The Discipline of Discipleship, Pt. 1

Scripture: Hebrews 12:5-10, 2 Samuel 7:14-15, Romans 5:3-4
Date: 08/25/2007 
Jesus calls us to go into all the world to make disciples. What does it mean to be a disciple? It has to do with discipline. Though we needs of time of withdrawal, a disciple is not a hermit who totally withdraws from the world. There are many areas of life to be in discipline: work, health, prayer, speech, and more.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

We are here, I’m assuming, because we take the words of Jesus seriously that we are to go into all the world and to make disciples. You realize that’s actually what it says when it says teach all nations. It translates we are to go into all of the world and to make disciples. You know the message this morning is titled “Discipline and Discipleship” or “Discipleship and Discipline”. You notice there is a similarity between those two words. Let me read some definitions to you real quick. The definition for discipline, “Training that produces moral or mental improvement; controlled behavior resulting from disciplinary training or self-control; a systematic method to obtain obedience such as military discipline; a state of order based on submission to rules and authority; punishment or penalty imposed for wrongdoing intended to correct or to train; to train by instruction and practice, especially to teach self-control to.” Notice that self-control is emphasized here. “To teach to obey rules or to accept authority; to impose order upon.” It comes from the Latin word disciplina or discipulus which means pupil. Now disciple; let me read the definition for you. “One who embraces and assists in the spreading of the teachings of another; an active adherent as the movement or a philosophy.”

It comes from the Latin word discipulus which means pupil. The reason I said all of that is to say this: a disciple is a person of discipline. Alright. A disciple, if you’re a disciple of Jesus and if we’re called to disciple what we are called to do is to discipline. Discipline ourselves, to teach people to be pupils and followers of Christ which embodies a discipline. You don’t hear that very much these days. The idea of being a disciple, people just think that it means thinking something and has nothing to do with any self-discipline or a discipline in the life. I’d like to share with you a little bit through the message today (and this may grow into two messages. I’ll have time between this week and next week) some of what I find in the Bible regarding principles of discipline and discipleship. Now keep in mind as I share these things with you I came across so many different areas where you could talk about Christian discipline and what that means that they’re not in any special order. I’m sort of just firing a little bit of buckshot at this subject and there’s just so much to cover there.

I thought it would be interesting just as an Amazing Fact, and I may have shared this years ago, to tell you a little history about someone who is named Simon the Stylite. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about Simon before. He lived in about 390AD. He was growing up in the time of the Byzantine Empire. Simon’s family were shepherds. His mother was extremely devout. Somewhere during his early years he heard a sermon on the Beatitudes and part of the sermon that especially struck him was the part that talked about the holy life and the fasting. He thought, “You know I haven’t really learned much self-control.” And he became obsessed with the idea that he would draw closer to God somehow by self denial through self-control. And so he would go on these long fasts where he would fast sometimes twenty days, thirty days, forty days. He joined a monastery and his fasting was so austere that the monastery had to say you’re too much for us! Now one example that I read about was in order to enable him to fast longer he bound his torso to get rid of the hunger pains, and the binding was so tight that it actually began to scar him.

The monastery they saw that here is this young teenager, he’s in his teens, that was starving himself in this attempt to find peace with God and to discipline his body. They actually had to soak the binding and then cut it away. Then he thought, “Well, if the monastery won’t have me, I’ll make my own monastery in the wilderness.” Simon went into the remote canyons and rocky wilderness of Syria and he lived in a hole on a cliff. Well, people heard about this holy aesthetic, this very saintly man. He read his Bible; he’d learned how to read in the monastery. He was a good student. He would read and he would pray and he would fast and lived a very Spartan life and lived in this little ledge of a cliff. People began to think he must be a prophet, and they began to seek him out and to ask him for advice and to say, “Please pray.” He would always pray for the ones that came. He loved people. But pretty soon he thought, “This is not working. I’m not finding any peace.” He got a bright idea. He said, “Look, if I can’t escape the world horizontally, I’ll do it vertically.” So even by his time they had found some ancient Greek ruins and there was this tall pillar. He started with a short pillar, but he found it was too short, and people still kept accessing him. He thought, “I need to get further away from the world.” He found a tall pillar fifty feet high.

He got some friends to help him build a little platform on the top of this ancient Greek pillar, I guess it was like ten feet by ten feet, with a little ridge around it and he would lower… he used a rope to bring up food and to lower down garbage and some friends would assist him. He just stayed up there. He never left the pillar. He stayed up on top of this platform exposed to the elements and he would pray and he would fast and he thought, “I want to get away from the world. I want to be closer to heaven.” He lived up there thirty-seven years. Well, what happened instead of him escaping the world, it became such a spectacle that people went to these remote ruins to seek him out. Now he had made up his mind. He had vowed some vow, “I’m never coming down.” He even got sick and the king and the queen had come to respect Simon and they would send priests to ask for advice. He got sick and they begged him to come down. He said, “No,” and he managed to recover. They had a ladder that went partway up and people would come up every afternoon. He said, “I’ll take some time and listen to people’s prayer requests, and give you counsel.” Such a crowd would gather eventually he began to preach from his pillar. By the way, they called him a Stylite. Any of you ever have a PDA and you know the stylus? That’s where the word comes from.

