Ephesians 6.4 commands fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
While this verse is geared toward fathers and their role as spiritual leaders of their home, the commands can be applied more broadly to both our personal lives and the work all Christians are to engage of disciple making.
Specifically the disciplines and instructions we are to live and teach others. What does the discipline of the Lord even mean?
Most of the current conversation around the christian life tends to center on freedom rather than discipline. The Bible makes clear Christians are free from condemnation by God or others if the works of Jesus are what we rely upon to get to heaven. In the same vain, Christians are free from performance requirements either to get to heaven or to remain on the road to heaven. Freedom is a major Biblical theme.
Discipline is too really but we don’t discuss it much. Like diet, we are free to eat whatever we like, but to stay healthy we need discipline to eat better. So what are the Christian disciplines?
First, is to lock in on focus of Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. This is mainly accomplished through regular reading, meditating, studying and hearing the Scriptures. The discipline to ‘eat’ regularly the bread of God which is His Word, the Son revealed in all of the Scriptures, is necessary for proper Christian development.
Other disciplines that Jesus modeled or specifically commanded are prayer, giving, and serving. These things require our effort and focus for they are not natural to us. We do not come into this world seeking God or giving first and most to others of our time, talent or treasure. Likewise we must work to have Jesus’ attitude of not living on earth to be served but to serve even giving our lives for others.
Discipline is required for doing certain things we don’t naturally want to do in order to get better at the things we should do. Discipline is also not doing certain things in order to reach our goals. Back to the diet analogy, it is not eating a fourth piece of pizza or a late night bowl of ice cream if we are trying to lose weight.
So too the Scripture commands we no longer gratify the desires of our sinful nature, that is the ways of men that are the reason God had to provide a sacrifice for our salvation in the first place. All those things from which we are commanded to repent and turn away from require the discipline of our lives to no longer return to them.
All of these disciplines, what to do and what not to do, are clearly recorded in God’s instruction manual for living – the Christian Bible. If we will but read it, study it and meet to discuss it we will find our lives are better today and guaranteed better tomorrow.