Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chapter 5 - Disciplined by Grace

We had an excellent discussion on Thursday. Here are some of the things that we talked about:

Reassuring and sobering – 'God never saves people and leaves them alone to continue in their immaturity and sinful lifestyles. Those whom he saves he disciplines.’ Page 82 The circumstances and trial in our lives are not ‘random’ events, but that they are part of Gods ‘firm but loving care for our souls.’ Isn’t this reassuring. I loved the picture that was painted in this chapter of God as the loving father training, admonishing, correcting and disciplining his children in order to cultivate spiritual growth and godly Character.

Left to ourselves, we would either be overwhelmed with our utter sinfulness, and not know where to begin the changes needed to make our lives and character godly, or we would not even see the hidden sinfulness of our heart and continue along in our sinful and self righteous ways.

Once again Grace takes the focus off our ability (or rather inability) to achieve godliness, and brings us back to the truth. That we can’t fulfill the call to godliness with our own will-power and that we need to trust God even to guide us in our spiritual Growth.

The slide of the church – ‘One has only to look around at Christendom, particularly the United States, to see that there is a vast multitude of people who claim to have trusted Christ at some time but do not seem to have experienced any of the discipline of grace. They may have walked an aisle, signed a card, or even prayed a prayer, but grace is not teaching them to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, let alone to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. Essentially, their lives are no different today than they were before they professed to have trusted Christ.’ Page 83. This lead us to discuss the ‘church’. Some of us could relate that we have encountered ‘Christians’ who don’t appear to be any different to the world. Allowing their beliefs on issues such as morality, sobriety, honesty, marriage, the role of women etc, to slide away from the biblical standard. It has been said that the average life of a true church is only 30 years or one generation. Why does this happen? Why has the ‘church’ slid so far? We felt that at the root of this must be a lack of biblical teaching, an undermining of the authority of scripture and complacency. Could it be true that the next generation has never had to fight for what they believe, stand up for it and work it out for themselves. Sometimes truth is taken for Granted.

A friend who was an elder in a reformed congregation once related to us, that in Sunday school he asked the older students what the acronym T. U. L. I. P. stood for (This being a simple acronym to help them remember the ‘doctrines of grace’). None of the children knew so he sent them home to ask their parents and come back with the answer the following week. None of the parents knew either. This was a wake up call, as they realised that as a congregation they had become complacent and had taken for granted that everyone knew why they where reformed and what it stood for. It was a reminder to re-focus their teaching.

How can we prevent this from happening to us? We thought that it may be helpful to learn biblical truth systematically. We had came up with a few suggestions:
  • we could teach our children the Catechism (a small printed version is available called 'Childrens "Prove it" Catechism' published by Truth for Eternity Ministries
  • Remember to preach the gospel to ourselves (chapter 3)
  • Teach our children as much as we can whilst they are still open
  • Memorise scripture. It is our responsibility to know the word of God and be ready to give an answer 2 Tim 4:12
  • Read through the confession of faith, or maybe use it as a bible study guide.
  • We need to help our children think about the truth so that they can own it themselves.

But in doing the above we need to be careful not to fall into the way of thinking that Jerry describes on page 81. ‘No one actually told me that God’s approval of me was based on my performance. Still I developed a vague but real impression that God’s smile or frown depended on whether or not I did my spiritual exercises. … If we fail to teach that discipline is by grace, people will assume, as I did, that it is by performance.

Legalism: What is legalism? In my previous life, as a charismatic, I thought a church was legalistic if it was ‘traditional’ or ‘conservative’, played hymns instead of modern worship songs, and had ordered services. I vaguely thought that this was some kind of adherence to a set of outward rules, and not ‘allowing the Spirit to move’. I realise now that this view came about because of ignorance of what the bible teaches about worship and the life of the church. What do you think legalism is? On page 81 we read the story of a young man who was very diligent in the practice of his daily quiet time. ‘My friend asked the student why he was so rigid in his practice, and the young man responded, “so nothing bad will happen to me.” He was not being disciplined by grace but by legalism’. Page 81 Why do you do your devotions? Are you being disciplines by grace or legalism?