It means something that is long or a pinnacle or a pillar and it’s all related to the same word. They’d climb up the ladder halfway in the afternoon and they’d get his counsel. He’d preach to them. There’re even a few letters that still are in existence that are written by Simon that he wrote from his pillar-top trying to isolate himself from the world. He would fast all through Lent sometimes only drinking water once a week. I’m not sharing this with you to say let’s all go find a pillar somewhere. Matter of fact, after the time of Simon there was a whole rage for the next hundred years throughout the Byzantine Empire you could find these hermits, these aesthetics that would perch on these pillars and that’s how they thought they were going to get close to God. I respect Simon for the incredible self-control and the personal commitment that he had. There’s something inspiring about that but I don’t know that that kind of self punishment is exactly what the Lord had in mind or what Paul had in mind when he said, “I discipline my body.” But I do think we’ve gone to the other extreme today. We very rarely even in the Christian faith have people learned to deny themselves and exercise control of the mind over the body. There is a battle that goes on between the two, and the Lord would have Christians experience victory and a self-discipline and that’s the ideal.

First of all, one of the things the Bible teaches is clear. The Lord loves us more than any parent loves their children and He disciplines His children. God is a loving Father and He disciplines His children. Go to the book of Hebrews please, if you will, Hebrews chapter 12, and if you start with me at verse 5. Hebrews 12:5 “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening” or the discipline “of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He” disciplines “chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you experience some discipline from God, a lot of the trials that come into our lives, and they take on a number of forms, it could be trials that come in the form of some physical suffering, it could be some financial reversal, it could be just something providentially that goes wrong, it could be everything from a flat tire to a lost job, but the trials that come to us in life always embrace them knowing that God is in control, and say, “Lord, what are You wanting to teach me from this?” Don’t despise it. God disciplines us not because He hates us, not because He’s rejecting us, but because He loves us; it’s a sign of His love. Keep going here. Verse 7, “If you endure” if you receive, if you embrace, the “chastening” that God gives to us, “God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed” human fathers “for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present…” Can I insert the word discipline? No discipline is pleasant at the moment you’re receiving it, “but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees…” The Bible tells us that first of all God is our example in all things as a loving Father and He disciplines us. Now, I don’t think there are too many of you that are going to jump up and wave your arms in the air and say, “Lord, please discipline me!” But if you really think about it, you should pray that prayer because it says God disciplines his children. If He doesn’t discipline you, that means you’re not His child, and if you’re not His child then you don’t get His inheritance. If you are a child of God, then you must say, “Lord, I want to accept, I want to capitalize on, I want to exploit the discipline that You send me for my good,” because He does it for what purpose? Does God discipline us to get even? Because He’s angry? Sometimes earthly fathers come home and they’re in a bad mood and they take it out on the dog and the kids. Our heavenly Father never does that. He does not just get mad and say, “Oh, man, I’ve had a bad day. I’m sending a tsunami.” That’s not how God operates, and yet some people that’s their picture of God. The gods are angry and so we’ve got bad weather.

The gods are angry and so this plague has come. God doesn’t operate that way. If we are His children and if some trial comes into our life, it’s redemptive in nature. He’s doing it because He loves us. There’s a lot of scripture that bears that out. II Samuel 7:14-15 the Bible says in this prophecy, “"I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him” I’ll discipline him, “with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul…” This is a prophecy God gave David regarding Solomon. Romans 5:3 and 4 “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” These trials and the discipline that God allows in our lives are transforming us. Don’t pout when it happens; embrace it. I know that I’ve probably struggled with that before. There is a good quote I’d like to share with you by Elizabeth Elliot. Matter of fact, I found several quotes like this. “Freedom is the final reward of discipline. It is to be bought with a high price and not merely claimed. The ice skater and the racehorse are free to perform as they do only because they have subjected to countless hours of grueling work, rigidly prescribed and faithfully carried out practice.

Men are free to soar into space because they willingly confine themselves to a tiny capsule designed and produced by highly trained scientists and craftsmen that have meticulously followed instructions and submitted themselves to rules which others define. Anything great that is ever accomplished is accomplished through discipline.” Someone else put it this way, “The one who would be an athlete, but who is unwilling to be disciplined, to discipline his body by regular exercise and by abstinence is not free to excel on the field or the track. His failure to train rigorously denies him the freedom to run with the desired speed and endurance. Any musician that would be free to play any music they want from the heart must first be disciplined and relentlessly practicing on their instrument of choice. With one concerted voice the giants of the devotional life apply the same principal to the whole life.” In other words all of the giants of Christianity, they all agree that to excel with Christ requires discipline and devotion. You can’t get anything great without this kind of sacrifice. It requires an investment.

