This is the sixth article in our series on overcoming the carnal mind. I appreciate and applaud those of you that have come this far. I pray that you have been encouraged, edified and equipped – not only for yourself, but for those in your spheres of influence.

If these articles are blessing you, then they will be a blessing to others. Please pass them along – with encouragement – to the leaders you know. The church is in dire need of leaders that will search out deeper kingdom matters (Proverbs 25:2).

For those that are just joining us, we have, in previous articles:

  1. Made the case for attaching enemy status to our carnal minds;
  2. Provided five ways for exposing the carnal mind’s deceptive practices;
  3. Recognized our responsibility in taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ;
  4. Introduced the process of faith as God’s design for overcoming our carnal mind’s influence; and,
  5. Provided a layman’s explanation of the codependent relationship between faith and the mind.

While each of these stands alone fairly well, there is much to be gained by reading through them in order AND taking the time necessary for God to bless you along the way.

You will likely find that the second article is particularly challenging. Let me suggest that, rather than identify every deception before proceeding, you focus on one of two through an initial pass of the series – applying a few of the disciplines in overcoming those deceptions. You will then be better equipped for another iteration.

Speaking of disciplines, I appreciate your patience. If you are like me, nothing is more frustrating than to discover a gap and not know how to fill it. I have been looking forward to this myself, wondering how God would lay this out for us. Here we go.

Getting our Mind Right about Discipline

It is important that we first ensure our minds are rightly set in regards to the disciplines God has given us for our faith. We must therefore address a few potential deceptions.

  1. The disciplines of God are not about merit. The disciplines are not “work” for our salvation, or for God’s favor. Granted, practicing the disciplines will increase our faith, and thereby further our salvation. We will experience more of God’s favor through them. However – and this is BIG – they will be hay, wood and stubble – totally ineffectual – if we are “working at it”.

    The disciplines have been given by God for the development of our relationship with Him – including the exercise of that relationship through us. The disciplines are for our participation (Psalm 37:5). Our motivation in the disciplines must be to know God more and to be empowered with greater faith, the grace that faith appropriates, and the effectual working of His grace in and through us.

  2. The disciplines are not about ability. Most of us will hear our carnal mind say, “I simply cannot do that”, “I don’t have time”, or something similar. Like most deception, there is some truth in those statements; but, don’t be put off. Here’s what we should say back: “God has put His desire for this in my heart. He has the grace I need to do everything He desires. Let’s see what He has to say about it.” These words are alive and powerful truth (2Corinthians 10:4, Hebrews 4:12-13).

    Now, once we have put down our carnal mind, we can turn to God and work this out with Him. He will encourage, edify and equip us for the desire He has put in our heart. He has promised to give it to us (Psalm 37:4).

  3. Don’t expect this to be easy. You will have to come back to Him time and time again. That is His intention. He loves talking with His children. In the process, you will begin developing a key discipline – taking every thought captive (2Corinthians 10:5).

    Along the way, the carnal mind will attempt to distract and deceive. It will even feign to help us through the process. Resist these temptations. It is better not to know what to do next – even to be in the worst kind of chaos – than to put our trust in something that is at enmity with God.

  4. As we have alluded to before, there is no timetable for the mastery of these disciplines. Even the greatest mathematicians have to learn algebra and trigonometry before calculus. Similarly, there is an order to kingdom learning. It is perhaps unnecessary for some to study algebra or geometry for a full year. Others need more than one year of trigonometry.

    This is not to suggest that the disciplines are to be mastered in a serial fashion in all cases. For example, quieting the mind and taking every thought captive work together. And yet, there are obvious dependencies: reckoning the truth requires our first hearing it. Don’t let the dynamics of this trouble you. The Holy Spirit will guide us through the process.

    Furthermore, the Holy Spirit will lead us to give the bulk of our time and energy to certain disciplines in particular seasons. For example, I have found great benefit for this season in setting my mind on things above instead of on social media. There was a time when sports talk radio filled my time traveling from one place to another. I now cherish that time for prayer; and I have learned that fasting as a discipline applies to more than food.

    The point is: Don’t look for a program that will improve the discipline(s) in your life. Resist them as the ways of man. Otherwise, you risk missing one of the greatest disciplines of all – walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).

It is not our intention to list all of the myriad disciplines available to every Christian. There has been much written directly on the subject of disciplines. For example, in his book Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (2001), Ken Boa presents 36 disciplines (and he may have missed a few).

Other lists are included as application for specific areas of our faith journey. One of my favorite A. W. Tozer books, The Purpose of Man (compiled and edited by James L. Snyder; 2009), closes with a chapter on the seven disciplines that lead to a vibrant worshipful lifestyle: Quiet, Scripture, Prayer, Hymns, Devotional Reading, Simply Your Life, and Friends.

