December 5, 2014

The freeing fire of discipline

Today’s devotional reading suggests that the mind of Christ is both a disciplined and powerful thing. The more discipline a Christian has, the more we are set free from the superfluities of life.

When I am at prayer, I have pencil and paper handy for often that is when the best ideas pop into my head. When God fills me with His Spirit, I am more organized, highly creative and have more energy. The reading also says that a disciplined mind produces a more beautiful countenance on those who have it. I don’t know about that last part, but I do know that when someone is filled with the Holy Spirit, they look wonderful. Joy is better than cosmetics.

Discipline also takes care of fears. Timothy was Paul’s young disciple, and from the two letters he wrote, Timothy seems to have had a tender and timid heart combined with his genuine faith. He was gifted, but his fears threaten the use of his gifts.

Paul wrote the following to him . . . “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:3–7)

The Greek word for self-control has also been translated as “having a sound mind.” This is about having the mind of Christ, because both self-control and love are included in the description of the fruit of the Spirit . . . “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .”  (Galatians 5:22–23)

Power is also from the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) This power overcomes many obstacles, include fear. It makes those who have it a formidable force to share the good news with the world.

Another example is Stephen. He preached to the Jewish religious leaders, and “when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:54–60)

Stephen not only died with his eyes on God, he was quick to forgive those who killed him. Christians don’t get this way by living undisciplined lives. Paul told Timothy to “fan the flame” or rekindle his gifts, and get on fire for God. Such an attitude and the action that goes with it is both costly and challenging. However, the disciplined life produces a freedom that rises above anything it might cost. Not only that, “the disciplined mind is a beautiful mind.”

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