Now it probably would not be appropriate for me to talk about the subject of discipline without at least addressing the context in which we often think about it, and that’s parents who discipline their children. To better understand the discipline of our heavenly Father we might talk a moment about how do parents discipline their earthly children. I don’t know if some of you heard, I picked up the news the other day and I saw this very disturbing image. Someone had videotaped a mother in a Wal Mart, I guess the store cameras picked up this mother ostensibly disciplining her child. The poor kid is being drug through the store at one point by his feet, she slugging him about the head and face. He’s bleeding. She is screaming. Is that discipline? Well, that’s an out of control, that’s an undisciplined parent venting their fury upon a child. Then you’ve got to be cautious because when you do talk about discipline if parents ever employ any corporal punishment, I’ll tell you there are some countries where you’re not allowed to spank. Did you know that? Yeah, you get arrested. There are plenty of people in our culture today, I respectfully disagree with them, they think that if you ever touch your child in the name of discipline that it’s called abuse. Well, the Bible doesn’t teach that; I think common sense doesn’t teach that either. Proverbs 19:18 I mean, when you get an eight month old or ten month old baby and they start sticking metal paperclips in the socket and you try to reason with them about the power of electricity… you don’t do it that way.

You just swat them on the hand and you say, “No!” The swat on the hand hurts a lot less than electrocution. Sometimes you just got to… Proverbs 19:18 “Chasten thy son while there is hope…” The older they get the harder it gets. It’s easier to mold the clay and the concrete when it’s soft, amen? “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” They might even cry when they don’t get their way. That’s okay. Better them crying when they’re young like that than screaming when they’re teenagers. Proverbs 22:15 “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” You would be amazed at how their IQ improves when that is appropriately applied, and it needs to be done with care. You shouldn’t be injuring or marking your children, but sometimes they might need a swat. Most of the time you can reason with them and they get to an age somewhere between twenty-five and thirty you have to lay off the spanking. Well, it’s probably a lot younger than that. You don’t want to humiliate them as they get older, but when they’re young before the age of, well, I would think by the time they get to six, eight years of age, that ought to be, you ought to be able to reason with them at that point. There are other ways to talk to children. But the Bible is clear, if you love them, you’ll discipline them. I remember one time (I was on the phone with Daniel two nights ago) I told him, do not ride your bike out in the street. We lived right by, the Navaho Mission was right on a four lane highway. Right there they could ride right out into the highway and just… the cars were going by sixty, seventy miles an hour. I said, “Don’t get anywhere near that.”

I told him again and again and again because sometimes there was very little traffic and we had a dirt yard and the pavement of the street was more fun to ride on. I caught him once or twice out there, and you warn them the first time. One day I looked out the window and my heart froze. There he was, his little bike with training wheels riding around and he’s playing dodge-car with his bike out there! Cars were honking. That’s what made me look up, I heard a honk and I looked up and I saw that and my heart froze. I just prayed I’d get to him before a car struck him. There were a lot of people, there was a bar not too far away and I thought a lot of drinking going on. I thought, they’re not going to see him. I ran out there and he saw me coming. He knew he was in trouble. I grabbed him in one arm, I don’t know, he was probably only about four or five years old. I grabbed his little bike with its training wheels in the other arm, and with Herculean strength I threw the bike three hundred yards. That scared him. I brought him in the house and I sat him down, I said, “Now let’s kneel down and let’s thank Jesus that you’re still alive so I can spank you.” I thought it was so much better for him to feel my hand on his posterior and to encourage him never to do that again, and he never did. Now was that an unloving thing to do? “Pastor Doug, you’re so insensitive! How brutal!” No, it’s a matter of life and death sometimes. That not only has to do with kids that are playing with electricity or driving in traffic, but there are other areas where they must be taught to respect authority. They must be taught to respect God and it should be done in love.

Every parent has, I think sometimes you become so exasperated that your kids don’t respect your authority that you cross the line and you punish them in anger, and you shouldn’t do that. I have prayed before that God will forgive me for the times when I didn’t wait until I cooled down first. God is good, you know, I think kids understand that, but it should be done in a controlled way. You ought to be able to pray with your children when you discipline them. You ought to be able to explain why. Sometimes they’re too young. You can’t explain why. You just say, “No!” and they’ve just got to understand that you mean no and they’re going to obey, and you don’t always have to explain why. I think that kids ought to be able to obey their parents even if they don’t understand. They ought to have sometimes an unquestioning obedience. Are their reasons that we sometimes obey God, we don’t even know why? Should we still obey Him? Are we to question everything God asks us to do? One time a prophet walked up to another prophet and he said, “Punch me.” He said, “That doesn’t make sense. I’m not going to do that.” He said, “Alright, then a lion is going to eat you when you leave because the word of the Lord said to punch me.” It didn’t make any sense at all. A lion ate him because he didn’t obey. So if God says do something, do it even though it may seem ridiculous to you at the time. Elijah said to another king “strike the arrows on the ground.” He said, “Alright, well…” He tapped it. He said, “You didn’t do it enough.” So when God tells you something, do it.

If you try to rationalize all the time why most of the time God wants to reason with us and help us understand, but as parents, let’s face it, there’s an age where they don’t know what electricity is. Sometimes you tell them when they’re young that certain things are appropriate and certain things are inappropriate and they’re a little too young to understand the birds and the bees. You don’t have to explain it all to them when they’re three years old. You just say trust me. Right? We don’t do that, but why? Because I said so. As they get older you’ll tell them why. They’ve got to learn to trust and obey as they get older. Proverbs 29:15 “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” You know before a war, there’s boot camp and there’s a great discipline in boot camp. Christians need to have a boot camp to prepare for the disciplines of life especially in this world. I understand that, was it King Henry?

