The Direction of Discipline

By Robert Bember
Senior Communications Advisor

<!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin-top:0in; margin-right:0in; margin-bottom:10.0pt; margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:SecI had a baseball coach who used to remind us that practice did not make perfect, but instead that it made permanent. If we weren’t practicing well, we would permanently not play well. No amount of practice would make me a good hitter if I insisted on dropping my shoulder and popping up balls in practice. Practicing bad habits only yields more bad habits.

Discipline is the same way, though we have a tendency to only see it as a productive act. We’re all disciplined, and we are constantly disciplining ourselves, but in which direction are we disciplining ourselves?

In 1 Timothy 4, Paul urges Timothy to train himself for godliness. The word “train” is the same as the word “discipline,” which is defined as “to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind.”  Often times, it takes exceptional effort to train ourselves in righteousness. Daily we come to crossroads where we have to choose to train ourselves in righteousness or unrighteousness.

I’d venture to say that Christ followers are typically aware of the need to practice and train themselves in righteousness, but forget about the other side of the coin. Every time we choose unrighteousness, we’re disciplining ourselves in unrighteousness. We’re further instilling bad habits, and those habits become easier and easier to repeat with every poor decision.

I try to watch what I eat. More often than not, I do a pretty good job of putting decent things in my body. Every time I say no to junk food, I get stronger. I’m more equipped to say no the next time the opportunity presents itself. On the other hand, when I cave, I begin to rationalize and more lapses often follow.

We must become more aware of the consequences of or choices and continually ask in what direction are we training ourselves. Today, will you discipline yourself in purity or impurity, humility or pride, selflessness or selfishness? Ultimately, will you choose to stand firm and feast on righteousness or fold in the face of temptation and discipline yourself to give in?

But praise God that our discipline is fueled by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit and that our failures are covered by the blood of Christ. For a more in depth look at this topic, I highly recommend the book “The Discipline of Grace” by Jerry Bridges.

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