Titus 2:11,12--For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age.
During winter Ranger school, a technique my father taught me came in handy for protecting my feet. Dad is a Marine, (you discover in life there’s no such thing as “was” a marine), who fought in the Korean war. He made a vow that he would never complain about the heat for the rest of his life because of the brutal winters on the Korean peninsula. Even living in the tropical Philippines, I never heard him utter the slightest comment regarding heat.
Dad’s technique for avoiding frostbite was to keep a pair of wool socks against his stomach. Whenever his feet were numb or wet with perspiration, he would change into a fresh dry pair. That faithful habit saved his hammer toes from getting nailed by the breath of a merciless cold. Many men wouldn’t take the time to carry an extra pair of socks and keep them dry. Their lack of discipline cost them dearly.
Discipline is fundamental to our survival. If we didn’t make the effort to drink, eat and sleep right, our bodies would shut down. Discipline is vital for growth. If we want our minds to expand we must make the effort to study. If we want our bodies to be healthy we must work out!
Spiritual gain also requires discipline. God knows how prone we are to forsake the harder right for the easier wrong—to disobey laws He established for our welfare. We can work our buns off trying to “be spiritual” and fail miserably. Discipline apart from God’s grace is as effective as trying to keep a car running with only original parts—sooner or later something breaks down.
The key to spiritual discipline is grace spelled J-E-S-U-S. Jesus modeled how to turn away from ungodliness and worldly passions. After a 40 day fast in the desert, He blew apart Satan’s temptations with the thundering power of God’s Word (Matthew 4:4). Every trap the religious establishment set to take Him down failed—they could find no fault in the Son of Man. Jesus met temptation but refused to give in. From the days of Adam to our day, no man or woman has ever been able to mount the platform and capture the gold medal of Perfection except the Lamb of God Who scored only 10’s.
Satan cheered His crucifixion and thought His discipline a pathetic waste of time. Heaven roared when He rose up from the grave. He took “just say no” to the limits, loaded the sins of the world on His back and by one perfect sacrifice rocked the gates of hell—permanently. By His example we learn how to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives. The Apostle Paul wrote:
I have been crucified with Christand I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2:19b-21).
Paul recognized that discipline through grace cannot fail for grace makes a way where none existed. Therefore, the key to spiritual discipline is to make Jesus’ core values our core values, His behavior our standard, His instruction our tenets. He is perfect that we can be made perfect.
Saying no to temptation is not easy! Don’t expect to run a spiritual race and not get side cramps. The Bible says we can expect to suffer when we seek to be like Jesus. So we need to be prepared! It’s little habits like taking the time to carry extra socks that make a big difference over time. Here are some spiritual disciplines I work hard to perpetuate to prevent becoming a casualty to sin:
1. Daily nourishment in God’s Word. The Bible gives me my marching orders, reveals dangers, provides instruction in how to grow, and lets me know how God expects me to live. Trying to walk the Christian walk without the Bible would be like hang gliding blindfolded.
2. Consistent time in prayer—listening to the Holy Spirit, sharing from the heart, confessing where I’ve blown it.
3. Weekly fellowship with other disciplined followers focused on worshiping God.
4. Weekly accountability to a ranger buddy—we keep close tabs on our weak areas.
Unfortunately, discipline is not a popular word today. It’s much easier to give in to the flesh so we repeatedly break God’s commandments because: someone abused us growing up; “the majority can’t be wrong”; living holy costs us popularity, power, position or prominence; we were born different from others; God understands and will forgive me; “only the good die young”; it's easier to disobey.
Don’t lose heart in your desire to live above the swamp of sin. “In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4). Spiritual discipline is much more than identifying what we ought to do, it is having the courage to walk step-by-step in accordance with God’s will! Take the grace God extends in Christ and be strong in the Lord!
God will not discipline us, we must discipline ourselves. God will not bring every thought and imagination into captivity; we have to do it. Do not say--O Lord, I suffer from wandering thoughts. Don’t suffer from wandering thoughts.—Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest
©1998 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)