Pastor Mike might correct me on this. King Henry VI was the first king in history who officially signed a document authorizing his nurse to spank him. This is what it read… they used his thumbprint when he was born, and he put his thumbprint on a document when he came to the throne at nine months of age in 1422. His first official decree as a king was to certify his nurse with license to chasten him reasonably from time to time. His first order as king, nine month old king, was to give his nurse permission to spank him. Even kings knew that children needed discipline, that now from time to time, occasionally, reasonably the royal hiney needed a blistering because otherwise, how can you rule others if you have no self-control? What right does someone have to rule a country if they have no discipline for themselves. And yet there are sociologists today that say, “You shouldn’t try to force a child. Let them discover themselves. Don’t push your religion on a child. They should be raised in an atmosphere of freedom where they can just discover for themselves what they want to believe.” I heard of a sociologist that was talking to a pastor like that one day. His friend was a pastor and he said, “I respectfully disagree.” “Oh, they should just be allowed to discover these things and figure out what they want to believe.” And the pastor said to the sociologist, he said, “Well, come on out. I’ll show you my garden.” He took him out in the backyard and he had a lot and the lot was just overgrown with weeds. It wasn’t actually a garden at all.

It was just a lot of weeds. And the sociologist said, “What kind of garden is this? This doesn’t look like a garden. This just looks like a pile of weeds.” He said, “Well, I didn’t want to impose my will upon the plants here. I just let them discover themselves.” Really that’s what happens to a life when there is no discipline in it. It goes to weeds because the human soul, what does the Bible say? The human heart is naturally wicked. Who can know it? And left to itself, will go to weeds. It needs guidance; it needs discipline if it’s going to have flowers and tomatoes. Sixty-three percent of adults strongly agree that parents today are too lenient and permissive with their children. I heard about one little girl who was saying to her mother after receiving some discipline, “When I grow up I’m going to let my children do whatever they want whenever they want as long as it’s what I want!” That makes sense.

Which brings me to next point. Discipline saves; permissiveness kills. Discipline ultimately saves. Proverbs 23:13-14 “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.” It’s talking about reasonable spanking here. “You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” Sometimes it… You know I went to military school and my parents divorced when I was three. Mostly my brother and I lived with my mother who was a very permissive mother. I know that now looking back. Any mother that will let you drink and smoke pot and do it with you is a permissive mother. My mother was very permissive. I realized as I saw other kids in school that I was self-destructing. I had a friend that came back from military school, and I remember Danny and Bobby Boyer, good friends of ours. I noticed they changed what looked to me like for the better. When they came back they looked happier and they had been spoiled brats before just like me and my brother. I said to my mother, I said, “I think I need to go to military school.” It was in one of my lucid moments as a young man. I had been getting in trouble in and out of all different schools. Mom had no order in the life and you know she was in show business and the schedule was never the same. I thought, boy, I need order. I need some discipline. There needs to be some control.

I remember telling my mom, I said, I think I’m going to be lost unless I go to this military school. I had gone to one when I was five years old for a little while and I remember I appreciated the structure. Then I went wild again for years. I think it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I went to this one school. If you disobeyed, they can’t do it now, but when I went to New York Military Academy, when you disobeyed, our teachers, many of them were retired military personnel. They were allowed to hit you. If they weren’t allowed, we didn’t know. We thought they were allowed because they did it a lot. They’d whack us around and kick us and slug us and they took these belts and they’d make you lean over and they’d whip you and they had all of these disciplines. You know what? For the most part we were all pretty happy. We had fun because we knew what the structure was. I got into shape in that school. They made you run everywhere, they made you do pushups and all of these exercises as part of your discipline. You can ask Karen today I still make the bed and I fold things and she thinks I’m a little neurotic because I stack everything in order and in my suit, I actually have my suits and my pants, I put them in kind of colors. The blues go towards the greens that go towards the grays and I know I’m a little bit extreme in that area. No comments. Because in military school we did that. We had to do those things. The books on your shelf had to be in size and order. They stacked down from the tallest to the shortest.

There is something to be said for order like that, but the discipline looking back now, I don’t think I would be before you today if I had not gone to military school in the midst of the chaos of my youth. It gave me something that nobody can be happy without, self-control. The ultimate goal of it is you need to have control of yourself because if you don’t rule your spirit… He that rules his spirit is greater than one who conquers a city. It saves. Permissiveness kills. I Kings 1:6, King David, good king, lousy father. He was so busy conquering here and there that he didn’t spend much time with his boys, and they were often indulged which often happens with the princes. It says, “And his father” that’s David “had not rebuked him at any time by saying,” Why did you do this? He didn’t ever say, “What are you doing? Why are you doing this?” He just kind of let him do what he wanted. He was a young, handsome man, and he was so indulged to get what he wanted when he wanted it that he raped his sister and then he got killed by Absalom. His father had not restrained him. It says he was very good looking. In the book of Samuel Eli would not restrain his sons, would not discipline them. It says in I Samuel 3:13 “For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.” He probably didn’t restrain them when they were young, and it got too hard when they got older. A. W. Towser says, “We must face the fact that many today in the church are notoriously careless in their living. We have liberty, we have money, we live in comparative luxury, and as a result discipline has practically disappeared.” He wrote this many years ago.

