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1 Timothy 4:7-9

“In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the word of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only of old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for boldness is profitable for all things since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.”

We live in a world of instant everything. We have instant coffee. We have instant information at our fingertips by way of the internet. Nearly every kind of food comes in an instant form. I didn’t say it was all good. Just that those things are available, and we have come to expect them to be available --- and right now!

And so, when it comes to our Christian life, do we expect that to come to us full grown? Do we want and expect effortless steps in life? Well, of course, we know that it does not happen that way, that quickly. It takes time to grow in our Christian life. It requires discipline.

We must recognize that discipling, or equipping, cannot be an instant action in our walk with Christ. More is required. Daily effort, repetition is required.

Equipping is a term that is related to athletes. A person becomes a trained and effective athlete through days, months, years, decades of consistent training and practice. Occasionally, we will hear of a “natural born athlete,” But, if that natural-born athlete fails to consistently train, he will become an unsuccessful run-of-the-mill non-athlete.

The training starts small. More is added as we progress. We practice until it becomes “natural” to us.

Often, after we have become a Christian, we lack discipline in our lives in the Church. God requires that we practice daily the disciplines which grow us into vital mature parts of the Body of Christ. We must train toward godliness. Toward being more Christ-like in all and every facet of our lives.

Now, when we discipline ourselves toward being more Christlike, an opposite action must take place as well. That opposite action is the discipline involves denying our old self. Jesus says it like this in Luke 9:23: “If anyone who wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” He means that we must deny old desires, old ways and habits, old practices, and so on. And did you notice He told us how often we are to deny ourselves? DAILY. We must deny those things which by habit have become second nature to us.

We spoke of practice earlier. We practice a lot of things in our lives. We even practice sinning. And we become very accomplished at it! We even could say we discipline ourselves toward ungodliness, instead of disciplining ourselves toward godliness.

Another way God describes denying ourselves is by saying that we must “put off” the old self and “put on” the new self. By doing that seek to follow Jesus Christ as Lord, as we discipline ourselves toward godliness. We continue to say “no” to self, and “yes” to Christ daily in all our actions and thoughts.

We replace the old habits with new God-approved habits. Godliness then becomes the “natural” thing to do and to be.

Discipline is recognizing that God gave us a capacity of habit. These are actions we do without ever thinking about them. And the longer we practice them, the more they become a part of who and what we are.

Think about this: which shoe did you put on first this morning? As you are driving your vehicle, do you have to stop and think about hitting the brake when another vehicle stops suddenly in front of you? You picked up a pen to write a note. Did you have to think about which hand you would use? Of course not. You would naturally use the right hand. The right hand, of course, is the left hand. Sorry, as a lefty, I got a little off course there.

But seriously, we live by habit. We live by some good habits and some not-so-good habits. If we practice them – good or bad – long enough, they will become a part of you. They will become you. You will become them.

So, where do we go from here? We must constantly examine the habits of our lives. Evaluate them by the Word of God as our Guide. Analyze whether the habits were developed in doing God’s will or whether it has developed as a response to sin.

We must replace the old sinful ways with new patterns from God’s Word.

Discipline first requires self-examination. Then it requires the crucifixion of the old ways. Further, it requires the practice in following Jesus Christ in His new ways. As we begin to follow His ways, He will guide us by the strength of the Holy Spirit spoken and demonstrated to us through the Word of God. It is one of those life experiences which may not always be easy, but it is God’s way, and He makes it possible,

Change does not come without the daily struggle. Success rarely just happens. And because of that Christians even can become discouraged and give up.

Is the character of Christ being molded into your life? If not, what are you going to do about it? There is only one conceivable way to become Godly. He requires becoming disciplined toward godliness until you do, in fact, become Godly – until the practice of godliness becomes second nature.

Gary’s Wednesday Word Princeton Christian Church 22 December 2021

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