Discipline or Discipleship

I have been pondering the difference between discipline and discipleship lately. I won’t presume to have a solid grasp on the answers to any of the questions this has produced in me, but it has certainly opened my eyes to some destructive tendencies that have come out of a life overly focused on discipline alone. I find that discipline alone tends to lead toward legalism, and legalism sounds the death knell of faith.

Before I go on let me be clear about the issue of discipline. I do not believe that exercising discipline is wrong or unwise. God even expects us to be disciplined (orderly) in how we approach our faith and our lives. But as I observe people, and especially take inventory of my own life, I find that many of us have crucified faith on the altar of discipline. In other words, we worship our discipline(s) rather than the Divine One.

This is not what God designed us for.

The more I study God’s Word and engage in conversations with Him, the more I realize how deeply passionate He is about my devotion to Him. He wants (and deserves) every part of me to be in total submission and surrender to Him. He desires this, not only because He is deserving of it, but because He understands the benefits that such devotion brings to my life and relationships. Single-minded focus on God produces the fruit of abundant life.

So I believe a shift in focus must occur if we as Christians are going to experience this abundant life that Jesus’ spoke of so long ago. This shift in focus must move us from seeing discipline as the “end all” of our Christian faith to embracing discipleship as our process for becoming what God designed us to be.

Discipleship focuses on God in the context of relationship; first with Him, then with others. This is a forever changing, forever growing, forever exploring adventure. Discipline alone, on the other hand, tends to draw our focus toward the “task” of relationship rather than simply interacting with God and others.

How does such a shift in focus affect our struggle with sexual temptation? Shouldn’t we be more focused on discipline so we can resist each temptation we face? I would argue that when we lock in too intently on discipline alone as the answer for resisting temptation, we actually end up more frustrated and defeated. Discipline often deceives us into thinking that our resisting of temptation has something to do with our own power or strength. It doesn’t. The truth is that only God can defeat the temptations in our lives and cause us to walk away. Therefore, it is through discipleship, or a growing intimacy and connection with God, that we are truly set free to live a daily life of sexual purity.

A final significant difference I must mention between discipline and discipleship is that discipline can often be pursued in isolation, whereas discipleship requires relationship. This is key in understanding the immeasurable value of becoming a disciple of Christ. We were never designed to live in isolation and disconnection; from God or others. This is where discipleship takes us out of our comfort zone, but this is ultimately for our good. In fact, God has mysteriously designed our accountability relationships with others to act as a hedge of protection, helping us fight the battle against sexual lust. Our discipleship relationships form a sort of ‘purity team’ that aids in strengthening our individual fight for purity. We need godly teammates in order to win this ongoing battle.

What’s the bottom line here? Discipline is important, but it is through discipleship that your life is transformed.

Where can you begin in shifting your perspective to developing more of a balance between these two? Take a look at your relationships and see if there are some individuals with whom you can go deeper, inviting them to be part of your purity team. Also, evaluate your relationship with God and ask Him to show you how to grow in your intimacy with Him. In the long run, you will be glad you got serious about discipleship.

As I promised, I don’t have all the answers. Just some thoughts rattling around in my head about some contrasts between discipline and discipleship. Maybe they are helpful thoughts. I know they have helped me to be more aware of the moments when I have preferred to grasp onto discipline rather than grow in my relationship with God. By God’s grace, I pray we will become the faithful disciples He desires us to be.

For help in developing grace based discipline born out of discipleship, please see Every Man’s Battle.
Also click here to view more helpful resources for men.

Jonathan Daugherty

Recovery as Spiritual Warfare, Part 1

The opening scene of Saving Private Ryan was riveting. I had never before seen such a realistic portrayal of men going into battle. The vomiting and praying, tangible expressions of the upset the men were going through, were believable.

As He prepared for the battle of Calvary, the Bible tells us that Jesus sweat blood. He poured out His heart in prayer to His Father. He was prepared for the battle and did not flinch in the face of it.

Examining Paul’s second letter to Corinth can help us better understand how we can prepare for and win the battle before us.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

WE ARE CITIZENS OF TWO KINGDOMS THAT ARE AT WAR

Paul says we are waging war. We live in the world. The majority of you who are reading this are US citizens. But Paul makes clear that we are fighting an otherworldly battle while we are here. By faith we are citizens of God’s kingdom. The battle lines are drawn.

God’s objective is to show His glory by redeeming His fallen creation and fallen creatures. At the same time, Satan’s objective is to obscure the glory of God. Because Christian marriage is a part of God’s creative design, God’s enemies attack husbands and wives in order to divide them and rob them of the joy that results from true intimacy.

Sexual sin is one aspect of the disciple’s struggle. When Christian men are sexually impure, God’s love and grace are obscured and Satan gains a victory in the battle for God’s kingdom. The battle for sexual purity is a battle for recovery from the effects of the sin nature. Recovery is discipleship. Recovery is putting off and putting on.

