I have had a love affair with words since elementary school. I’d study the dictionary fascinated with the meaning of words, and to this day am captivated by people who master words – bringing out the distinctiveness of phrases and ideas to help us appreciate the nuances of language and its importance to us.

So, you can imagine my delight as I was reading Henri Nouwen’s “Spiritual Formation,” that he did an etymological excursion on the word discipleship and its relation to discipline.

He writes, “Discipleship, however, calls for discipline. Indeed, discipleship and discipline share the same linguistic root (from discere, which means “to learn from”) and the two should never be separated. Nouwen goes on to give insight into the various disciplines of the spiritual life of the disciple such as prayer, meditation, solitude and silence.

I continued to reflect on the connection between disciple and discipline. As disciples of Christ, must we not be disciplined in every dimension of our lives.
Should we not be disciplined in our eating? Our physical activity? Our spending? Our conversations? Our relationships?

Is not discipline the mark of the true disciple? Today we use the term disciple to mean one who follows and learns from a teacher, and in Christianity, a follower of Jesus is called a disciple, sometimes regardless of the level of real discipline.

Yet, therein lies the marvelous opportunity for those of us who pastor, teach, train and equip. Our challenge is to help transform followers into disciples. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m very clear that transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. Yet, God enlists us in the marvelous process of transformation-changing our mindsets, our hearts and ultimately growing us up!

Discipline for the disciple is like water to a fish! Its part of what just is for us. What is natural. It’s what we do as part of who we are. Ideally.

In reality, we don’t always get it right. At times we overeat. We spend too much money. We talk too much. Sometimes we get caught up in the excesses of the culture. The latent compulsions rise to the surface and demand our attention.

Yet in these times the disciple must yield to the call back to God, away from the noise. Away from the hustle and bustle and back to the disciplines that bring discipline to every dimension of our lives.

In that way, even in our most undisciplined state, the true disciple learns. We learn that the deepest longings of our hearts cannot be filled with things. We learn God has a way of disciplining us, that brings us back from the brink of excess. Thus we learn that we cannot truly be disciplined followers of Christ without the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit.

For some, discipline without discipleship is said to be rigid formalism. For the Christian, there is no discipleship without discipline. Whether the discipline we enact or the discipline God exacts, the life of the Christ follower is a life long journey of learning. And growing. And being transformed.

DrJ
(C) 2013 TransPorter Communication

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