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

Who Are Safe People?

Jonathan Daugherty

Those who choose to face their bad habits or addictive patterns are brave folks. It takes courage to admit you are not in control and need help. One of the bits of advice that I often give to individuals seeking to overcome their sexual addictions is to surround themselves with “safe” people. I want to take this short article to expand on this idea and attempt to define what makes certain people “safe.”

Sometimes to define something it helps to describe its opposite. Many of us can recognize who unsafe people are before we could recognize the safe ones. Unsafe people are those individuals who draw us toward those thoughts and behaviors that are unhealthy or dangerous. For example, an unsafe person for a male sex addict might be a “loose” female co-worker who dresses provocatively and is always attempting to sexualize conversations. While it may be easy (or easier) to spot unsafe people, how do you find safe people?

The following are 7 key characteristics present in safe people:

1. Safe people are non-judgmental.

When you get serious about dealing with your secret addiction(s) you need people who are not spending their time judging you for your mistakes. You struggle enough with self-condemnation, you don’t need someone else telling you what a mess-up you are. Safe people don’t judge you.

2. Safe people listen.

When you reach out for help you need people who will really listen to your struggles. Safe people let you share your story and all the difficulty you have faced in carrying your secret sin alone. There is a sort of empathy with safe people. While they may not have traveled the exact same road, they listen with their heart and want to truly help.

3. Safe people maintain strong boundaries.

One of the dangers of seeking out safe people is that you might be so amazed at their compassion and care that you begin to move too close too quickly, and possibly confuse genuine help with old patterns in your addiction. Safe people, however, also know how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries that represent appropriate interaction and assistance. For instance, a safe person will not miss their son’s baseball game just because you are having a weak moment. They will give you their time and energy when it is appropriate and falls in line with their other priorities.

4. Safe people protect confidentiality.

Trust is critical in the healing and recovery process. And trust is gained when safe people protect your confidentiality. You must know that the deep, dark secrets you are sharing will not end up in the city newspaper over the weekend. Safe people take confidentiality very seriously and will carry your pain to their grave if they must in order to secure your trust.

5. Safe people tell the truth in love.

Some people who may appear to be safe are really just looking for a way to present themselves as superior. They may tell you the truth (i.e. “If you continue lusting over porn, you will destroy your life”), but they do so in a harsh, angry fashion. Safe people know how to tell you the truth in love. They are not pointing out your weaknesses to pump themselves up, but rather to help you move toward purity and a life that truly brings satisfaction.

6. Safe people pray for wisdom (i.e. they are humble).

Anyone willing to help another person with their most vulnerable area of weakness must understand that they need wisdom. And gaining wisdom requires humility (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”). You can often spot the safe people by how often they ask God for wisdom, knowing that apart from His leading they could lead you astray. These are the kind of people you want around when traveling the road to recovery.

7. Safe people help you get help.

Finally, safe people know their limitations and have a heart of willingness to get you the help you need. They will walk with you as you expand your network of support to include a counselor, support group, or other individuals to help you reach the goal of a godly life. When dealing with life’s difficulties you need those with a servant’s heart to lead you to the appropriate help.

As you walk through life, keep your eyes open for safe people. They will become your greatest assets in a life well lived.

For additional help locating ‘safe people’ through support groups and counselors, visit www.everymansbattle.com or call 1.800.NEW.LIFE.

When Hope Was Born

Jonathan Daugherty

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. Ever since I was a little boy I have felt the excited anticipation of Christmas day approaching. There were the traditions of church services, singing carols, drinking eggnog (non-alcoholic, of course), and lots and lots of wonderful food. The sights, the smells, the sounds ‘ they all filled my heart with a sense of wonder and joy. And then there was the Baby.

Ah, the Baby Jesus. Could any other image bring such innocence and purity to the season? This perfect child, conceived by God’s Holy Spirit, and born to the young virgin, Mary.

Can you picture this holy, yet unusual, scene? A city bustling beyond its capacity, a young couple tired from a long journey, an innkeeper with enough mercy to provide a stable, and a night sky filled with twinkling stars awaiting the moment ‘ the moment God becomes a man. Words like peace, joy, and awe come to mind. And in my Christmas nostalgia I smile and take another sip of eggnog.

For many, this is where the season ends. A pleasant nativity, festive music, and all the sweet food you can eat. Christmas has become all about a feeling. But is there more to it? Did something else happen that cool, dark night in Bethlehem? Is there more to the story than the marking of an annual holiday?

Yes! Hope was born that starry night. Jesus, though a baby, was also the eternal king, our hope of glory. He came, not to mark off a holiday on the calendar, but rather to set captives free from the shackles of sin, shame, and despair. He was born to offer hope to you and me, broken sinners in need of a savior.

What I have come to appreciate most about the Christmas season is remembering that Jesus’ birth was only the beginning of the hope to come. In His birth was the anticipation of the hope that would eventually be realized only through His death on the cross. And by His death (and subsequent resurrection to new life) we were offered hope of freedom from our sin.

Did you know that hope really isn’t hope if what you hope for is never realized? Let me explain. The definition of hope is to desire with expectation of fulfillment. If you hope for something with a sort of fingers-crossed-one-eye-closed-toss-
fairy-dust-over-my-shoulder-while-chanting mentality, you aren’t really hoping; you are wishing. Hope has a certainty to it. This is why we can confidently place our hope in God, because what He says He will do, He does! We can expect Him to fulfill His promises.

God said to Abraham, ‘You will have a son.’ At 100 years of age, Abraham had a son.

God said to Noah, ‘A flood will destroy the earth and only those on the ark will be saved.’ It rained forty days and nights, and everything was destroyed that was not on the ark.

God said to Moses, ‘You will deliver my people from Egypt.’ Moses delivered God’s people from Egypt.

Time and time again throughout Scripture God tells His people what He will do. And time after time He keeps His promises. God does what He says He will do. This assurance that He keeps His word helps us to place our hope, our expectation of fulfillment, in Him.

He also makes some particularly powerful promises to you and me.

John 10:28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (NIV)

We have hope that nothing (no cause, no opponent, no addiction, nothing!) can remove God’s salvation from us through Christ. Do you believe God will keep His word?

Romans 8:1-2Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (NIV)

We have hope of a life free from shame and self-hatred because we have a God who erases the penalty of death we owed by covering us with the life of Christ. God is not ashamed of you. Do you believe God keeps His word?

2 Peter 1:3-4His [Christ’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV)

We have hope of walking in purity and wholeness because God has given us everything we need to experience His power to live free from this world’s wickedness. Purity is possible for every man. Do you believe God keeps His word?

What is blocking you from having hope?

What lies are pulling you away from the truth that you can expect God to do what He says He will do? Hope in God is not wishing. God promises to finish the good that He started in you. (Phil. 1:6) Will you believe Him to do it and stop resisting His leading?

Christmas is a special time of year for me. And not just for all the peripheral festivities that adorn the season. It is special because I am once again reminded that it was at Christmas when Hope was born.

May the Hope of the world change your life’

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle.