Hello Ladies! It’s been awhile since we talked about IDEALS, so let’s do it!
In the last post, we considered what it means to be Immersed in the Word—to live a life in which the truths of Scripture determine how we think and act because we are hiding the Word in our hearts (Ps. 119:11) and meditating on it continually (Ps. 119:97).
At our March ladies gathering, we looked at why it’s important to cultivate a supreme view of the Word—and the God of the Word—and how we can put that conviction into practice. (The handout from the gathering is attached here, in case you missed that time of sweet fellowship.)
Today, let’s look at the “D” and the “E” of the IDEAL Christian life: Disciplined in Our Walk and Equipped for Every Good Work. These two principles go together like peas and carrots.
If the term “discipline” makes you scrunch up your nose in an eat-all-your-veggies sort of way, taste and see that discipline is a good thing! Biblical discipline is not harsh or rules-driven, as some might think. Rather, it is training in godliness.
In the first of two inspired letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to his protégé in the faith, Paul warns him in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 to avoid false teaching (error) and to instead “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily training is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things.”
In the nearest context, Paul is addressing Timothy, a young preacher; but in the broader context, this call to godliness is extended to believers of all ages, vocations, and eras.
Godliness can be defined as reverence or respect toward God—possessing a high view of God. The godly person adores God and has a practical awareness of God in every area of life. A godly person puts God in His proper place. The undisciplined person puts something else in God’s place. This is referred to as idolatry. 
A disciplined walk generates and sustains a right view of God (godliness) that permeates the very fiber of the believer’s being—mind, heart, attitudes, and behaviors. Now that we have considered what godliness is and recognize that it stems from a disciplined life, let’s contemplate the meaning and composition of spiritual discipline.
In his excellent book, Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney defines spiritual disciplines as “those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
To be disciplined in our Christian walk, then, means to obey Scripture as a routine way of life and as a natural response to our saving faith. It involves doing those activities that Scripture commands us to do, such as reading and meditating on the Word, praying, worshipping, and serving. A disciplined walk results in knowing and experiencing God and growing in Christlikeness—it results in godliness.
Godliness is beneficial for all things, Paul says to Timothy. It influences how we view the world and our circumstances. It determines how we use our time (Eph. 5:15-16). It shapes our understanding of God, and it impacts our earthly relationships as we consider them from the perspective of eternity. It affects how we carry out the Lord’s work. It authenticates our Christian witness. In short, it makes us more like Christ, and it is profitable for this life and the next.
In her equally excellent book, Disciplines of a Godly Woman, Barbara Hughes gets to the heart of the matter by providing a definition that addresses some misconceptions. She distinguishes true spiritual discipline from letter-of-the-Law- legalism, the latter of which might give the outward appearance of a disciplined Christian walk but falls short of a heartfelt hunger to grow in godliness. Put succinctly, “legalism is self-centered; discipline is God-centered. .
Let’s chew on this a bit.
Legalism is the use of human effort to achieve or maintain a right standing before the Lord (Gal. 3:3). For the legalist, discipline has a self-centered goal in mind: to gain merit with God.
Legalism inevitably results in adding rules and commands where there are none and twisting the ones that actually are there in God’s Word. Legalism is rooted in pride and often consists of judging others for not living up to the man-made moral standards the legalist has determined meritorious.
Can you think of some examples of legalism disguised as spiritual self-discipline?
One need not look further than the Pharisees to find a few illustrations, but let’s get even more practical—and perhaps look a little closer to home. One example that comes to mind is the desire to read the Bible every day.
It is a good thing to read the Bible every day. A very good thing! However, if reading the Bible every day produces a sense of self-accomplishment—or perhaps feelings of drudgery—the point (and the Person) has been gravely missed. As well, if the intent of reading the Bible is to merely gain knowledge or to impress others, the point (and the Person) has been gravely missed. In these examples, the effort has moved from spiritual discipline to counterfeit godliness.
If the purpose of reading the Bible is a desire to gain the Lord’s approval, to feel accomplished, or to impress others, isn’t it likely that missing a day will result in guilt feelings, despair, a sense of failure, or fear that God is angry? Do you see, then, how such motivations and responses are self-centered, driven by emotions, and the opposite of spiritual self-discipline?
In terms of God’s approval of us, our right standing before Him is achieved only through Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, was raised from the dead for our justification, and even now intercedes for us at the throne of grace (Ro. 4:25; Heb. 7:25). Where our efforts have been tainted in full or in part by any variety of legalism, let us repent, trusting that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Since Jesus’ work on the cross covers our sins past, present and future, and the Father can never love us any more or less than He does now, we are unencumbered to pursue godliness.
In Colossians 1:10, the Apostle Paul instructs the believer to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
Paul is effectively saying that good works flow out of godly living. A truly godly person can’t help but do good works! In other words, a disciplined walk produces genuine godliness, which is pleasing to the Lord, and equips us for every good work. See? Peas and carrots!
A disciplined walk is not a short jaunt down a well-manicured path—it is a lifelong pilgrimage of faith through hills and valleys, around twists and turns. It’s an invigorating journey, because the Lord is with us and is making us more and more like Him. At the same time, the passage and the perils along the way often push us to near exhaustion. Nevertheless, we must press on and do the hard walking! Ladies of Grace, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12b-13)
There is so much more that could be said! Fortunately, we are being offered a couple of ways to grow in our reverence of God and to consider more deeply the spiritual disciplines which will better equip us to bear fruit in every good work.
The Elders at Grace Hill are offering two Equip classes on Wednesday evenings this summer, beginning May 5th at 6:30PM. The first 6-week class will provide a study of God’s incommunicable attributes—those characteristics that only He possesses. The second 6-week Equip class will offer instruction on the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. The timing of these classes could not be more ideal!
Until next time, keep pressing on in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, encouraging one another to do likewise.
 Virtue and Assurance, Part 1, Grace to You; August 19, 1990
 Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney; page 4
 Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes; page 14