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Archive for the ‘discipline’ Category

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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notes-asides-1

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-and-friends

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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This morning I had the privilege of preaching the third sermon in a three-part series on church discipline. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: May God give us the love, courage, and wisdom to practice biblical church discipline  for His glory and our good.

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I’ve been preaching for the past two Sundays on the subject of church discipline, and I have at least one more sermon to preach. It’s a huge subject that has been shrouded by misunderstanding in the minds of not a few Christians. The theme of these three sermons has been that a healthy church understands and practices biblical church discipline. I haven’t studied a subject in this much depth since seminary (and, interestingly, I didn’t study it in this much depth even in seminary). Here are some of the resources – other than the Word of God itself – that have been helpful to me. They are in no specific order, but I owe a debt of gratitude to each of them.

  •  The Master’s Plan for the Church by John MacArthur
  • Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
  • Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman
  • A Guide to Church Discipline by J. Carl Laney
  • The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander
  • The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
  • The Handbook of Church Discipline by Jay Adams
  • Biblical Church Discipline by Daniel Wray
  • Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church by Donald Whitney

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I had the privilege of preaching this morning on the subject of church discipline (the second in what I hope to be a three-part series). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Corrective church discipline has the purpose of correcting sin in the life of a church member, strengthening the church as a whole, and bringing glory to God.

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