None of us like the word discipline, do we? It just doesn't sound good. For most of us, the word discipline is like nails on a chalkboard-it doesn't sound nice. Over the past year, I have to admit something-i've gained a bit of weight. I'm not longer a youngster, and at 34 i'm learning that eating like a teenager will have some bad effects on you. So, Leslie and I have been trying and trying to get ourselves back on the right path. It's hard, though, right? You know that eating well and exercising will bring you health-but when you are staring at a Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (if you are not in St Louis, you won't understand that reference-sorry) it makes things very difficult.
This past Sunday I was able to open the word of God with The Groves Church and we studied I Timothy 4. We learned that discipline spiritually is not only an "ok" thing, it is the right thing. We many times think of discipline spiritually as "legalism". Indeed, it can be if applied inappropriately. But spiritual discipline is how God teaches us and how he speaks to us. It is how we know who Jesus is. Reading the scriptures, prayer, and any number of the spiritual disciplines are not only good "things", they are how we are developed into who Jesus wants us to be. None of us look to our physical bodies and think, "if I just sit here and do nothing, I'm going to be healthy and look great". We know that's not true. But spiritually, we find ourselves frustrated but in an effort to not be seen as legalistic, we may not pursue the things we know that bring life to our spiritual walk.
Don't misunderstand what I am saying-the spiritual disciplines do nothing to make you just before God. Salvation comes only by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. We can't earn anything from doing spiritual disciplines. However-by daily disciplining ourselves spiritually, we learn over, and over, and over again that we are nothing with Christ-and should the Holy Spirit be stirring and living through you-you will be brought your knees again, again and again-because you will realize Jesus is truly your only hope. As this happens, true, deep rooted repentance occurs. When true, deep rooted repentance occurs, worship begins. And when worship begins in your heart-He is going to use you mightily for his sake.
Now to me-this doesn't sound like legalism, does it? Someone smarter than I said this in relationship to this, and it has really helped me:
May each of us be spiritually disciplined, God-centered people. For when we are, we see God do great and mighty things through us, for His glory.
Matthew is 34 years old and currently lives in St Louis, Missouri with his wife Leslie. He serves as the Associate Pastor at The Groves Church, in Webster Groves, Missouri.