Boy, if that was true then, how much more is it true today? What would a violin solo sound like if the strings on the musician’s instrument were hanging loose and not stretched tight? It’s the discipline that creates the beautiful music. It’s the discipline that gives the freedom. Matter of fact, Psalm 23, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Why? You’re with me. “Your rod and Your staff comfort me.” What did a shepherd use his rod and his staff for? The rod was not only used to keep the wolves away, they also used the staff to discipline the sheep. When they started to wander away it had a crook and they’d pull them back in and they’d whack them if they’re eating a weed they’re not supposed to eat because it could make them sick. It says it comforts me. Are you comforted by the discipline of God? I believe the children that receive appropriate Christian discipline are much more secure. They know what the boundaries are. They excel. They have self-respect. The ones that are just kind of left to run on their own and do what they want, they have no structure, they have no purpose, they’re unhappy.

That leads me into probably one of the most important aspects of discipline. Discipline in theology. We’re living in a time of permissive theology. It’s a theology that teaches in essence, well, you’ve heard me call a divorce… He was obviously, by sitting on a pillar for thirty-seven years, fasting. So they go to the other extreme of Simon the Stilite, and they say, “Well, we’re not saved, obviously, by sitting on a pillar for thirty-seven years and fasting” so they go to the other extreme and they don’t deny themselves in any way. They don’t try to grow, and discipline themselves in their Christian walk. And it just sort of becomes a let it all hang out theology. It’s sort of a, you know, instead of grace it’s disgrace. Do you know what I’m talking about? Acts 14:22 Paul said, “…strengthening the souls of the disciples…” Remember what the word disciple means? Discipline. “…exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.’” That’s why I also take issue with those that say that the church is not going to go through any tribulation.

The Bible says it is through tribulation we enter the kingdom of God. Yes, the church is going to be here during the tribulation. Billy Graham said, “A compass is narrow minded. It always points to magnetic north. It seems that it is a very narrow view, but a compass is not broad minded. If it were all the ships at sea and all the planes in the air would be in danger. We must discipline ourselves personally to fight any deviation from the course that Jesus has set for us. We cannot be tolerant of any other course. To deviate is sin.” I respect that. You know the New Testament church was very intolerant. Have you ever really thought about that? It was probably the most intolerant period of the church’s history, and it was also the time when it grew the most. They were intolerant of lying; Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead. They were intolerant of stinginess; the people gave until they were basically selling their houses and lands to spread the gospel. Very intolerant. The most tolerant and undisciplined we have become, the more un-discipled we are. To be disciples of Christ there is a discipline of Christianity. This is true.

Now we sometimes all cringe. How many of you have heard your parents talk about how tough it was in the “good old days”? Boy, back when I was a kid I used to get this speech because my dad, he probably really had a right to say it, you know. He grew up during that time of World War II and he was born just before the Great Depression and you hear that speech all of the time about how they used to save everything. We’ve got such abundance. My father used to tell me how Grandma Batchelor used to save string, wouldn’t even throw away string, had great big balls of string that she’d save. Just tie one end to the end of the ball and just keep wrapping it. If someone sent you a package with string, “Don’t throw that string away. You might need it someday.” Because during the Depression they made you save everything and how they’d save everything, of course most people just began to hoard. How he’d walk to school ten miles in the snow, uphill, both directions, right? You’ve heard that speech before? Pick beans all day long for a nickel an hour and my dad was part of the dustbowl in Oklahoma that came to California looking for work.

So he had a lot of stories to tell, and we used to get tired of hearing about how tough it was. But there’s something to be said for that great generation that was born the most powerful, strongest time in American history, was born through the adversity of a great depression and a world war. The discipline of those things and those experiences and those trials produced a very strong generation that unfortunately are dying off now, and now what you have is a generation… and they brought that discipline into their Christian experience. They understood the self-control issues. Now you have a generation that has been born during a time of comparative prosperity and ease that hasn’t had that kind of forced discipline on the culture and it is entering the theology of the church. It becomes a very permissive sloppy agape disgrace grace kind of theology and we need to guard against that. I’ve got a quote here from Dietrich Bonheoffer. Let me see if I can find that for you real quick. I’ve got a lot of notes. That’s why I told you I might have two weeks’ worth of sermon here. Here it is. “Cheap grace…” This also was written years ago.

These are not members of my church. “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring forgiveness, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without a cross, grace without Jesus Christ living in incarnate.” The kind of discipleship Jesus tells us about is the kind where we deny, discipline ourselves and take up a cross and follow Him. “This is no way to grow a church, Pastor Doug! How do you expect people to come when you tell them come and take up a cross? How can you market a church like that?” Well, I don’t know, but this is what Jesus tells us the truth is. I’ll leave that to Him. Sometimes I think we’re so preoccupied with growing our churches, we’re so obsessed with quantity, we forget that with God quality is much more important. Pastors love to boast about how many members we have in our church, we’re not so sure how many of them are disciplined in the Christian way. Are they real disciples? This is what I think the Lord is interested in.

