– If Christians would practice the teachings of Jesus, we would all become Christians. – Gandhi
When we were in California last month we visited High Desert Church in Victorville. My cousin-in-law, Tom Mercer is the Senior Pastor. Something mentioned in his sermon has been convicting me ever since and I enjoyed the notes so much I kept them in my purse to later share them.
Practicing the teachings of Jesus is tough business. In Romans Chapter 3 Paul reminds us that though we are not saved by “the law”, salvation through faith does not nullify the law. I loved the way my BSF leader explained this today. She said “We keep the commandments not because we are bound to Mosaic law, but because His laws reflect His character.” Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commandments“. In this age of grace, sometimes we tend to practice “I am not perfect just forgiven” – to a fault. We ARE forgiven but that doesn’t nullify us from our obligation to be obedient. One of the questions in our homework was related to the importance of obedience. I was thinking about this in how I teach my children. I want the boys to understand that when you say you love someone, your actions validate your words. You can’t say you love Jesus and ignore His word. If you are not interested in investing the time to find out what His word says’s, much less obey His commands…how can you then say “you love”? I don’t stand in condemnation on this point. I would be a hypocrite if I did. I think most of us would.
“Knowing the right answers does not mean we believe them.” – Dallas Willard
How true. Because we can spit out truth doesn’t mean we are living that same truth.
Over the course of time I have noticed that sometimes Christians in dire straights would rather bank on God’s mercy than obey. They embrace forgiveness but not obedience. Many times I have been asked “But won’t God forgive me anyway? Doesn’t He have to forgive me?”
God is not obligated to US but in His perfect character, He will honor His word and He did promise to forgive. Does this then give us license to defy His commands without consequence? I think it’s easy to ask this question when we lose sight of the price God paid for that forgiveness. Sacrificing His own son. HUGE. Before we defy God and bank on His mercy, I think it would do us a world of good to reflect upon the son of God hanging on a cross. Embracing that kind of grace doesn’t lead to defiance. It leads to humility and a heart that wants to be obedient. Anything short of that mocks the cross.
God wants more than to forgive us. He wants to form us. He wants to use the difficult circumstances in life to build our character. We miss out on this gift when we settle for “our way” at His expense (and ultimately ours).
So how then do we become more like Jesus? We must train! Pastor Tom said “If you don’t train, don’t try because you’ll make us look bad!” I loved that quote and made sure to write that down! If we are not well grounded in truth, how can we abide by truth, teach truth, reflect truth, speak truth, model truth? The answer is we can’t.
Here was the convicting part of the message for me:
Don’t just TRY to be a good christian. TRAIN to be a good christian. The process requires you to stop trying and start training.
Why not “try”?
Here is the “TRYING” Cycle:
1. Know you should obey.
2. Decide to obey.
3. Exercise willpower.
4. Know why you should have obeyed.
(Typically our lousy willpower results in disobedience not obedience)
Contrarily, here is the “TRAINING” Cycle:
1. Know you should obey.
2. Decide to obey.
3. Exercise discipline.
4. Know why you did obey.
1 Corinthians 9:25
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever.
Since hearing this message on the training cycle, I have been reflecting on my stage of training. What does the evidence prove? I am in training. I am actively involved in studying God’s word both personally, with my fellowship of other believers, and through women’s ministries. However, my life has lacked self discipline lately. DISCIPLINE. Man I hate that word. I am not disciplined in my daily studies, my exercise, my eating, my teaching, my cleaning, my cooking. What on earth am I disciplined about right now I wonder? I have had two good weeks with the whole list but I am really tired. I even have 24 meals made and food saved in my freezer but I recognized that I was likely to crash again soon so I did this in preparation.
What is the difference between willpower and discipline? The dictionary as applied to this context says’s:
Willpower – energetic determination.
Discipline – 4 : training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
Ah ha! Notice that willpower requires me to be determined. Not just determined but energetically determined. I have enough trouble being determined not to mention being energetic! Post Ty, I don’t know what it feels like to be energetic.
Discipline is different. It doesn’t come from our energy or our determined will. It comes from TRAINING. Interesting. Someday soon I hope that my spiritual training regimen is parallel to training for the Olympics. That is how important my training is. My regimen doesn’t look like that today but you know what…it’s better than last month. It all started changing when I quit trying and started training. When I embrace the time I spend with the Lord as my “training” time, it seems to come easier for me. I understand my goal. In my case, I have to train to train too. Trying is different than training because mere “trying” lacks commitment. Training is what we DO. Trying is what we THINK about doing.
“A disciplined Christ follower is one who discerns when laughter, gentleness, silence, healing words or prophetic indignation is called for, and offers it promptly, effectively and lovingly.” – John Ortberg
I love that quote and I hope that my training will be fruitful enough that it will resemble me someday. That’s a “label”, I pray I will learn to wear well.
(You can download Pastor Tom’s sermons at www.hdcnet.org.)