31 Jan DISCIPLINE – Experiencing true freedom through sacrifice and obedience
In just a few short weeks, our globe will be captivated by the awe-inspiring athleticism of the world’s elite athletes. We will “ooh” and “ahh” at the strength, speed, agility, and grace exhibited across various forms of competition. Though these men and women come from various walks of life, representing different countries, cultures, and beliefs, they all have something in common. Discipline.
Jesus called those who followed Him most closely His disciples. These were those who sat at His feet and walked in His dust every day during His ministry. The word “disciple” is clearly rooted in the word “discipline.” Discipline is a word we often cringe at, because we know that to be truly disciplined means we have to sacrifice something. Whether it’s passing on dessert, not buying those to-die-for heels, or waking up 30 minutes earlier to make it to the gym. Even if we value or desire that which we are aiming for, the discipline required to attain it moves us out of our comfort zone.
Jesus challenged His followers that if they truly wanted to be His disciples they needed to live disciplined lives. In Luke 9:23 Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Jesus clearly states that discipleship requires self-sacrifice. At another point in His ministry, in John 8:31, He says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” Holding to His teaching means obedience to His Word. Self-sacrifice and obedience are two of the characteristics that Jesus says marks those who are truly His disciples. (Let’s also not forget LOVE; John 13:35) But look at what Jesus says in verse 32 of John 8: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
For myself, discipline used to sound like the opposite of freedom. Freedom is eating whatever I want, sleeping late, lounging around the house in my PJs all day, and binging on Netflix. But if I really think about it, simply doing the things I want to do never moves me closer to the person I want to be. No relationship, no skill or talent, no task has ever been improved upon when I choose to just do what’s comfortable. The truth is, real freedom (not the counterfeit version of freedom that society has convinced us of) requires discipline.
Let’s think back to those Olympians who will soon have us all in awe and wonderment; in particular, envision an ice-skater. The freedom of expression they display as they gracefully glide, leap, twirl, and seemingly defy gravity is the result of discipline and obedience to their coach. If we desire the freedom Christ promises, we too must practice discipline and obedience to our Teacher. This comes by renewing and transforming our minds through His Word and then applying it to our lives through acts of discipline, sacrifice, and obedience (*Romans 12:1-2). If Christ-likeness is our goal, discipline is our means. We may not always understand all of God’s ways, and sometimes His instructions can seem painfully impossible, but just like an athlete, we know that discipline produces progress. Only after we have disciplined ourselves can we appreciate the wisdom of our Teacher and experience true freedom.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you think about the topic of discipline:
1. What are some areas of your life where you want to experience true freedom?
2. What does freedom in those areas look like to you?
3. What steps of discipline do you think would enable you to achieve your goal? (ie: spending more time in God’s Word, having a more disciplined prayer life, sharing my hurts and hang-ups with trusted friends and believers, memorizing Scripture, etc)
*Additional reading on DISCIPLINE
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
2 Timothy 2:1-7
2 Peter 1:3-11