March 27, 2013 5 Comments
Key Text: 1 Timothy 4:6-16
A Tale of Two Brothers
When I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, I decided that I wanted to learn how to play electric guitar. Being the good big brother I am, I also persuaded my little brother that he should learn to play bass so that we could start a band at some point in the future. He wasn’t terribly excited about the idea at first, but we both ended up asking Santa for our respective instruments that Christmas.
Fortunately, Santa followed through. Chris and I began taking lessons over the next few months. During that time, our youth pastor told Chris that if he could learn to play bass, he could play in the youth band on Wednesday nights (unfortunately for me, he played acoustic guitar and already had an electric guitar player). It soon became apparent that Chris was learning his instrument better than I was. Beyond his seemingly natural musical talent, Chris was also more dedicated to practicing on a normal basis. He had something to discipline himself for: playing in the youth band. As a result, he is now the bass player for the Red Steps (a worship band comprised of JBU students) and also plays on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights at our local church in Siloam. Ironically, the one who was most excited about learning to play an instrument (me) has now adopted the iPod as his instrument of choice.
All Christians have been called by Jesus to be and make disciples. If you think about it, this is a scary calling. It is something that must be taken seriously and must be understood in the context of what the meaning of the word disciple is: discipline.
Take a look Jesus calling some of the original disciples in Matthew 4:18-22. Jesus comes up to them and says, “Follow me!” How do they respond? They immediately leave everything and follow him. Too many people think they can claim Christianity without the discipline it requires. To be a disciple is to be disciplined. However, discipline without direction is drudgery (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). When it comes to practicing spiritual disciplines, many believers view it as drudgery because they don’t see the direction they are going. The value and purpose of the disciplines have been separated from them, making them seem pointless. One of the contributing factors to my lack of enthusiasm for practicing guitar was that I didn’t have much direction on why I wanted to learn guitar. Chris did.
In order to give direction to our daily spiritual disciplines, we must understand what God promises to do when we practice them. Romans 8:29 tells us that God plans to conform us into the image of His Son. How does that happen? By practicing spiritual disciplines! We aren’t redeemed so we can wait for holiness. We’re redeemed so we can pursue holiness. Holiness is what we “toil and strive” for (1 Timothy 4:10). The only road to holiness passes through the practice of spiritual disciplines. The pursuit of holiness isn’t an option for Christians; it’s a command (1 Peter 1:15-16). This means that practicing spiritual disciplines isn’t an option either.
Spiritual disciplines are those personal and corporate activities that promote spiritual growth. Some specific disciplines are Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, service, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning (for more on each of these spiritual disciplines, check out the book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney).
Spiritual disciplines are like spiritual exercises. They are ways to place ourselves in the path of God’s grace so that, over time, He can transform us “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The big difference between physical and spiritual disciplines is that “bodily training is of some value, [but] godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). When we practice spiritual disciplines, it is evident not only to us and God, but also to those around us (1 Timothy 4:15-16).
Go, Be, Make
All Christians have been called by Jesus to be and make disciples. If any person chooses to follow Christ, they must be ready to seek him through spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study. We’re redeemed so we can pursue holiness.
Let’s be disciplined disciples.
Learn It. Love It. Live It.