Summary: What disciplines should characterize the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ?
When we began this series on discipleship, we did so by looking to Hebrews 12:1-2, where we learned that discipleship is all about becoming more like Jesus. That is our goal in spiritual growth. In that passage, the writer likens the process of discipleship to being in a race. In our text for today, the apostle Paul uses the same imagery as he speaks to us about the importance of discipline.
Corinth was the home of the "Ithmian Games," which was second only to the Olympic Games in significance to ancient Greeks. It is not surprising, therefore, that Paul would use athletic imagery to speak of the value of discipline in our seeking to become more like Jesus.
Paul speaks of our need to run in such a way as to "get the prize" (v. 24) What is Paul describing here? Well, he is not talking about salvation. He is not urging the lost to work hard in order to reach the goal of winning their salvation. He is not talking about striving to live in such a way as to receive heaven as a reward; rather, he is talking about striving to live in such a way as to receive a reward in heaven.
You see, one day, every Christian will give an account to God concerning the life they lived here below. Some will be rewarded, some will not. But the degree to which I will one day be rewarded will be determined by the degree to which I develop Christ-like character in my life today. So Paul tells us if we are going to develop Christ-like character for which we will one day receive reward, we must understand the value of discipline.
One cannot be a disciple without learning discipline!
". . . discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." ~ 1 Timothy 4:7b (NASB)
If I am going to develop Christ-like character in my life, there are certain disciplines, or habits I need to practice as part of my lifestyle. As the old saying goes:
Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.
As we allow the Spirit to renew our minds, we will act in ways that are pleasing to God; and as we act in ways that are pleasing to God, we will develop habits that will develop Christ-like character; and as we develop Christ-like character, we will fulfill our destiny of become just like Jesus!
Discipline was the key to our Lord fulfilling the will of the Father.
". . . even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience." ~ Hebrews 5:8 (NLT)
Jesus grew up like we grow up. He learned like we learn. He was not born with Scripture in His head, for example, He had to learn it.
"And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." ~ Luke 2:52
If we are going to be just like Jesus, we must "learn obedience" through developing disciple habits. Paul tells us about the importance of discipline in developing Christ-like character. He tells us that if we are going to develop Christ-like character, we must . . .
1. Be discriminating in what we do-v. 25
Paul says that just as an athlete gives priority to habits that will develop him as a champion, a disciple gives priority to habits that develop Christ-like character. As we study the Scriptures, we discover four habits that Jesus told His disciples to make part of their lifestyle.
A. The habit of meditation -
"If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples." ~ John 8:31 (Amplified)
"And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed."
~ Joshua 1:8 (The Message)
B. The habit of prayer -
"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples." ~ John 15:7-8 (NASB)
C. The habit of giving -
"So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say good-bye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple." ~ Luke 14:33 (Amplified)
"The purpose of tithing is to teach you to always put God first in your lives." ~ Deuteronomy 14:23 (LB)
D. The habit of fellowship -
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples--when they see the love you have for each other."