As I said in my message at the APCM last Sunday the words discipline and disciple have been on my heart and so I feel it is right for me to share that same message, somewhat more succinctly, in my May blog as I believe it is a Word from God for St. Mark’s for this time and season.
If our hearts and minds are to become more like Jesus we need to be open to our loving Father’s discipline. Discipline is not a favoured or welcomed word in today’s culture and can have a very negative connotation, but if we embrace discipline which is offered in love, then it can transform lives just as loving parents discipline their very loved child for his/her well-being. So then how much more should we accept discipline from our loving Father in Heaven, who loves us even more than our earthly parents?
The writer to the Hebrews uses an athletic imagery in Chapter 12 to describe God’s discipline to his beloved children.
1. Get rid of baggage that might weigh us down – no extra spiritual fat or parasitic sins. Far too many Christians try to run the race while carrying all kinds of heavy baggage – things that are not in themselves wrong but slow us down such as anxiety, worry, fear, control; and then sin which trips us up such as pride, greed, unforgiveness, worldly success, resentment, and so on. Sin can obstruct and constrict us – like something being put in the way of the runner seriously damaging the chance of completing the race, and the devil loves to do that. Sin needs to be removed in individual lives, and in the life of God’s gathered people.
2. We need stamina for the long haul. Get rid of sin, strip down, start running, and never quit. It is so easy to start off in a fast sprint but in doing that we run out of steam and become exhausted. We need to be patient and persevere and that takes discipline. A student needs to be disciplined in revising for exams if they are to gain okay grades and move on in their education. If not they may find themselves being disciplined for their own good by their tutors, teachers, or loving parents in order to gain the adequate grades. Disciples of Jesus are learners, and we need to be disciplined in our learning.
3. Thirdly we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and study how He ran the race set before him. He has pioneered the way through for us, and we will never have to go through what Jesus did. When we feel like giving up because we are exhausted, we have sinned again and messed up, we have allowed a large obstacle to obstruct our vision, we need to remind ourselves of the litany of hostility that Jesus went through – that should shoot adrenaline into our souls and our feet!
So we need to train, learn, be constantly educated by our loving Father if we are to grow in our discipleship and in our loving relationship with Him.It may be painful at times, but we are not to shrug it off. God loves us so much He wants us to be changed more and more into His image, and into the likeness of His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. And I believe Life Groups are a good place to grow in this sort of discipleship.
So let’s get going – no more sitting on our hands and dragging our feet. Let’s clear everything away that may prevent us from running the race. Help each other out. Work at getting along with each other. Make sure no one misses out on God’s grace, his generosity, and don’t let weeds of bitter discontent spring up and cause trouble. Rather embrace God’s discipline, and that may differ for each one of us but when we do, holiness will take root in our lives, and we will mature as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
When I was on the Sea of Galilee I felt God calling me further out into the deep waters.One can stay in the shallow waters and splash around, have fun, it’s often warmer in the shallow waters, and make a lot of noise, but there is nothing to catch there. Or one can have the courage to go out into the deep dangerous, dark, cold waters, and there let down your nets, and cast wide your expectations of a great catch.
Jesus that day called me out into the deep waters in order to have a deeper relationship with Him, though I thought my relationship with Him was quite good, but obviously not deep enough; and a call to go much deeper into the community where it may be dark, dangerous and cold but that is where the catch is; and lastly the call to go out deeper into the waters was a re-affirming of His calling and authority that He has given to me to lead St. Mark’s – a church living in the fullness of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
I share this with you because as I have prayed, I believe it is not only me He is calling, but all of us as His disciples to put out into the deep waters, and cast out our nets. It is quite scary but He speaks the same words to us as He did to Peter, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people. And after this they left everything and followed Him beginning three years of discipleship, of study, training, education and learning, and they began running the race not really understanding where the race would take them, but being obedient to Jesus’ command ‘Follow Me’.
I leave you this message as I start my 3 month sabbatical. And I pray that we will all be prepared to lay aside unhelpful baggage, sins, personal preferences that we carry, and which may well hold us back from running the race, and doing God’s will – His will of growing His Kingdom. I leave you all in God’s good and loving hands, as well as in the hands of a great team overseen by Gary and the new Church Wardens Lauren Myers and Roy Brockhurst. I pray that you will encourage one another, support one another, help each other out, and run for it, as you join in with God’s work and mission, embracing our vision