “spiritual” practices have physical benefits as well, we can more readily justify prioritizing them in our daily lives.