WE ARE SOLDIERS IN GOD’S KINGDOM ARMY¬†

All who know Christ by faith are soldiers of the King’s army. There are no deferments. There are no conscientious objectors. There is no Switzerland, no neutrality in this war. I am a warrior for God’s kingdom.

Over 2,000 years ago, Sun Tzu wrote the timeless military classic, The Art of War. In it, he challenged: ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.’

In gathering intelligence about the enemy, we immediately consider the devil and the world. What we often fail to consider is that while I am a soldier, I am also fighting on the enemy side’my flesh is at war with the Spirit’s work in my life. While I am still vulnerable to the evil desires of my flesh, the temptations that this world offers, and the attacks of Satan and his legions, I am not vulnerable as I once was. By faith, I benefit from the indwelling Holy Spirit and the promises of God’s Word.

Further, I can’t win the war by myself. Paul didn’t write, ‘I do not wage war as the world does.’

The Rambo movies were very popular, but not a true reflection of genuine war. My addiction predisposes me to isolate myself from others and attempt to fight the war alone. Wars are a fought on an overwhelming scale and require armies to vanquish the enemy. By faith, I have been placed in a company of those who aspire to do God’s will and do it, though not perfectly.

Just as an individual soldier is trained to fight as a part of a squad, a platoon, a company, etc., so we need training to begin fighting our addiction alongside others. Many of the men who attend the Every Man’s Battle workshop find sharing their stories with others to be freeing. They feel like they have unburdened themselves. However, they often struggle after they return home to unburden themselves with the men they work or worship with. In order to win the battle for purity, I must become we. For the soldier, his training doesn’t end with Basic Training. And so we need training that continues beyond Every Man’s Battle.

See the article Recovery As Spiritual Warfare part 2, where we will consider the objectives and tactics that Paul urges us to adopt in fighting this spiritual war.

Jim Phillis

The Male Wound of Pride

Sam Fraser

C.S. Lewis wrote an article a half-century ago about men and pride. Essentially his point is that the temptation for men is to be too proud to ask for help. Christian or secular it’s a guy thing! Universally, it is the hardest word to speak out loud. Help! It has long been a part of our cultural standard to not ask for help. It is hard enough to ask for directions let alone something so much more intimate. Asking for help is being needy. We receive the message over and over that to be needy is shameful. Admitting that we are not self-sufficient is unspeakable. We learned a long time ago on the playground that expressing certain feelings was not cool. Coupled with no validating adult males growing up to help us understand ourselves, we end up feeling confused and insecure inside. But on the outside we learn to not let it show. Much of our most tender parts gets shut down or buried. We end up loners, isolated hiding behind a false mask called pride.

We hide behind pride when we pretend we don’t need help even when we do. Many of us have male friendships but not so close that we can talk openly about our struggle with sexual integrity.

Learning how to ask for help for sexual integrity is a very humbling experience.

I remember the first time I reached out by going to a 12-step meeting. In those days, as a Christian, there were few avenues available and the church had no clue how to help. I literally stood with my hand on the door fighting with shame to step inside. So much of me wanted to turn and run. My pride won out and I did not go through that door. It was too humiliating to admit I was like all those others guys who couldn’t make it on their own. It was another 12 years until the pain outweighed the fear and I got help. And even then, reaching out was a product of being caught and having my world come crashing down all around me.

One of the defining characteristics of each man that comes to an Every Man’s Battle workshop is trying to fight the battle by himself. Not asking for help, attempting to fight this battle alone, isolated. As men, we experience a lot of guilt and shame because we can’t stop playing with ourselves. I could rationalize it when I was young but not as an adult. And as a Godly man, we feel all the more that we should be able to handle our sex drive. We think that since no other guys are talking about it we must be the only one with the problem. Whoops, got to hide that one!

Since we are not talking about it and for one reason or another seem unable to experience any sustained victory on our own, we end up feeling defeated. Our pride keeps us from confessing this failure in an important area of our Christian walk. We fake that every thing is okay or we avoid others by keeping everyone at a distance to hide the secret.

Pride keeps us from getting the help we need. Our wound won’t let us ask for help.

One of the main features when men begin to succeed is that they get connected to other men. Essentially, admitting the need for help. It takes all kinds of strength and courage to admit the need for help.

The Bible refers to reaching out for help and identifies as humility. Mmmm, humility! When I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:10 ). For many of us God has been very patient in this important area and He will continue to be so. What Christ has done on the cross will always make it true. This issue has been the downfall for many and will continue to defeat us as long as we remain in male pride. It will continue to take us down unless we are humble enough to ask for help and connect with other men for support and encouragement. It is one of the defining moments for every man who attends EMB. It takes a strong man, not a weak one, to admit that. Pride or humility? Your choice.

If you can’t attend EMB, get connected locally. Pray and God will lead you.
Call 1-800 New Life and get a referral. There are options and help is available.
Get H-E-L-P!