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Archive for the ‘discipline’ Category

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It’s my goal in 2019 to read the Bible from cover to cover – from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22 – again. My plea is that you would join me. It’s a great discipline to begin and maintain.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It’s indispensible to the Christian life. Much of the confusion we see in the church and in the world is a direct result of a lack of biblical knowledge as well as a lack of submission and obedience. Regular Bible intake will help solve that problem.

I’ve been using the 5 Day Plan for the last three years and it’s worked well for me. You can find it here. Ligonier lists around ten plans, all of them excellent and with different degrees of difficulty.

What’s the best read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan? The one you use!

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I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga and four other men preach a sermon called “Wisdom from the Aged.” Here is a summary of their sermon in one sentence: A commitment to God’s Word, His mercy and grace, discipline, and being a blessing will help you live for the Lord wherever He has placed you.

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Grace – God’s unmerited and undeserved favor – is amazing in more ways than we normally think. Titus 2:11-14 illustrates it: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” 

“The grace of God has appeared” (verse 11) in the person of Jesus Christ. That grace brought “salvation.” God saves us by His grace and we praise Him for it! He opened our eyes when we were spiritually blind; He opened our spiritually deaf ears; and He gave us a heart of flesh in exchange for the heart of stone each of us have by nature – and He did all of this by His grace! We didn’t deserve it, couldn’t earn it, and, in fact, deserve the exact opposite.

Everyone who has repented of their sin and has believed in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation did so solely because of God’s grace. We’ve been redeemed by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. But does that give us a “get out of jail card free card” with respect to our behavior and conduct as a Christian? Can we live any way we want because we’re saved by grace?

No, it doesn’t and no, we can’t! Still on the subject of “the grace of God” from verse 11, verse 12 begins with the phrase “instructing us.” The grace of God not only saves us, but instructs us (or teaches, disciplines, trains us). To what end? Grace instructs us “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” In other words, grace doesn’t softly whisper in your ear to go ahead and indulge yourself because God doesn’t really care anymore; rather grace teaches us, trains us, and disciplines us to say no to ungodliness and yes to godliness. While we’re at it, we await the second coming of “our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (verse 13), who “redeemed us from every lawless deed” on the negative side, and is purifying “for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (verse 14). By His grace, God has redeemed us “from every lawless deed” and “for good deeds.” God is just as concerned with our birth (justification) as He is with our growth (sanctification).

God’s grace is truly amazing – through it we’re saved, taught, empowered, and changed!

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To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it’s been tried and found difficult.”

He’s right – being a disciple of Jesus Christ is hard. It isn’t easy to follow Christ. Perhaps that’s why Paul told Timothy, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). The word “discipline” has the meaning of agonizing – working to the point of agony – in order to pursue the goal of godliness (which should be the goal of everyone who believes in Jesus Christ).

It’s hard to study God’s Word and properly interpret it in it’s context. It takes work and too often we’re tempted to wait until God “whispers the answer in our ear.” It’s easier to rely on a study Bible or our favorite teacher (or church) to tell us what it means, or even go so far as to say, “There are so many different interpretations; nobody reals knows what it means.”

It’s hard to pray. Our prayer should be fervent and continual, but that’s not easy. Our minds wander and it’s not hard to forget. It’s easier to neglect it and tell ourselves that “God knows what’s in my heart.”

It’s hard to apply God’s Word to our life – to actually try to do what it says. Success in obeying and putting into practice what the Lord has told us involves agonizing work  with a lot of starts and stops. Hearing the Word is easier than hearing it and then doing it.

It’s hard to evangelize. We find it easier to remain quiet and “let our life do the witnessing,” as if that were even possible. It’s easier to leave it to “the professionals.”

It’s hard to have real fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and I mean the kind of fellowship that goes beyond “Hi! How are you?” over coffee and doughnuts. It’s easier to keep to ourselves and not mix too much with those who don’t always think like we do, don’t have the same life experiences that we do, and are just, well, different.

