Discipline is defined as, “Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement. Control obtained by enforcing compliance or order.”/1 Discipline is tied to a standard or pattern so that progress can be measured. It is the process of coralling our wild, sinful natures.
George Washington said, “Nothing is more harmful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army superiority over another.” Likewise, it is absolutely essential that we possess disciplined lives and minds if we are to accomplish anything of value in our lives. Certainly, this is no less true of our Christian lives.
God demands that we lead a life according to a standard. We measure ourselves by this pattern found in Scripture. We live as Christ lived and we seek to be the best we can be. We deny our fleshly impulses and surrender to his will (Colossians 3:17; James 4:10). We fight with all we have to resist Satan’s tricks and ploys (Ephesians 6:11; James 4:7).
Discipline means we aspire to a higher calling. We refuse to be held down by our sinful selves because we are certain we can do better. Therefore, strength, courage, and resolve are all natural components of discipline. Plato said that “The first and the best victory is to conquer self.”/2
Scripture teaches us to “deny worldly lusts” because they prevent us from living godly lives (Titus 2:12). Because Christ is in our lives we must “put to death” our sinful desires (Colossians 3:4,5). Self-denial is the opposite of being renewed in Christ. Paul said, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Only when we say yes to Christ and no to self can we be the best we can be.
Basic training in the military requires the same devotion to discipline. They demand that recruits subordinate their own needs and comfort zones to the greater good of their mission. We must “die daily” so we can live in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:31; John 10:10).
The stresses of discipline are individualized. We may find it easy to master attentiveness to worship, Bible study, and prayer and fail miserably in lust, gluttony, or gossip. Yet, the discipline God requires must permeate all of our lives. We must “take up our cross” and submit completely to Christ (Mark 8:34). With God’s help, we can persevere.
As this series continues, we will examine three aspects of discipline. We will study discipline and parenting because it is the most visible usage of the term. We will use the points made in that lesson and apply them to Christian living and finally to church discipline. All three areas are identical in many points.
There are many concepts that we claim are too difficult to understand in Bible study. Yet, they often contain lessons that we have no problem understanding in secular life. If we would just apply them to our spiritual lives, the ambiguities would disappear. This is certainly one of those instances.
Denying Self is the Heart of Christianity