A Biblical Concept
When you want to think of discipline, you have to think of a regimen or exercise that increases a skill. And in respect to godliness, it is regimen or exercises that increase and enhance a man’s godliness. That’s the way to think about it.
What you need to understand is that “disciplines” is a word that comes right out of the Scripture and from the apostle Paul. So the great classic text is 1 Timothy 4:7. In the middle of the verse where he says, “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Then he says “This is a worthy saying deserving of full acceptance.” So the apostle Paul is the one who gives the command for godliness. And so understand, “discipline” is a biblical word which the apostle Paul owns and promotes upon us.
In its context in the book of 2 Timothy, it is huge because he’s talking about promoting godliness for the sake of the gospel. In the second chapter he talks about godly men and their conduct, godly women and their conduct. Then in the third chapter, he talks about godly elders and their conduct, and then he talks about godly deacons and their conduct. And then he says, “I am writing these things to you that you know how to behave yourself, conduct yourself in the household of God which is a pillar and buttress of the truth.” And so he’s urging godly behavior in the book.
When you’re talking about godliness, it comes forth, radiates, and is empowered by Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit.
Christ Is Central
Significantly, right at the end of chapter three, verse sixteen, he says this, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness.” He’s talking about Christ as the mystery of godliness. “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” So he holds Christ as the kind of atomic center and core of godliness. We have to understand that when you’re talking about godliness, it comes forth, radiates, and is empowered by Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit.
But just eight verses later he says “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” So when you’re talking about discipline for the purpose of godliness, it’s with an eye on the Lord Jesus Christ as the one who enables godliness. You’re not talking about pick-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps godliness. It’s one that radiates and comes out of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so to speak, the nuclear radiating core of all godliness. Nevertheless, it is a command, it is an imperative. Discipline, train yourself for godliness.
If we have stripped ourselves bare of all besetting sins and every hindrance, and have begun to run with perseverance our race, we are then given the focus that guarantees our finishing well.
God is not counting our failures against us, and we are not building a treasury of merit with our successes. We are simply trying to live a disciplined life that pleases our loving Father.
Doing the Lord’s work in our own way is betrayal. It is a stab in the Lord’s back.