I wonder if you’re like me and when you hear the word discipline your mind jumps back to sitting in the head master’s office at school. I wasn’t necessarily a naughty child but there was the odd time, or few, when I needed to be taught how to behave, that involved discipline.
But is all discipline the same? The Bible calls Christians to a life of self-discipline, surely that’s not the same is it?
No, it isn’t. God calls His children to a life of self-discipline not because it will make us right with Him, but because our desire should be to live a life that is pleasing to Him. Christians do not believe in a salvation by works, but we believe that our faith should impact our lives there is a big difference!
That’s why Paul writes in Colossians 3:5-11 that we are to take off the old self and put on the new self.
Our lives of self-discipline are to be lived out because of our new identity in Jesus which we see in Colossians 3:1-4
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above,
not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Our identity as the people of God has now changed from being under the wrath of God to being raised with Christ. Resurrection requires death, death to our old way of living and to our old selves, but it involves new life and a new identity that is so bound up with Jesus that Paul says we are “hidden with Christ in God”.
Living out this new identity means that we fix our hearts and minds on Jesus and it means that we live out our new identity. Paul says in Colossians 3:5 “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” and he goes on to list these things in v5 and v8. These lists are difficult to ‘put to death’ because at the core they are idolatry and each of us is guilty of that.
But this is the same life of self-discipline that Jesus calls his followers to in Luke 9:23
“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
When we have had our whole identity changed, meaning that we have gone from being guilty in the sight of God to being declared free and forgiven, we become disciples of Jesus. Therefore, as Christians, we are called to deny ourselves.
The process that Paul speaks about in Colossians 3:5-11 is exactly that, it is the practical application of denying ourselves and taking up our cross. Jesus and Paul are both saying the same thing, our lives are to reflect the change that God has brought about in us. This change is not a one off event, but it is continuous. In v10 Paul says that Christians are being renewed in knowledge in the image of our Creator, Jesus calls this process following Him.
So as Christians, as a church family, we are a people who are constantly changing, constantly dying to self and putting on and living out our new identity in Jesus. This life of self-discipline is not an easy task, but Jesus isn’t calling us to this by our own strength, He calls and equips His people to do this by giving us the Holy Spirit who is constantly at work in our lives. To live this life of self-discipline isn’t easy, and so God has put us together to live with, pray for and encourage one another in our struggle against the flesh.
Ask someone this week how you can be praying for them as they constantly take off their old self and put on the new. Pray for people, encourage them with the Bible and let’s help each other to set our hearts and minds on the things that are above.