Seeing things through

I think that today’s study is relevant to many Christians – many people get involved in too many church activities, to the extent that they do none of them well – a number get burnt out and tend to blame others for not doing enough and then move to another church to repeat the cycle all over again. Do you know people like this?

Selwyn says: “Another aspect of being disciplines is this: make sure you stay with the things you are certain God has called you to do. … Be careful that you throw yourself only into those things that God wants you to be involved in. Don’t take up everything that comes along. … Get guidance from God, know your call and continue in it. That doesn’t mean you won’t get sidetracked and have to retrace your steps. But discipline yourself to stay with that which is vital. Unharnessed forces roam everywhere and get nowhere – except into trouble. Harnessed to God’s ends, they are disciplined.”

The prayer for today is also good: “O God, once more I ask that You wil help me become a disciplined person. How many needless tasks, I wonder, are slowing me down because I have lacked discipline. Please show me what I should, and should not, be doing. Amen.” 

One way I found works for me – is, before I get involved in any activity, is to pray that if I should participate then the appropriate doors to be smoothly opened, and to be given a sense of peace and joy that it’s the right door. Likewise, if it is not the right path then for the doors to be closed. Have you any suggestions re how to confirm what God has called you to do?

Three life hindrances

I don’t have much to say about today’s study – what Selwyn has to say is fairly obvious - when he expresses the idea that ‘if we are to be disciplined disciples then we must learn not only to discipline our time but to discipline our whole approach to life.’

I like the way he ties the hand, foot and eye together – in regards to Matthew 18:8; ‘ … if it causes you to sin, cut it off (metaphorically).’ The points he makes are:

  • The hand is part of you that takes hold of what you want. It grasps. Don’t take hold of anything unless you are prepared for that thing to take hold of you.
  • The foot is what you use to approach the thing desired. Don’t walk towards something unless you are willing to take hold of that thing and have it take hold of you.
  • Don’t toy with your feelings. The eye looks at the thing you approach and the heart covets. … Your first see then seek. Those who think they can indulge themselves at the point of seeing and pull back at the point of seeking are only fooling themselves.

I think the last point is a good one – it can apply to many areas – especially pornography (which can be expanded to cover Internet chat rooms, mobile phone messages and the like). I’m sure Satan likes to fool people that they can go so far and then ‘safely’ pull back – he just keeps moving the point of pulling back – closer and closer to the object of desire. What do you think?

Do you agree with Selwyn’c conclusion; ‘Discipline the beginnings and the ends will take care of themselves’ ?

 

My time – His time

Today, Selwyn looks at our management of time as part of having a disciplined spirit. He reminds us that we should submit our time to God because it belongs to Him – this submission helps stop us thinking that our time is our time – to do with it as we want – waste it, if that’s our desire. Yet, as with all of God’s gifts, we should seek His help in using the time given to us, in the best possible way.

A good point which Selwyn makes in his introduction is that we don’t earn our salvation through good works rather it is because of our salavation that we THEN desire to do our Father’s will, and to work in His harvest field. Selwyn clarifies this issue as follows: “Salvation is by grace through faith. It is a gift – a gift of God offered to all who will believe. Yet although salvation is a gift, it also involves growth – a growth in character. And character is developed through discipline.”

He also warns us that we should not “become overbalanced on this (time management). Though we must learn to budget our time, we must do so without becoming too tight and rigid.” He gives the good advice that we should follow the example of Jesus in the way He kept His focus on the timing of His sacrifical death and resurrection but was not too rigid.

For example, when Mary came to Him at the wedding in Cana and said to Him, ‘They have no more wine.’ Jesus responded; ‘Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.’ (John 2:4) Yet, He went ahead and changed jars of water into wine.  He was flexible enough to respond to His mother’s request and also managed to keep His focus on the bigger picture. Is this a reasonable example?

Love that ‘springs’

Selwyn uses a James Moffatt translation of 1 Timothy 1:5; ‘The aim of the Christian discipline is the love that springs from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from a sincere faith.’ to show that discipline can produce a love that is free to spring into action.

I like the way he expresses this idea: ‘Love can spring – that is, be spontaneous and free – only if it comes from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. In other words from a disciplined spirit. Any kind of freedom that leaves you with an impure heart, a bad conscience and an insincere faith ends not on springing and singing but in sighing and dying.’  What do you think about this idea?

In addition, I also thought his conclusion was good: “Disciplined people have a sense of power for they know they are working with God, and that God is working with them. They have a love that ‘springs’. Liberty comes through obedience to God’s law. No matter what anyone says to the contrary, there is no liberty without discipline.”

As Selwyn says in his introduction “some people are afraid of the word ‘discipline’, as it conjures up an image of a harsh and rigid type of person”. What must be kept in mind is that God helps us to have a disciplined spirit – we cannot achieve this type of discipline by our own willpower. Instead of being harsh and rigid; a person who allows themselves to be led by God’s Spirit is full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control - these attributes sound like excellent outcomes, to me - surely, a Christian has nothing to fear with this type of discipline!

What’s your view on having a disciplined spirit?