Being more specific now, part of Christian discipline, the Bible says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Part of Christian discipline then would be a discipline in what we say, being disciplined in our words. Again I’d like to issue a disclaimer that I’m speaking to myself as well as anybody else. Christians talk differently, don’t we? Shouldn’t our speech be seasoned with grace? It ought to be different from the speech of the world. The content of our speech should be different. When the officers were sent to arrest Jesus they heard Him speaking, they came back without Christ. The Pharisee said, “Where is He? Why haven’t you arrested Him?” You know what they said? John 7:46 “The officers answered, ‘Never man spake like this Man!” No man, not just no man in town, but no man in mankind’s history ever spoke like this man. If we are Christians, we’re followers of Christ, should there be a difference in how we talk? Should we want to talk like Jesus talked? Proverbs 29:20 “Do you see a man hasty in his words?” Undisciplined in what he says, I’m paraphrasing here. “There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

We really should think before we speak and be careful in what we say. Proverbs 18:13 “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Christians, in order to be good speakers, we ought to be good listeners and think before we say anything. James 3:2, you know that whole discourse on the tongue being worse than a fire out of control. “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” Emily Herman says, “Our habitual misuse of words has led us to imagine that Christian freedom consists in the moment and that we protest against anything that we would put fetters on this liberty. True spontaneity is the fruit of discipline. It is the artist who has mastered the technique of his art most perfectly who can best respond to the vision and the inspiration of the moment. In other words, if you want to speak well as a Christian spontaneously, it means being disciplined when you don’t have to speak spontaneously. A pet peeve for me: Christians should not only be careful what they say, I think Christians should train themselves to speak clearly. Amen. We ought not be slurring our words. You don’t know. You have no idea how hard it has been for me in my walk, my experience as a pastor, to try to speak clearly because I grew up with a speech impediment. Part of it was because of my teeth. I didn’t get braces until I was twenty-five. I don’t what to go into the details, but I couldn’t even touch my tongue to the roof of my mouth. There were teeth where there weren’t supposed to be.

I had a terrible lisp. I spit on people when I talked to them. I couldn’t pronounce my words. Finally when I was with La Vita Mission they had free orthodontic work. I got my teeth fixed, praise the Lord! If you’re ninety years old and you need your teeth fixed, go see the orthodontist. It might mean you need to take them out and give them to him. I’ll tell you, it’s worth it, it doesn’t matter how old you are, if it will make you speak better. But even after that I remember having to preach my first few sermons. I had grown up with this speech impediment, now I’ve got braces, the old barbed-wire kind, and I’m preaching. I’ll tell you what, I read about that great Greek orator (What was his name?) who had to preach with pebbles in his mouth. Some of you heard this story. He trained himself to be this great orator because he’d walk along the beach and he’d speak and try and speak distinctly with pebbles in his mouth so finally when he got rid of the pebbles he was really clear in his speech. And yet I hear people who are Christians and they’re just slurring their words. When I go to another country I do my best to try to learn the language of that country. You can ask Karen. Last night I was listening to Russian preachers trying to remember some of the Russian we had learned when we were there. When I was in Colombia I was listening to the Colombians and trying to speak and I’d say, “Now how do you say that?” I’d say it, and I’d say, “Is that right?” They’d say, “No, this is how you say it.” And I’d do my best to pronounce it in the right language because I figure if I’m going to speak Spanish I want to speak it well. I think if you’re an American, if you’re in America, if you’re going to be speaking English, if you’re not going to speak English, that’s fine, but if you’re going to speak it, speak it well if you’re a Christian because words are a vehicle to communicate thought.

If your words aren’t clear, your thoughts aren’t clear. did that make sense? If people are only understanding half of what you’re saying, you’re missing half the purpose of your talking. Try to avoid some of the slang that is demeaning. I think there should be a nobility in the choice of words and the vocabulary that Christians use. Discipline yourself to learn some new words. Impress people every now and then by saying a word they don’t understand. That will inspire them to go learn. Otherwise pretty soon we could all talk to each other in pig-Latin and just reduce our vocabulary to about fifty words, like my Spanish, but it limits what you can say. Speech is such a beautiful gift; we shouldn’t muddy it up. Christians should be disciplined in their speech. Please say amen.

We ought to be disciplined in not only what comes out of our mouths. You know what I’m going to say next? We ought to be disciplined in what goes in our mouths. Christians should be disciplined in their diet. Again I’m not suggesting that you fast wearing a girdle like Simon, but the Bible does say to fast. Karen and I were talking last night. We’re thinking about now we’ve got Stephen up at academy, we’re thinking we need to fast more for our kids. We talked last night. We’re going to covenant to spend time each week. We’re going to pick a day; we’re going to fast just for the children. There are different ways you can fast. You might just fast a meal. Some of you might say I’m just going to fast no sugar for a day, or if you’re brave, for a week.

