Discipline, in the context of spiritual maturity refers to training or dealing with the mind, emotions, and will, by submitting them in acts of obedience to the instructions, training, pruning of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, divinely sanctioned authority, and trials; to produce self-control and habits of obedience or the results of such dealings (Romans 5:3). It is a life in which self and its proxies for open rebellion against the will of God: – the flesh, the mind, the emotions and the volition (will), have been, or are practically and progressively being dealt with to enable us portray the beauty and character of Jesus in our lives.
“Spiritual Maturity, seeks not its own,
but God’s glory and the edification of others.”
The absence of discipline in our lives weakens our testimony or Christian witness about the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The lack of it weakens and destroys our fellowship with God and man; creates breaches in our divine protection systems, and impales our ability to receive and discern divine revelation. Such a condition also places us out of sync with the principles for divine service, and weakens our power for Christian service, our usefulness in the hands of God, and our strength in spiritual warfare (I Corinth 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:19-21). Its absence or lack of its pursuit sets us up for failure. Such was the story of the Corinthian Church, which led the Apostle Paul to describe them as carnal Christians. This was a church that came behind in the manifestation of none of the gifts of the Spirit, but was also the epicenter of divisions, immorality of unusual sorts, litigations, self-promotion, drunkenness, and gluttony, even at communion services; not to mention the chaos in the manifestation of the gifts of the spirit. Such was the paradox in the Corinthian Church story. It was, therefore, not strange that some came under divine judgment, where Paul had to challenge them at one point to examine their lives to make sure they were in the faith; because they were making a mockery of the message of the gospel. In contrast to the self-serving, self-promoting, self-saving tendencies that seem to be so much of the pursuit of our times, a life that exemplifies discipline is full of self-denial, self-sacrifice, and self-control; where the Spirit of God is the guiding and empowering force, and the word of God is the regulator of perceptions and actions. A life of self-denial makes us less contentious, less boastful and vaunting, and less condescending. It makes us less egoistic and haughty, but more humble, and magnanimous; less alive to self, but more alive to spiritual values in all wisdom. A life of self-sacrifice makes us less demanding but more generous, appreciative, and promotive of others; more serviceable, diligent, responsive to the needs of others and more responsible. It seeks not its own, but God’s glory and the edification of others, insofar as biblical values are not compromised. A life filled with self-control is not impetuous, impatient, or lustful; but temperate, sober, chaste, and restrained. This is what Paul referred to as death to self on a daily basis (II Corinthians 4:10-11, 1618). These are the qualities demanded of leadership, and they are also the signs one should look for in making lifelong commitments in friendship and marriage. We are exhorted to look for a manifestation of their presence and not absolutes; for no one is perfect and maturity comes with time. Discipline as an indicator of spiritual maturity manifests itself as Temperance, Patience, Tolerance, and Meekness (Luke 21; 19; I Corinthians 9:25-27; Galatians 5:22, 23; Romans 15:1-3; II Peter 1: 6). Such a life is full of self-control and self-denial; forbearance, soberness, longsuffering, moderation and endurance. This is the essence of “Walking in the Spirit” – Galatians 5:16, 26. To be continued.