Dependence plus … (disciplined spirit)

Selwyn now moves on to his sixth life conviction: ‘there will be little or no advance in the Christian life without a disciplined spirit’.

He makes a number of good points:

  • ‘Many who have received the free grace of God then let it leak out because of a lack of discipline.’
  • ‘The acceptance of God’s grace is a privilege, but it must be tied in with discipline.’
  • ‘The Christian life is blessedly balanced. Discipline plus dependence makes dependable disciples.’

To illustrate his message, Selwyn uses Galatians 5:1-15, in particular verse 13: ‘You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.’

Further on, in Chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul expands on the conflict that all Christians are caught up in, verses 16 to 21 follow: ‘So, I say, live by God’s Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so you do what you want. But if you are led by God’s Spirit, you are not under (Jewish) law.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.’

I think you would agree that a certain amount of discipline is required to serve one another in love – for, it’s natural for us to want to be served rather than serve – that is, we tend to want to put ourselves first.

Yet, as Paul says – those who let themselves be ruled by their sinful nature will not see heaven – discipline is a matter of life and death.

In 1998, I heard a sermon in Jerusalem that has stuck in my mind because I believe it captured a very important message: the fellow giving the talk covered three phases of Christian maturity: first, when we are young in our faith we are like children going through the ‘terrible twos’ phase. Our relationship with Jesus can be best summarised, by: ‘I want that!’, ‘Give me more toys, more lollies and more play-time.’ Then, as we grow older, our relationship changes – we have gained a lot of knowledge and some discipline is also practised – it’s the teenage/young-adult phase. We would like a better relationship with God, but we still want to decide how/when/what – there is still a remanent of former independence in that we try to serve God and our neighbour, but in our own way.

Finally, as we mature in our faith – we allow God’s Spirit to totally guide us, we seek an understanding of the Father’s work with the help of His Spirit and then we undertake His work according to His will and we try to keep in step with His directions. This ‘adult maturity’ require discipline and total dependence on Jesus – sadly, there are many Christians who after many years, are still in the ‘terrible twos’ phase. Do you agree with this view?

So, you can see – I fully support Selwyn’s conclusion – ‘Discipline plus dependence (on God) makes dependable disciples.’

 

Drinking first

Selwyn spend one more day on his conviction that deep spiritual change comes not so much from the outside in, but from the inside out.

He further explores the link between sin/rebellion and our refusal to depend on God. He says: “I do not think we see sin in all its ugliness and seriousness until we see it as mis placed dependence. …

God has made us with a great thirst for Himself and only He can quench our thirst. But because our carnal nature abhors the feelings of helplessness we experience when we recognise our dependence, we tend to pay lip-service to the truth while actually trusting more in ourselves than in Him.This misplaced dependence is at the core of most of our problems, and putting things right on the outside will never resolve the issue.”

I guess it’s like putting Jesus in the driver’s seat, then telling Him which way to go – and, to just be on the safe side, have a bike strapped to the back of the car – so if you don’t like your destination, you can pedal off – on your own way. 

You can tell people that Jesus is in control of your life – but you neglect to admit that you don’t fully trust Him to take you along the most ‘comfortable’ path. Do you think there are many people like this?

Wells of our own making

I like what Selwyn has to say in today’s study. The drive to become totally independent and immune to any external threats – fuels the “it’s all about me” society in it consumption of ‘things’, in an attempt to demonstrate their individuality and independence. Yet, sadly their lives are ‘broken cisterns that cannot hold (life giving) water’ – their consumption will never provide lasting satisfaction.

The verses for reading and meditation (Jeremiah 2:4-13) are worth thinking about, I also like the following verses (13-15,17, and 19): “‘My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. Is Israel a servant, a slave by birth? Why then has he become plunder? Lions have roared; they have growled at him. They have laid waste his land; his towns are burned and deserted. …

Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when he led you in the way? …

Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider this and realise how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me,’ declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.”

Selwyn says: “If, as we have been saying, deep spiritual change comes about not so much from the outside in, but from the inside out, what do we need to know about our inner selves? Simply this: God has made us beings who are dependent on Him, and has put within every one of us a thirst which only He can satisfy. …

Why would someone prefer to walk past a fountain of fresh, clean water at which they can drink freely and dig a well of their own? It doesn’t make sense. But then our stubbon, sinful tendencies never do make sense. Our carnal nature, which is so deeply committed to independence, abhors feeling hepless. Yet it is precisely this – the feeling of helplessness – which we must be willing to embrace if we are to become dependent on God and drink from His wells rather than those (broken wells) of our own making.

God wants us to freely drink from His well of life, as He knows how much we will enjoy our thirst being eternally satisfied.

Another point, I picked up from Jeremiah 2:19, ‘Consider how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of Me‘. I think the modern Christian has lost, to a certain degree – an awe of Jesus – some ministers appear to emphasise ‘the good man/teacher’ side of His nature and don’t bring forward enough – His glorified nature, as seen in Revelation 1: 16-17 ‘His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead.’ We can take it from these veses that for John seeing Jesus in His glorified state – was obviously awe inspiring. Why is it that some areas of the Church, tend not to portray (in a general sense) Jesus in all His majesty – what are your views on this?