You Can't Separate Discipline from Discipleship

Separating discipleship from discipline is like separating Toyota from being a Vehicle, or Ben and Jerry’s from  Ice Cream, or Red Beans from Rice, something you don’t do in New Orleans. Discipleship and discipline go hand in hand. The Bible says that, in the same manner that we train our bodies, we should discipline our inner man. In fact, Paul, an athlete and sports fan, made a startling statement: Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily traini€ng is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Did you catch it? Spiritual exercise is more valuable than physical exercise. Why? Like physical exercise, spiritual exercise helps us in this life. Like physical exercise, neglecting it has a negative effect on our lives: lack of joy, peace, and happiness; weakness when facing temptation, danger of falling into sin, and lack of self-control; emotional instability and turmoil; worry, doubt, fear, and sleeplessness…. I could go on and on. But physical exercise helps us only in this life. Spiritual exercise also helps us in the life to come. Neglecting spiritual exercise has eternal consequences, making it far more valuable. Don’t misunderstand what Paul is saying. He is not giving you permission to neglect caring for your body; but he is challenging you to be spiritually disciplined. The “Train” Track  As we dive even deeper into this word, we discover first that it is a singular verb, signifying something that each believer must do individually. You cannot hold others responsible for your spiritual growth. You must take ownership of it yourself. Second, the verb is in the active tense. Therefore, we assume an active role in our sanctification process. God’s Spirit certainly empowers us to grow in holiness, but only through our active, intentional discipline of the sinful nature. Third, it is an imperative, signifying it is not an option or a multiple-choice scenario; it is a command. Jesus not only expected His followers to practice these disciplines, He modeled them for us. Did Jesus ever…
  • pray?
  • spend time alone with the Father?
  • fast?
  • revere and adore the Father?
  • share the good news?
  • quote the Word of God from memory?
If you read the Gospels, you will find that Jesus did these things all the time. Every Gospel author gives instance after instance of Jesus modeling the spiritual disciplines. If the perfect Son of God practiced spiritual disciplines during His earthly life, how much more do we, as sinful humans, need to incorporate these disciplines into our lives?

Spiritual disciplines are provided for our good, not for our bondage. They are privileges to be used, not duties to be performed.”

Jerry Bridges

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