Friday, May 21, 2010

The Fruit of Discipline

(Friends: we will return to our Confession of Sin series on Monday)

While being a blessed fruit of the Holy Spirit, discipline can also be an alluring temptress to the born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

"The fruit of the Spirit is... temperance (self control)" (Galatians 5:22; 23).

When contemplating discipline's place in the Christian life, the naturally disciplined may rub their hands together and think, "Ah, another challenge to overcome! The Christian life is perfectly suited to my personality and perspective!" Such ones may consistently read the Bible, pray, perform ministry, and fulfill the outward trappings of life and godliness. However, something is missing in their experience, namely, the apprehension of the person of God, and the warmth toward Him and others that can only flow from the living reality of the Holy Spirit. The disciplined often view with smug condescension those who do not possess their natural strength, and they may drive people away from the true Christ rather than to Him. Furthermore, when their self control fails them in a major way, the naturally self-controlled often never arise from the ashes of their failure caused by the carnal delusion that moderation is root rather than fruit.

Conversely, those who find discipline daunting will at the outset try their best then confronted by the false notion that believers live by discipline rather than the "faith, which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6). The practical expressions and activities of godliness, however, will often seem more a burden than the delight of God's living presence they are meant to be. Too many missed devotional times and other omissions sap away at the joyful wonder that began the life of grace and peace when these Christians believed in the Lord Jesus. "What hope is there for me?" they cry, and after many attempts to overcome their natural tendencies, the naturally undisciplined often settle to a nominal Christian experience. As the Apostle Paul counseled the Galatians, "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3). The answer is a resounding "No!" Having been misled by false teaching of viewing discipline as root rather than fruit, these believers are paralyzed by the same deception that cripples their more self-controlled brethren.

When considering discipline, we must begin where all spiritual matters originate. We must "look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). It is His discipline rather than our own that must lead and energize our lives of self sacrifice. The temperance of Christ alone can motivate the self control that glorifies God rather than ourselves, and that causes both living experience of His Person and faithful devotion to His way. Both the naturally disciplined and undisciplined bow at the same throne of grace that acknowledges the Lord Jesus alone as the executor of true spiritual moderation. As always, the triune New Testament dynamic of obedience must guide our steps - "I cannot! I can! Through Christ!" Any other discipline is a work of the flesh just as much is as the lack of discipline.

Self control will certainly be present in all who walk in the Spirit and truth of the Lord Jesus. Never, however, are we to perceive discipline as the source of His dynamic working and walking in us. Again, "the just shall live by faith," the faith that flows from God's grace revealed in all who affirm that we can do nothing apart from Christ, and all things through Him. Discipline is fruit, not root, and as it is increasingly manifested in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, genuine love for God and others is the blessed result.

"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Rim: rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving."
(Colossians 2:6-7)

"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."
(Philippians 1:9-11)

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