Sunday, December 18, 2005

Godliness Through Discipline - Jay E. Adams

Do you remember the last time that you left a church service all fired up to change? You were determined to be different. "This time," you said, "I mean it; I am going to become the person that God wants me to be!" By Tuesday the fire had burned out. The last time that you read a booklet like this you may have decided: "From now on . . ." but here you are today, pretty much the same as always. You mean well, but nothing significant seems to happen; you have been trying, but not really making it.

There has been some change, some growth, some blessing, but not the kind that you so earnestly would like to see. Now that is the experience of many Christian people; you are not alone in this problem. Some have given up the hope of ever becoming significantly different. Perhaps you have too. "Another booklet full of impractical platitudes," you may be thinking, as you start to put down this pamphlet. Don't do it! I promise you, there is practical help inside. Read on, and find out for yourself. After all, there are Christian people whom you meet from time to time whose lives are different. Somehow they must have found the answer. You can too. You have the same God, the same Bible and the same power available as they. Yet, there is one difference between you and them.

Why is it that you have failed in your attempts? Why is it that you rarely succeed even in your determination to change in small ways? There must be something wrong. You want to do the right thing; yet you so rarely achieve it. Of course, there may be many reasons for this. At the bottom of it all is sin. But here let us single out one major reason (perhaps the major reason) why the gears don't seem to mesh, as they should. What is the problem? You may have sought and tried to obtain instant godliness. There is no such thing. Today we have instant pudding, instant coffee, instant houses shipped on trucks, instant everything. And we want instant godliness as well. We want somebody to give us three easy steps to godliness, and we'll take them next Friday and be godly. The trouble is, godliness doesn't come that way.

The Bible is very plain about how godliness does come. Paul wrote about godliness to Timothy. In his first letter to that budding young minister, he said, in contrast to all of the ways that will fail (mentioned in the first part of the verse), "Timothy, you must discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness" (I Timothy 4:7). Discipline is the secret of godliness.

The word discipline has disappeared from our minds, our mouths, our pulpits, and our culture. We hardly know what discipline means in modern American society. And yet, there is no other way to attain godliness; discipline is the path to godliness. You must learn to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.

The first thing to notice is that there is no option about being godly. Paul's words constitute a divine command by which God tells us to discipline ourselves for that purpose. God intends for His children to be godly. It is also clear that He wants them to be godly, since He orders them to discipline themselves for godliness. In other places He commands the very same thing. He says, for example, "Be holy as I am holy," and "Be perfect as I am perfect." It is certain that we will never reach perfection in this life (I John 1:8), but perfect godliness is the goal toward which every believer must discipline himself and toward which he must move every day. This means becoming more like God Himself each day. The godly man leads a life that reflects God. Godliness is the goal of the Christian life; we must please God by being, thinking, doing, saying and feeling in the ways that He wants us to.

Now notice that God says we are to discipline ourselves "for the purpose of (or, literally, toward) godliness." The original means, "to be oriented toward godliness." Your whole life ought to be disciplined (i.e., structured, set up, organized, and running day by day) toward the goal of godliness. Everything that happens and everything that you do should contribute something toward reaching that goal. Monday through Saturday, not only Sunday, you must move toward the goal, one step, or two steps or ten steps further down the road. You will become that much more like God only because of what you have done and thought and said each day. "But that is exactly the sort of impractical generalization that I thought you would write! Certainly I know God wants me to be godly, but that is just the problem. I don't live a disciplined life each day, and you haven't told me how I can." Well, I shall. But one thing at a time. If you are going to learn discipline, you must first learn patience. We'll come to that in due time. Remember, godliness is not instant, and neither is the explanation of how to attain it!

Let's get back to our train of thought. When your life is oriented toward (or focused upon) godliness, the goal will constantly come into your mind. You will think at work, at home, or in school, "I am to reflect Him in this project." Isn't that what you want? If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you must want that. There are times, of course, when you are discouraged or that you get tired or become upset, when you lose sight of the goal. You may even rebel against the idea. But if you are a genuine believer in Christ, the well never runs dry; down in your heart the desire trickles back, and you find yourself saying, "That is what I want." It is true that you "hunger and thirst after righteousness."

When Paul writes, "You are a new creature; all things have become new," this is what he has in mind: the Holy Spirit has oriented you toward God and His holiness, putting a new focus on all of life. But that does not automatically make you godly. Because of the work of Christ you have been counted perfect in God's sight, but in actuality you are still far from the goal. Yet, your new life in Christ is oriented toward godliness; that is why at times you ache for it.

The problem is that although basically your orientation is new, many of your day-by-day practices are not yet oriented toward godliness. The "old man" (old ways of living) is still your unwelcome companion. So seldom do you see your life practically oriented as it ought to be that perhaps you have despaired. You must not. The reason why your good resolves have not been realized may be that you have never learned how to discipline yourself for godliness.

Continued Here


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