Thursday, October 4, 2012

Committing to Discipline

I’m in an officer training class at our church. I missed the first three sessions because we were on vacation in London, but I went through the training a few years back prior to being elected to the deacon board.

The material is familiar: two sessions on church history, reading the Bible, theology, anthropology, Christology, soteriology, The Holy Spirit, ecclesiology and the sacraments, eschatology. The purpose for which God created the world, church government, the officers of the church, the life and character of the officer, and leading healthy churches. And then there’s a session on ordination vows. All potential, elders and deacons alike, go through the same training.

It’s a lot of material, especially all of the “ologies.” But the Presbyterian tradition places great emphasis on Bible study, learning and education, so it’s no surprise that the training covers so much and is as thorough as it is.

Oh, there’s a kind of oral exam at the end, when an elder or two spends some time asking you questions, like “what exactly do we mean when we say we believe in perseverance of the saints?”

It’s serious stuff, even if we do have our funny moments during the training.

It’s also a commitment, a disciplined effort to read and study the material each week, answer the questions, and participate in the discussion.

It’s not a legalistic commitment. It’s a commitment made from love and a desire to serve.

It has a counterpart in the commitment we all make as Christians to holiness, even when we know that we will fall short and even though, as Jerry Bridges says in The Discipline of Grace, “we are reluctant to make a commitment we know we will not keep.”

Still, it’s what is expected of us. And we do it not to earn some benefit, or to buy our way into heaven, but because we want to return the love that God has given us. It is a commitment to discipline, yes, but it is a commitment to discipline born of love.

Exceptions to the commitment are not allowed. “It is the intention to please God in all our actions that is the key to commitment to a life of holiness,” Bridges says. “If we do not make such a commitment to obedience without exception, we will constantly find ourselves making exceptions.”

Commitment. Discipline. Pleasing God in everything we do. Holiness. Coming from love.

And grace.

Tom Challies at Informing the Reforming, is leading a discussion of The Discipline of Grace. Check Tim’s site for more of the discussion on this chapter, “The Discipline of Commitment.”

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