Faith being what it is, one could reasonably assert that each of Mr. Boa’s disciplines are necessary – or prescribe a list as long. However, I feel the Lord would have us follow Tozer’s example – suggesting four disciplines for each category. If the Holy Spirit leads you to others, then by all means walk with Him.

Now, FINALLY, we come to the list. As you will discover over the next couple of articles, the list of disciplines is broken down into four categories: Foundations, the hearing of faith, obedience to the faith, and the work of faith. There is a general order, but don’t let that be a substitute for the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to stir your desire for the one(s) most important in this season.

The Foundational Disciplines

Prayer – Prayer is essential because it comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). We are referring to listening prayer – in the closet and community; prayer that expects to hear God speak and is consequently hungry to know His voice. Seriously, if communicating with Almighty God is not strong enough motivation for the sacrifice of our temporal activities and/or sleep, then what will motivate us for anything else?

Much has been written on prayer. We need not repeat it here. Instead, allow me to recommend three inspiring and edifying books:

  • With Jesus Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray;
  • Destined for the Throne, by Paul Billheimer; and,
  • The PAPA Prayer, by Larry Crabb.

Bible Study – As Tozer asserts, “our reading should not be a marathon, but a slow, deliberate soaking in [the Scripture’s] message.” Reading is the means, not the end. Bible reading plans often inhibit our understanding of God and His purposes for our life. The Holy Spirit must be allowed – even encouraged – to guide us into the truth of Scripture and its intention for our faith. We must be attentive to the one verse or phrase that will hold our attention for days or weeks.

Furthermore, it is weak and lazy Christianity that passes over passages that challenge mind and comfort. Such practice deprives the LORD of relationship with His children – yes, that is rightly said; and the thought is worth great consideration. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit deserve more from us.

Loving God and Man – The two great commandments are more than something to be obeyed; and certainly, more than a passage we memorize and/or give mental assent. Loving God and man is our life, or it is the law. Indeed, it is one or the other. Love that is obeyed as law will not lead to life. Alternatively, a life of love empowers the children of God in their fulfillment of the law (Romans 8:4).

Disciplining ourselves in this regard is certainly more difficult (at least on the surface) than setting aside time and energy to pray or read our Bible. This love, agapao, is God’s love – sacrificial and quite contrary to our carnal nature and mind.

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (Chapter 3, verses 14-21) sheds great light on this subject. To read and believe such a prayer is worth all the riches of the world – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge. To know that which passes knowledge is to know by experience. In other words: To know, you must go. Discipline here means action.

Though we are also loved in this way, it is important to recognize that Paul’s prayer is for our love towards the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and towards the brethren. As we will later discover, this love is more closely aligned to the works of faith. For this discipline to have its full effect, we must become deliberate doers of God’s word.

Being Made to Make Disciples – Moving from the great commandments to the Great Commission, we discover a discipline lost to much of the church. For many, unlearning the world’s ways is a critical part of this discipline. Hearing is needed. Even more so is the doing – actually making disciples (versus converts).

This discipline is strongly related to our obedience to the faith. After all, the One Who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth – our Master, Captain, and King – has commissioned us all.

Some might argue that this is not so much a discipline of faith as it is a simple command. I humbly disagree on at least two fronts.

First, making disciples is not an event (e.g., preaching, teaching). The Great Commission is to be the primary function of our life on this Earth (and perhaps beyond). Indeed, making disciples more closely resembles apprenticing another – with spiritual development added into the mix. Furthermore, making disciples is the Biblically prescribed way for participating with Jesus Christ in building His church.

Second, many in the church have been deceived to think that “disciple maker” is a higher level of Christian, somehow reserved for vocational or “serious” Christians. The deception is appealing – particularly given the requirements of being a disciple (Luke 9:23). What these unfortunate individuals fail to understand is that they are Christ’s in as much as they follow Him… to be made… into disciple makers.

So, what does this have to do with foundational discipline? Everything!! The disciplined life begins with the desire to be made into whatever the Maker desires (read that again). Our house is founded and built upon “hears these sayings of Mine, and does them” (Matthew 7:24-25). Here we find the hearing of faith, obedience to the faith, and the works of faith wrapped up in eight words. Imagine that! What might life be like if we could only learn to exercise the discipline of being made.

Conclusion

Let me conclude by re-emphasizing our inability to practice the disciplines of faith. Without the grace of God, the disciplines would be both ineffectual and impossible to exercise. We would become discouraged without the encouragement of the Father. If Jesus is not making us, then we will soon grow proud of our progress. We will be lost in our search for the truth without our guide, the Holy Spirit.

Consider this: The three persons of the Godhead are actively working to encourage, edify and equip us for the disciplined, faith-filled, made-free-by-the-truth, and overcoming life. Our only responsibility is to choose God’s way. Such choices are sacred; for God enters into them with grace and purpose – and no purpose of His will be denied Him.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

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