There are a lot of different ways, but you know the Bible talks about fasting. I did a whole lesson on that. It’s probably on record you could listen to. I’m not going to take a lot of time talking about fasting, but so many people are controlled by their stomachs and especially in our culture today where there is such an abundance of delicious things to eat. It used to be years ago people would say, “Do you want to eat?” Yes, I’m hungry. Let’s eat. Now they say, “What do you feel like eating? Do you want Thai? Do you want Vietnamese? Do you want Korean? Do you want Japanese sushi?” That’s just on the Asian menu. They say, “Do you want the Italian? Do you want the Mexican?” Let’s just face it, we’ve got all of these options, that we are really spoiled. We’d do well to pray that God would give us… Proverbs 23:2 “and put a knife to your throat if you are a man given to appetite.” I like that just by itself. I like that word picture, a person sitting there at the buffet with a knife to his throat saying, Don’t do it, don’t do it, especially when you go by the dessert section, don’t do it! Luke 5:33 And the disciples came to Him, and they said, “Why do the disciples of John (John the Baptist) fast often?” Then Jesus said, “The time will come when My disciples will fast.” Christ didn’t say if you fast, He said when you fast.

He never said if you fast. He said when you fast… I think it would be a great thing for us… you know, some people are going to end up in the last days, they’re going to sell their souls for a pot of beans or a doughnut like Esau did. Didn’t he? He sold his birthright for food. Why are we in the problems that we’re in today with sin in the world? How did it start? Somebody who will remain nameless ate something they weren’t supposed to eat, right? Isn’t that right? So should there be more discipline in that area in our lives? Do we live to eat or do we eat to live? Is it controlling us? Ecclesiastes 10:17 “Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles, and your princes feast at the proper time for strength and not for drunkenness!” I mean, I enjoy eating, and I think God made food taste good and He wants us to enjoy our food. Everybody is going to be so self-conscious at the potluck today… whenever Pastor Doug talks about these things. Let me just see here. Make sure I’m going in order.

We ought to be disciplined in our emotions. I could say a lot more about this. This may have to be a two part message. Some people do not have rule over their spirit. They are easily angered. The Bible says that we should be controlled. Is anger always a sin? No, there ought to be discipline in that emotion. Ephesians 4:26-27 “Be angry, and do not sin.” Is there ever a time that God gets angry? Does the Lord ever get angry at anything? He does. He doesn’t lose His temper. That’s the difference. Do you think of a time in the Bible, was the Lord angry when He saw the house of God desecrated? Did He feel a righteous indignation well up within Him? Is that appropriate? When you see the weak being oppressed by the cruel, does that anger you? It should! If you see a child being beaten, does that anger you? Yeah, well it should. I mean, there is a righteous kind of anger, but then there is the wrong kind of anger.

There’s a righteous kind and a “wrongteous” kind (after all I said about words). Proverbs 16:32 “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Proverbs 19:11 “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and it is to his glory to overlook a transgression.” The Bible tells us to have rule over our spirits; there should be a discipline there, and if we’re undisciplined in that… How did Moses lose access to the kingdom? He lost his temper. He lost his temper one time and had to run from Egypt because he killed somebody. Having that control, a lot of people have… someone once said “The more shallow the pot is, the quicker it boils.” It often shows there is no depth. “Lord of himself, though not of lands, And having nothing, yet hath all.” I lost who it was that said that. It got deleted from my notes, but it’s a good quote. (The quote is by Henry Wotton, Sr.) He that is lord of himself, though not lands, may have nothing, yet he has all if he has self-control.

Christians ought to be disciplined in work. I mean, we should know how to put ourselves to a task and then stay on that task. Proverbs 6:10 “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep so shall your poverty come on you like a robber, and your need like an armed man.” It was the great industry of World War II that made America such a great nation, and that brought about such productivity. The work ethic that they had, I don’t know that we have it today. Proverbs 13:4 The soul of the lazy man “desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.” I’m just wondering, show of hands, any of you here grow up on a farm. I’m guessing that might be six percent. You know if you had asked that question fifty years ago it would have been eighty percent. What was good about that? Could you grow up on a farm and not know how to work? From the time that you could carry a bucket you were collecting eggs, and as you got older you were hauling in the milk and you’re hauling out the hay and everybody worked. There was a discipline. You had to wake up, what? Do you come dragging out of bed at ten o’clock when you live on a farm?

No, you’re out of bed before the rooster is crowing and you’re working and there was a discipline to that, and people developed a work ethic and you sometimes worked as long as there was daylight. As long as the sun was up you had to keep bailing that hay because it could rain and wreck it. Just the whole farm life dictated that you had to work. That’s been lost. Now with the Internet and people doing work from home and mechanized farming, so many people work in cubicles and our jobs are sedentary and something is also being lost not only physically, there’s problems that go along with that, but the whole work ethic is being lost, putting in a full days’ work for the pay. The soul of the lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich. Oh, man, there is so much more I have to say. This is probably going to be up to two parts. The soul of the lazy man desires, and has nothing. They want something for nothing. Is it just my imagination, or is there more bingo springing up everywhere? Yeah, the lotteries and bingo; it’s just legalized gambling springing up everywhere. What is that based upon? Is that my imagination, or is that based upon people trying to get something quickly without work? Get rich for nothing. The lazy man, Proverbs 20:4 The lazy man will not plow because of winter; he’ll beg during harvest and have nothing. Nehemiah is a great man in the Bible because he knew how to inspire people to work, and it says they built the wall and the entire wall was joined up for the people had mind to work.