It’s hard to minister to and serve other people. It’s easier to say we don’t have the time or the talent to lend a hand where and when it’s needed, then it is too actually help. It’s easier to see it as an interruption rather than as a divinely given opportunity.

It’s hard to “mortify the flesh” (Rom. 8:13) – to put to death the deeds of our sinful nature. We have to work at it every day, and the truth is that we won’t complete the task in this lifetime. It’s easier to give up and say, “That’s just the way I am; I’ll never change,” or “God understands; He’ll forgive me.”

It’s hard to stand for and defend biblical doctrine and values in a society that denies (and ridicules) all of them. It’s easier to give in and compromise for the sake of “love,” “unity,” and “compassion.”

The list could go on and on, but the point is simple: being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is hard – not easy. I’m persuaded that this is a reason some people leave the church (in may cases joining the Roman Catholic church, Eastern Orthodoxy, or some form of Protestant leftism): they get tired of the fight. Sure, they want to identify as a Christian, but the don’t want the fight, the hard work that goes along with it.

The good news is that God gives us the strength and ability to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness through His Holy Spirit! Hard doesn’t mean impossible when the Spirit of God is involved.

Don’t be deceived into thinking that being a disciple of Jesus is easy – it isn’t. It’s hard, but it’s what God has called us to as His people.

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After reading through the Bible in a year, Bear Grylls made this statement – “What did I learn? I am a great sinner, Christ is a great redeemer.” Amen!

Reading through the Bible from cover-to-cover is something every Christian, and every person who wants to consider themselves educated, should do. It doesn’t matter if you do it in a year or not, just do it.

This year, I’ll be using the “5 Day Bible Reading Plan” from http://www.bibleclassmaterial.com. It’s “basically chronological” with readings from both the Old and New Testaments. It’s different in that there are only five days of reading per week, giving time to catch up if you need it. You can print out a copy of the reading plan here.

There are a number of other good plans, too. Ligonier has several here. All of the ESV’s reading plans are here. Whichever you choose, stick with it, and you’ll learn what bear Grylls did.

“Am I a Christian, Pastor Timothy Keller?” is a very interesting op-ed written by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. He asks Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, a series of questions. Keller answers his questions in what sounds like a conversation between the two. You should read it. Most of us have been asked questions like this before, and it’ll help us prepare and think through our answers. You can read it here.

We saw Rogue One last week, and thought it was very good.

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Job’s friends receive our scorn, and to a certain extent, rightly so.

Perhaps they did their best work by going to be with Job after they heard about what had happened to him. They sat in silence for seven days. On the eighth day, they began to speak and offer their advice to Job. That’s where most of us get off the bus – we’re under the impression that everything they said was wrong. But it wasn’t, at least not all of it. Their advice was correct, but it didn’t apply to Job and his situation.

Therefore, as you read through the book of Job, don’t skip or skim over the words of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu. They have some good things to say – things that may not have applied to Job, but do apply to you and me. A case in point is Eliphaz in 5:17-19:

“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves,
So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For He inflicts pain, and gives relief;
He wounds, and His hands also heal.
From six troubles He will deliver you,
Even in seven evil will not touch you.”

The writer of the book of Hebrews puts it like this:

 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lordnor faint when you are reproved by Himfor those whom the Lord loves He disciplinesand He scourges every son whom He receives.”

 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of  spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (12:4-11)

God disciplines, or chastises, His children for our good and in order that we might share in His holiness (in other words, become more holy as time goes by). He’s not punishing us by means of our trials, suffering, and pain, because Jesus Christ was punished for our sins once for all when He died on the cross. According to Eliphaz and the writer of Hebrews, we shouldn’t despise it.

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I had the privilege this morning of preaching on Genesis 29:1-30 (Laban deceives Jacob into marrying both Leah and Rachel). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: God uses the hammer and chisel of circumstances, discipline, difficult people, and time to sculpt us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

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