Self-Discipline

I think most things in my life come down to the amount of discipline I have. It’s that simple. If you can tame the temptations and desires that accost you and work towards your goals you will achieve those goals. Whether this gives you a happier life is another question of course. This presupposes that we are able to accomplish things through our own means and power; that man can lift himself up off his own feet; that the grace of God plays no role in our achievements and triumphs.

What is the chief aim of man? As human beings, as men and women what are we here for? To take the Westminister Catechism: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. John Piper changes this to: Man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. We also can sum up the commandments and the Law with the phrase, “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself.” I always favoured the third one myself. You can’t do much better than Jesus’ summation of it like.

How is this reflected in my life? What should it look like? I wrestle with these questions a lot. It’s fair to say they are always uppermost in my mind when I’m walking through my day. At the root of it is individuality and community. To borrow from N.T. Wright even the hermit at the top of the pole in the desert needs someone to bring him food and water. I would lean to a more communal interpretation of Scripture but I’m not really sure what that is. In what sense does the Unity of the Body apply to local congregations of believers? Unity of doctrine, of diversity or of purpose? And how should local congregations relate to each other?

That’s what pisses me off the most actually. Christian churches behaving like factions of left-wing political groups based in Judea around the first century A.D. There doesn’t seem to be an urgency in myself first of all (which is a blog post in its own right) but also in a lot of Christians I know. To quote our atheist magician friend, Penn Jillete, below: “How much do we have to hate someone not to proselytize?

One of my pet hates in relation to the expression of Christianity I’ve come from is a tendency to view structure as Satan himself. People becoming legalistic in their attempts to avoid legalism. There is no great blessing of the Spirit on spontaneity for its own sake nor is there a great blessing of the Spirit on tradition merely because that’s the way you’ve always done it. The Scriptures tell us that it’s the heart of the worshipper that God looks at. We have the fruits of the Spirit and then we have spiritual disciplines.

What does the phrase ‘Spiritual Disciplines’ imply? The Apostle Paul uses the analogy of physical training in his letters. There are times you don’t want to go training but you do it anyway. There are times when training hurts a lot but you do it anyway. There are times when there is no-one else training with you but you do it anyway. The thing with training is that there’s no guarantee of a reward at the end of it all. The other team might get lucky or the referee makes a bad call. You could have put all that work in for nothing. But that’s where the analogy falls down.

With training the goal is to mould our bodies into shape so we can achieve a goal. With spiritual disciplines the Master Potter has moulded us into new creations. We stand righteous because of His work and not due to the efforts on our own account. They will not change our salvation. What they can do is they can help our own minds realise that fact. They can draw us further into the presence of God because He can feel our presence through regular prayer and Scripture reading; through love that is manifest in the lives we live revealed both to the world and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Human motivation is complex. What prompted this post is the quote from Penelope Trunk below:

And I thought: Dutch pedophiles are more focused on their long-term goals than I am.

Her post is worth a read in its own right. I’m not sure how we motivate ourselves; how we discipline ourselves further. I know that if we delight ourselves in the Lord that He will give us the desires of our heart. That’s because when we delight ourselves in Him our desires become His desires. To get to that stage with me though I know I need to make a list and start ticking boxes. It may appear like legalism but in my heart I know where it will take me :-)

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