Is work the devil’s idea or was it God’s idea? Even before sin, God had work for man to do. It just changed after sin, and even after sin God said, “You will till the ground to eat your bread.” There was work to be done. As I said before, no where people don’t till the ground much because it’s all done by machines, and most of it’s done by machines, and the farmer who does farm, he sits in his tractor that’s got the air conditioner and the stereo and the TV and the satellite GPS system. Did you know that? I know farmers in Texas. They say, “I get in, I turn it on, it’s auto-pilot.” It’s controlled by GPS, gets to the end of the row, presses a button, turns around, starts the next row. They’ve got everything but a Jacuzzi in the cab of their tractor so I don’t even know if they’re working at farms anymore. Oh, I take that back. I’m sure that they are. So work, there is a discipline in that, and I think everybody ought to make themselves find some work. Do you know that Pharisees, they actually had a part of the Sanhedrin part of their requirement was no matter how deep a person was involved in religious studies, whether you were a scribe or whether you were a lawyer, you had to learn a practical trade with your hands. Everybody had to know some task they performed with their hands. Saul was a Pharisee, but did he also know how to do something with the hands? What did he do? He was a tent maker. He knew how to sew.

Well, I’m out of time for all that I’ve got to share today. There is so much I could share with you about discipline. One story stands out to me that I thought was very interesting. There was a merchant in America and he wanted to send, he had a salesman in Germany that needed to sail across the ocean, but it was at the beginning of the war when they were beginning to torpedo some of these merchant ships. The German embassy had issued a warning that some of these passenger carriers were at risk of being torpedoed. He had this salesman who was willing to make the journey across the Atlantic, and he said, “You know, I can’t risk you. There are high casualties. A lot of these passenger ships are being torpedoed.” He said, “You don’t need to worry about me.

I’m a strong swimmer. Every day I have been soaking in a bathtub full of ice. Just in case I can survive in cold water for a long time.” He said, “That’s really strange.” He said, “Well, you know. It doesn’t hurt. It’s a good discipline so I started out, about five minutes was all I could take. Now I can sit in a bathtub of ice water for two hours.” Would you believe that that salesman, the owner of the company allowed him to make the trip, he was on the Lusitania that was torpedoed. It sank. This man was in the water five hours, and he was one of the survivors. Betcha he’s glad that he disciplined himself. Now I’m not recommending that you all go home and fill your tubs with ice. I just thought that was an interesting story; I tried to fit it in somewhere. But the idea is that I think we’re losing something of what it means to be a disciple, what it means to have self-control, to discipline ourselves, to be growing in our relationship with the Lord.

God willing, next Sabbath we’ll expand on this principle a little more and hopefully we’ll all be better disciples because of this. Our closing song is going to be “Live Out Thy Life Within Me” and what is that number? 316 Why don’t we stand together as we sing that?

Live out Thy life within me, O Jesus, King of kings! Be Thou Thyself the answer To all my questionings; Live out Thy life within me, In all things have Thy way! I, the transparent medium Thy glory to display.

The temple has been yielded, And purified of sin; Let Thy Shekinah glory Now shine forth from within, And all the earth keep silence, The body henceforth be Thy silent, gentle servant, Moved only as by Thee.

Paul said that we’re all running a race, that the Christian life is one where we need to ask God for His Spirit to give us the grace to be disciples, to discipline ourselves in following Christ and walking the Christian life. It’s only by His power we can do that. Speaking for myself I’d like to ask God to help me be a real disciple, and be a pupil, to learn, to grow, to bring my body into subjection and my mind and my words to His leadership. It’s difficult now, but it provides freedom in the end; it prepares the way for excellence and liberty and life. Have you recognized the need in your life for more discipleship, more discipline? If that’s your prayer, would you like to lift your hands? Say, “Lord, help me be a real disciple. Live out Your life within me.” Let’s sing verse four together. Last verse.

But restful, calm, and pliant, From bend and bias free, Awaiting Thy decision, When Thou has need of me. Live out Thy life within me, O Jesus, King of kings! Be Thou the glorious answer To all my questionings.

Almighty Father, Lord, as we bow before you today, this Sabbath day. I pray that You can teach us to be genuine disciples. I pray that as we go and share the good news of Jesus with others, we’ll recognize that good news comes in connection with discipline. That freedom to fly, to sing, to live the glorious, victorious life is one that comes as a result of submission of ourselves to thee. Please bless us, dear Lord, that this church may be a church where we model the discipleship of Christ in our lives. Give us the victory. I pray, Lord, that You can help us to embrace the discipline that You send knowing that You love us. Be with us as a church, Lord; pour out Your Spirit, and in our lives as individuals. As we go from this place I pray that Christ will radiate through us. In His name we ask. Amen.

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