Putting Discipline Back Into Discipleship



“Have we been so accustomed to cheap grace that we instinctively shy away from more demanding calls to obedience?” Richard Foster, The Celebration of Discipline

Every Christian feels the pangs of this statement. We know we need discipline, but it seems so anti-cultural, doesn’t it? At my church, we’ve been walking through this book together during Sunday School. It’d like to say it’s been riveting, but it hasn’t. It’s been awkward and uncomfortable–like breaking in a new pair of boots. It has shed light on the areas of my life that I really don’t want to change. And those areas are beginning to throw tantrums.

The topic this last Sunday was fasting. I would like to offer a few additional thoughts on spiritual discipline and fasting here in this post.

While teaching The Celebration of Discipline, attendance for SS has increased by -7%.

Nobody likes talking about self-discipline.

Fewer enjoy hearing about it.

Studying about it just makes it invariably worse.

And actually doing it feels as if we’re ascending Mt. Mordor with Frodo Baggins.

Here’s the trouble…

Our spirit—born again, the new creature, the recently elected Sheriff—attempts to bring order to an outlaw town. It’s Wyatt Earp in Dodge City.

Our body—motto: “do-whatever-feels-good-regardless-of-consequences”—demands compromise at every turn. It is a masterful diplomat constantly negotiating for its desires. It skillfully seduces.

Our soul—the emotions, intellect, and mind—is like a 3-year-old child in the backseat of the car. It’s along for the ride. We change it and train it over time.

Our flesh wants a truce between its own desires and the spirit’s holiness. But peace with our flesh is a defeat for our spirit. There can never be a truce.

There cannot be two masters.

The flesh must become the slave.

And when we notify the flesh of the spirit’s intention, we see it transform into what it really is: a spoiled child. Spoiled children do not need indulgence, they need discipline.

Enter the role of fasting. For all intents and purposes, fasting is abstaining from food and nourishing liquids for a determined amount of time.

It tells our flesh, “no.”

It establishes a hierarchy in the God-intended order of our being; spirit, soul, and body. Not the way that most westerners think; body, soul, spirit.

We see this battle unfold in one of the most poignant moments in the life of Jesus and His disciples. He’s in Jerusalem with The 12 and He foretells to His disciples what is about to transpire. Peter reacts to the news and blubberingly tries to convince Him to not go through with it.

Jesus snaps.

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23 ESV

In this scene, you can see the camera pan away from Peter and Jesus as it brings the other disciples into focus. Their faces are struck with terror. The harshness of Jesus’ words is startling. But it’s a harshness aimed at the flesh–not at Peter.

Set your mind on things of God. Set your spirit in its rightful place. Tell the flesh no. And in doing so our hearts are centered on God. In doing so the things that cling to us and control us are revealed.  And when they are revealed we look them square in the eye and say, “no.”

We don’t fast to get skinny.

We don’t fast to gain political power.

We fast to see God clearer.

BTW, Foster’s definition of “cheap grace” is this: grace without discipleship.

I’d like to phrase it another way; grace without discipline.

Let’s put the discipline back into discipleship.

Matthew 6:16
Matthew 25:6
1 Cor. 9:27
Ps. 35:13
Luke 2:37
Acts 13:2
Ps. 69:10
Zech. 7:5
Isaiah 58

Thoughts? Comment? Maybe share it? Eh? Ehh?

Pastor Jared

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