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Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

This past week I read 1 Corinthians over the course of about 3 days and God showed me one discussion I’d never seen there before: hard work versus grace. It was encouraging and helpful for me as I’ve been wrestling with my own personal habits and disciplines that I need to be renewed in and step up in. I found 5 lessons in how grace and hard work go together.

#1: Hard work is not a means of status or standing (Ch. 1-4, 12-14).

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31 ESV)

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV)

On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:22-25 ESV)

#2: We work hard but, by His grace, God gives the fruit (Ch. 3)

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9 ESV)

#3: Hard work is not the primary source of fighting sin and resisting temptation, grace is (Ch. 10)

We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:9-13 ESV)

#4: Love is what we should strive to work hardest at (Ch. 13)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV)

#5: We work hard in light of eternity (our future grace!) (Ch. 15)

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
    “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
    “O death, where is your victory?
        O death, where is your sting?”
    The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:54-58 ESV)

#6: Christ’s work, not ours, is of first importance (Ch. 15)

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ESV)

1 Corinthians is a very helpful book of the Bible that I think I’ve neglected in the past. The Corinthians were struggling with status symbols, striving for a standing with each other, worried about who was following who, boasting in themselves and their leaders, working hard at their reputation and establishing their own justification. Paul very gently reproves this heart and encourages them in striving to be Christ-centered, not man-centered. He never tells them to stop striving or to stop working – but to work hard in the right motivation (in light of His grace) and right direction (loving and building up others).

Personally, I need to step it up in certain disciplines (like exercise and prayer) not so I will look good and feel more justified but to know God better and increase in my capacity to love and bless others. I want to be freed from my own selfishness and I need to work hard. But God will bring the growth as I persevere and trust Him. He has good plans and it may be that I need to wrestle with my sin for awhile in order to draw closer to Him and grow in humility. What I fear is either justifying myself through discipline or not persevering. God in 1 Corinthians reveals the antidote to both: the grace of God.

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My childhood home was not perfect. Neither is the home I lead, nor any home I know of or have ever heard of. How good it is to know that perfection is not necessary – simply a desire, a plan, prayer, and a regular reliance on God to equip us with the grace and strength to be faithful. – Tad Thompson, Intentional Parenting

Thompson cover 364 px

A few weeks ago, I had about 6 hours to kill sitting in the Minneapolis airport with no free WiFi waiting to catch a flight home out of a snowstorm so I decided to dig into Intentional Parenting by Tad Thompson on my Kindle. I was not disappointed but was convicted and encouraged. Mr. Thompson is very straight to the point and is practical while not dwelling on methods or recipes. I even finished the book prior to boarding my flight home.

Some Key Points

Here a few key points that I drew from the book:

the goal of family discipleship is to raise children who treasure Jesus above all things.

1. Our goal as parents is to trust God to raise kids that treasure Him above all things. It is not to raise children who simply love me, or love themselves (as our society would lean). Our primary goal is also not to raise kids who are moral or successful. Moses hammers home his main points in Deuteronomy 6 on passing on our faith to our kids in the context of what verse? Deuteronomy 6:4-6:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6 ESV)

2. My kids will not treasure Jesus above all things if I do not. This was a huge encouragement to me as well as very convicting. I needed to hear this again. Am I really growing in my love for Jesus? Or am I falling into simple routine and habit, barely showing up in the morning to just check some boxes? Am I striving to impart this to my young children or just go through some spiritual motions with them? This is such a huge point that I need to hear over and over again. We can make parenting, as with life, so complex and get so overwhelmed but it really is that simple: treasure Jesus above all things and raise my kids to do the same. The details will come. Get that goal down first.

The greatest blessing you can give your children is to treasure Jesus above all things, even above them. Is this is a reality in your home? If it’s not, you can confess your sins to Christ. You can flee to him. He is your advocate.

3. Early on in parenting your young children and in discipline, a key sub goal is helping reveal to them a need for a Savior. Yes, you want them to obey but you know they won’t be perfect. Does that mean you lower the standard of obedience? No! My little ones do not need to be exasperated but they need to be directed to Jesus out of a sense of their own sin and need for a savior. Discipline of your children is not about punishment but about correction and helping them understand the gospel: that they are sinners who have no hope apart from the death of Jesus on the Cross, that God loves and delights in them and made a way for them to know Him personally.

Not Just Another Book on Parenting

As a father, it is so easy for me to get derailed and on the path of simply raising moral kids or kids that respect me. I need to read books like this. I need refreshment in these truths. Mr. Thompson is not wordy, not condemning nor enabling, but does such an excellent job of communicating the basics of parenting in light of gospel. I appreciate the grace he communicates and yet how he does not let me off the hook in my weaknesses. I have 5 kids ages 6 and under and I felt like the truths shared here were very accessible and relevant. I highly recommend it and it may be the first book I now recommend to new parents. Shepherding Your Child’s Heart is the classic in my church along with Premeditated Parenting and Romancing Your Child’s Heart (and Teach Them Diligently which my wife and I love) but I appreciated Intentional Parenting because of Mr. Thompson’s simplicity in applying the gospel to parenting.

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Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity. – Augustine

A habit of reading the Bible will get broken easier than anything else

Focused time with God in the Word without a plan is difficult to sustain. Few of us are more disciplined than others, and I’m not arguing all of our walks or relationships with God look the same. However, just like I should not be showing up to a date night too unintentionally, I need a plan in my reading. This helps push us toward a good goal. Legalism, you say? It’s the Word! Will you really look back on your life regretting that you were too committed to reading the Bible?

None of us are too busy to read the Word. But why is it so hard? We have so many reasons to skip time in the scriptures, often those reasons have less to do with time and more to do with where we choose to spend our time. Is time in the Word a priority? Are we more faithful to spend 15 minutes reading up on sports or status updates than reading our Bible? We have 5 kids under the age of 6, think it’s hard for my wife or me to get into the Word and pray sometimes? You bet. So what keeps me going back? My love for the Word. When I sleep in too late or blow off my time in the Word, I crave it. Now, obviously, this is the work of the Holy Spirit in my life growing my love for Him. But what is our part?

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:11-12 ESV)

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:15-16 ESV)

Make a habit to seek the Word. God has wired us so that habits tend to affect our desires. When I oversleep for a week and run off without pursuing God in His Word, it becomes very hard the next week to get up. I start to not even desire to get up early. As I break this habit, the desire drifts as well. The more I daily snack on candy, the harder it is stop. We heat our lower level with a wood stove. I used to grumble in my head about making a fire in the mornings. Now I just do it and I enjoy doing it. When I head downstairs first thing in the mornings and it’s dark and cold outside, I just automatically bring in more wood and get a fire going. I don’t even think about it really. It’s same thing with approaching the Word. The more I seek God in the Word daily, the harder it is to stop. Now, don’t get me wrong, we battle the flesh which means that prayer and reading the Word will probably always be easier habits to break. Setting a habit of indulging the flesh in candy or fantasy football is very easy!

The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian. – AW Tozer

A Bible reading plan will help with this habit. It’s a plan. It’s so you don’t come to the Word and wonder what you’re going to read and it keeps you pressing on to finish the Bible. Is this legalism? It is if you find yourself just doing your duty and banging out your readings every day. A plan is a means to discipline, to establish a solid habit of pursuing God’s Word. Some of us can dwell in the Word consistently without a plan, but not me! If reading God’s Word without a plan is not habit for you, it will be difficult at first, and you will have to make a more concerted effort. But isn’t it worth it?

The more you read the Bible; and the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished with it. – Charles Spurgeon

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