Disciplined Living

1. Redeemed & Redeeming

The Christian life has two main aspects - two vital and indispensable parts - known by the phrase, “receiving and doing.” Receiving and doing are two sides of the same coin. On the one side, God through Jesus Christ has done something for us. We become Christians only by receiving that which He has done, and by “resting in the finished work of Christ”.

On the other side of the coin, these gifts of God can be received and used only by our effort and discipline. Salvation is a free gift, yet we are still to “work out … our salvation". The Holy Spirit is a free gift to all believers, but we must “walk in the Spirit”.

In this topic we're concerned with that second side of the coin. So what we ourselves are to do. We, as Christians have to do something, yet we cannot do it by ourselves. What we do then is because Christ has died for us, and because the Holy Spirit applies that to our hearts. As Paul said in Philippians 4:13, “I can do anything through him who gives me strength.”

We too say, “I can do” with Paul. And we must do! We have to take responsibility for ourselves. We must make something of our lives. As 1 Peter 1:13 says, “Prepare your minds for action.” Without serious intention and effort, no progress can be made in Christian discipleship. Jesus Himself said, “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Digging Deeper

1. The Christian way is the way of discipline, giving up many things, and hardship. Our life is not easy. Turning to 1 Corinthians 9, and reading the verses 24 to 27, identify how the apostle Paul shows this:

2. If salvation is all of God's grace, from start to finish, what is meant by the statement in Philippians 2:12, “work out your salvation”?

II. Redeeming Your Mind

One of the quotes above was that from 1 Peter 1:13, which says, “prepare your minds for action.” The apostle Peter tells us, in this phrase, where all real discipline must begin. And he is reflecting what Jesus said in Luke 12:35-36: “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.”

We have to be mentally and spiritually awake. As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, “let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self controlled.” Therefore, the way that we live our lives on the outside depends on the way that our minds are disciplined.

As Christians we have been given a new heart and a new nature. So we have to use this gift by turning our minds and our attention to the things of Christ, and away from the evil things. By disciplining our minds we focus our attention on those things, which are from above, instead of those things that belong to Satan.

The way we do this is with a regular devotion time, reading the Bible and other good Christian books and magazines. We're to think about good things that we can do. We're also to have fellowship with other Christians and to be involved in church work and other types of Christian service. We are lazy if we profess to be following Christ, or if we complain that our spiritual life is a failure, if we're not using the means of grace.

Thinking It Through

1. Is it possible to have too much discipline in the Christian life?

2. Write down the connection between “discipline” and “discipleship”:

3. Do you know what the `means of grace' are? Why are we meant to particularly make use of them?

III. Redeeming Your Tongue

Closely allied to how we think is the way we speak. This part of the body is dealt with extensively throughout Scripture. It is an important member of the body. A member though which can be quite unruly! In his letter, for example, James uses quite descriptive language to describe both the importance of the tongue, and the terrible damage in human relationships which happens when we don't discipline our tongues.

Each one of us will know the damage that has been caused by gossip, destructive criticism and idle words. We will be judged for what we say. As Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken.”

James says that “no man can tame the tongue". That's true. No man can tame it. But God can tame it, and this is a most important aspect of Christian discipline that is often ignored by Christians.

So, how can we discipline our tongues? Well, to follow on from our previous section, let's think before we speak. Haven't we often said words that later we wished we hadn't? And it could all have never happened if we had first paused in thought.

What should we do in that thought? Here are three questions we should always remember in our conversation:

Firstly - Is it true? Of course we never tell a downright lie but how often don't we just stretch the truth a little, by exaggeration, and by withholding all the facts. It's hard to be accurate in what we say but we can do it with practice. And we especially need to be on our guard when we talk about those we do not naturally “like”.

Secondly - Is it kind? We can easily tear others down when they are not there. So we should always speak of them as if they were there. And if you're not willing to tell them that to their faces then you shouldn't be speaking in that way at all. There is a place, however, for constructive criticism. But that should always be said privately to that person, and not to others in his absence.

Thirdly - Is it necessary? Most of us talk too much and don't listen enough. It's best then to say less. Don't feel guilty about silence. As Proverbs 17, verse 28, says, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”

Digging Deeper

1. Read out James chapter 3:1-12:

a) Why is the Lord so severe on the sins of the tongue?

b) How are such sins best avoided?

IV. Redeeming Your Time

Among people there is a big difference as to how much money each has. But there is one thing in which all are equal, because God gives every one of us, each day, the same amount of time. Time is wealth, and we're responsible to God for the way in which we use our time. The words of one of our hymns is very appropriate here. It says, “Take my moments and my days; let them flow in endless praise.” If God has all our time, then He already has almost everything.

