Thursday, February 06, 2014

Growing Big Faith - Private Disciplines

Private disciplines help us to be more like Christ.

Matthew 6:1-8  "Watch out! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.   

When you give to someone in need, don't do as the hypocrites do--blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.  But when you give to someone in need, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

"When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.  But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

"When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.  Don't be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!

Matthew 6:16-18  "And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.  17  But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face.  18  Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Discipline is a four letter word to most of us, we don't like being forced to do something that we do not want to do, we feel like we are suppose to do it whether we like it or not. It doesn't matter if it is exercise, budget, a diet or learning to play an instrument. Sometimes we don't always like disciplined people, sometimes they are inspiring but sometimes they get on our nerves, they make us feel bad, so we try to persuade them to be more like us.

Discipline is for our own good and that is even more true of spiritual discipline. Spiritual disciplines are another tool that God uses to help us grow closer to him. Our faith and trust in him will grow as our relationship with him develops, this doesn't happen by accident, there must be an intentional effort to get to know God.
"Students are to be like their teacher."
Right away Jesus tells us to not make a big deal of what you are doing. When it comes to being disciplined and doing good deeds Jesus tells us that we need to be a secret agent. If you are fasting, do your best to not look like you are, don't be a show off when you pray in public, God says that you won't get a reward from him if you have already gotten a reward from the people around you.

Don't mistake the purpose for private discipline, you are not trying to earn God's favor by checking off a bunch of good deeds, doing these things does not change the fact that you have been saved by grace alone. Becoming a better disciple is our goal. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Don't mistake the presence of these disciplines with spiritual maturity. They are not a guarantee that maturity exist rather they open the opportunity for it to develop. Sometimes the disciplines are being done with the wrong attitude but there is still some value in doing it. God can still use the time spent with you to bring you closer to him. You may find that it will get easier and the things that you used to dread will be something that you will look forward to.

Our selfish nature is always wanting to get stroked for doing the right thing but the lifestyle of the Christ follower is one that requires selfless discipline that will probably not get noticed. It is better that way so that we won't start to believe that we are anything away from the power of God.

My secret disciplines should include:

  • Helping those that have needs that I can meet.
  • Praying with the attitude that Jesus demonstrated in his example.
  • Forgiving the people that have hurt me without even mentioning the offense to them.
  • Fasting without looking like it I am doing so.
  • Bible study, meditation and memorizing scripture helps us overcome Satan's attack.
This is only a partial list of disciplines but it is a great place to start. For more information on spiritual disciplines check out this page.

The life of a Christ follower should be a disciplined life so that your faith can grow. It takes a lot of effort to take up your cross daily and to put on the Armor of God. Without discipline you will be tempted to give up and leave the cross and the armor laying on the ground.