Discipline and grace Pt. 1

We tend to think that the spirit-led life, the life of grace and mercy, is a life of free-wheeling ‘where the wind blows’ craziness. To a certain extent it is. We see this in the life of Jesus:

“”The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”” John 3:8, NKJV.

If you ever try to do a study on Jesus in terms of time management, productivity, or discipline, you will find that there is nothing there. He’s going here, going there, up praying at 4 AM unexpectedly (if He always did this, wouldn’t the disciples have known what to expect?) He would hang around and then leave town unexpectedly. the disciples never had any idea what He was going to do next. It’s almost like the defining characteristic of Jesus’ walk was its complete unpredictability from day to day. Some need came along and He turned aside; yet in every case it served as a teaching moment for the disciples, and in every case it all fit some larger purpose.

Despite the apparent chaos, there is an order, an intensity, a focus to Jesus’ way of living. He had a tremendous vision to seriously offer the kingdom of God to the nation of Israel before we see a clear shift in focus where He turns away from that and begins to focus on His disciples and building up the seed of the church. This is way beyond the scope of this post, but next time you read through one of the gospels watch for it, and in the middle of the craziness and the wind-blown itinerary, we see a focus and a discipline to teach certain things to certain groups and not to other groups, to heal people for a time in an area and then leave others unhealed and move on.

Look at this passage:

“Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; “and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”” Mark 10:32-34, NKJV.

This is toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and we see that the disciples were amazed, because they understood the danger, the impending calamity, that certainly awaited Him there. He knew what He needed to do, it was not pleasant, and yet the Spirit led Him, just like it led Him to the desert to be tempted, to His crucifixion. He marched ahead of them, facing up, moving surely toward His fate. On the way, as usual, He is interrupted and heals people and takes on the issues and problems and addresses the misunderstandings of the disciples. The discipline and order of the spirit led life is not one that avoids difficulty, nor is it one that avoids the messy problems of real people along the way. Peter, who was on that road with Him, and was one of the amazed ones, presses the point:

“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1, 2, NKJV.

ARM yourselves with the same purpose! If you are ready to suffer in the flesh, if you have it in mind to do God’s bidding no matter the cost, if you have set your face toward the place of your cross, you are ARMED, you are dangerous to the forces of evil. If you are distracted, seeking comfort and entertainment, led astray with spiritual ‘ADD’, if you are not ready to face your obvious purpose and fate, you are unarmed, harmless, aimless, wandering, and ineffectual.

It is strange, but you can always bet that the one thing you are avoiding is the one thing that is the most important thing you need to do. Once you lay that aside, once you set your mind to suffer, once you are of a mind to set your face like flint toward your Jerusalem, you are freed. It is strange as well that it is usually one thing, one simple thing, that faces you, and it is not that you lack revelation or understanding, it is that you do not want to suffer, you enjoy your aimless comfort. It is a problem of the will, not of the lack of some mystic revelation, that prevents you from being in the stream of the strong purpose of the Spirit’s leading.

Paul, the guru of grace, has much to say about all of this. One of my favorites is in his letter to Timothy:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV.

and here:

“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.” 2 Timothy 2:1-7, NKJV.

We have an agenda, a clear manifest. We are not called to cordon ourselves off from the random needs of people and the daily pressure of the unexpected, but rather we are called to freely, by the Spirit, arm ourselves with the strong purpose to take up our cross, and go forward with the amazing adventure of following Him who did the same for us. The Christian idea of discipline under grace is broader and more free than keeping a planner perfectly with each 15 minute time slot filled in. Discipline under grace is effectual and gets to the heart of us in the most direct way.

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