How then are we to correctly use time?

One idea I suggest is that you keep a diary. This is so you know what your commitments are. It's also good because we can often be so busy that we forget what's going on.

We also need to take time out for leisure or sport. This helps give variety in our lives or else we become tired and stale.

The planning of each day is important. In our last topic we learned the importance of having a time each day for personal prayer and Bible reading. We need to plan this so that we can do it, instead of doing it when it fits in, or when we feel like it.

Thinking It Through

Make a rough plan of how you can best spend your time in...

a) recreation

b) devotions

c) fellowshipping

V. Redeeming Your Resources

All our money and all possessions belong to who?

So they are to be used as He tells us, for His service. We are stewards who one day will have to give account to our Master for the way in which we have used His gifts. So we have to be careful in the way we use money. We have to learn also to live within our income. Romans 13:8 tells us: “Let no debt remain outstanding.”

Although this may be hard for those who don't earn much, yet it's good advice. We shouldn't owe anyone anything. Just think of buying a car. If you take out hire purchase on that car did you know that you'd be paying a lot more interest than if you got a loan from a bank? It's better of course to buy your care with straight cash.

A good thing is that you budget all your money. So you write what you spend, how much you get in, and so on. This helps you see where you spend your money, and it also tells us whether or not we're living within our incomes. It shows how our money is being spent, and so we can see if we're spending too much, or buying those little “extras” we don't really need.

When you make up your budget book decide where your money should go. A certain amount has to go on food and board, petrol and other things to do with your job.

But before these essentials have been sorted out you should be setting aside a regular weekly amount for the work of the Church. An amount we should still be giving even if we're away for the weekend - or a long holiday!

We should also share in the work of our local biblically based educational institutions, biblically based political and ethical ministries, and biblically based Word & Deed charities.

The important thing is that this giving should be regular and ordered, and not left to how we're felling at that particular moment.

And we should also use God's money in keeping ourselves fit and relaxed e.g. playing sport.

In this very greedy and money-worshipping age that we live in we are to set a good example for those around us. Whatever we have can be used for the service of God. For example, if you have car you can use that to give others a lift to youth club, or to church.

Digging Deeper

1. Read Genesis 14:18-20. Does Melchizedek's example give any guidance for how we give to the church today?

2. Glean out from the Old Testament other passages for how much was given to the LORD:

3. Are there any New Testament passages which can guide us too?

VI. Redeeming Your Body

Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. So we must keep our bodies pure and holy, and devoted completely to serving Christ. It will be difficult, but by careful training and discipline the body can become a good instrument of the Spirit of Christ.

We must try, as much as possible, to have a strong and healthy body, for the service of God and man. Recreation, plenty of fresh air, outdoor exercises and sport, are important for the Christian. It's much better to join in games rather than just watch them. Doing exercise every day, taking a jog and other ways of “keeping fit” are good. Having a tough, well-trained body helps in our spiritual life.

We are to avoid laziness. We have to use out time profitably. Eating, drinking and smoking too much, are sins against the body, and against the Holy Spirit. There must be also a firm control of our sexual impulses. And this begins already with our thoughts and in our imaginations.

Our bodies have been created by God and all our instincts and impulses can be used in His service. We're not to put down our bodies as hermits and monks in monasteries do. Instead we're to be Christ's athletes, accepting, controlling, using, directing and dedicating all our bodily, mental and spiritual powers to our Master's service.

Digging Deeper

1. The apostle Paul wrote, in 2nd Corinthians 9:27, “I beat my body and make it my slave.” Look up this text, put it in its context, and work out the different ways we can glorify the Lord through our personal physical care:

VII. Redeeming Rewarded!

In conclusion, two points must be mentioned.

Firstly, there is a warning. Many people fail to live a disciplined life, not because they do not make the attempt, but because it's not an all round attempt. It's useless to concentrate on one part of life and to ignore another part because eventually the bad part will influence the other part.

Secondly, there is an encouragement. The setting up of the disciplined life is a slow process, which cannot be achieved in the twinkling of an eye or by waving a magic wand.

An athlete becomes good by constant training. We have to be good soldiers for Christ. No one can carry out what has just been suggested unless they have the military qualities of courage, endurance, obedience and discipline. Our Commander calls us to leave behind soft, spoilt and spineless living, and to endure hardship like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. And we as Christian soldiers will not fail to do this because our aim is to please our Commander, to please Him who first enfolded us as His Soldiers.

Thinking It Through

Christians are not to be quitters. Using Hebrews 10:36, bring out how you will receive what the Lord has promised right now, through your disciplined life:

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Faith in Focus / NZ Reformed Church / thirty@paradise.net.nz / Copyright 2001