The Word of God makes it abundantly plain that a Christian is to live a disciplined life. His natural life is given by the Creator and is to glorify the One who gave it. His spiritual life is given by the Lord Jesus Christ and is to glorify the One who died and rose again to give it. His daily Christian life is sustained by the Holy Spirit and is to be holy as the One who sustains it is holy.
There is no possibility that a believer’s life will so glorify God unless it is a disciplined life and that disciplined life is described very plainly by large sections of the New Testament Epistles particularly.
Careful discipline under the direction of the Holy Spirit yields what the Apostle Paul describes as a truly fruitful life. Galatians 5:22-25, ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit’. But he also describes in sad detail the characteristics of the undisciplined life in Galatians 5:19-21, ‘Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of GodÂ”.
In these verses it becomes clear that personal discipline has to do with a believer’s use of his body, his time, his possessions, and his strength. It has to do with his inner attitudes and his government of his natural physical feelings and needs and hence his use of God’s gifts of food and drink. This discipline will affect his interactions with those around him and especially his reaction to false teachers, false religions, and evil superstitions.
This personal discipline will be most evident in a believer’s home life amongst those who know him so well. Does the husband love his wife and children? Does the wife love and obey her husband and care for their children? Is their Christianity evident to those closest to them or is it just a ‘Sunday dress or suit’ which disappears by Sunday evening.
Such personal discipline will affect the believer’s connection with the church of which he is a member. Is he truly devoted to the life of the church? Is he regular in his attendance at meetings for believers? Does he organise his working hours, as far as he possibly can, to be free to meet with believers in the week as well as on the Lord’s Day? Is he
willing to stay at home on alternate weeks with the children so that his wife can enjoy the same privileges? Has he time for some of the many extra duties that are necessary in connection with a living church’s activities?
The time a believer spends in prayer and in the study of God’s Word will vary according to many factors but the extent of one’s personal discipline will largely determine how long and how useful this time is.
Paul likens the Christian life to a race in which only the disciplined and well-trained runner will win, 1 Cor. 9:24, ‘Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain’. Again he says it is like a wrestling match and no one who is undisciplined is likely to overcome the opposition in such an intense conflict, Ephes. 6:12, ‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places’.
Our Lord tells His disciples plainly that they are undergoing an endurance test and that only the disciplined will be saved at last. Matt. 10:22, ‘He that endureth to the end shall be saved’. James agrees in chapter 1, verse 12, ‘Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him’.
Such is the vital importance of living a disciplined life of love and devotion to the Lord in humble obedience to His gracious commands. The test of anyone’s professed love to the Lord is the measure of that person’s Christian discipline: for Jesus stated so plainly and briefly, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’, John 14:15.