Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Discipline of Watching

There are scenes in my upcoming novel A Light Shining where a character does little except watch. In fact, the book opens that way. He’s observing two main characters, and he will continue observing them throughout the story.

His purpose in watching is to learn their habits and patterns, see where they go, understand how they live their lives, and wait for further instructions. And no, his intentions are not good.

In The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges emphasizes the importance of – the discipline – of watching. But the watching, in this case, is directed at ourselves. And Bridges seems to define “watching” as part observation, part understanding and part introspection – with an emphasis on doing and not doing.

And what we have to watch for, Bridges says in this chapter, “The Discipline of Watching,” are “three different sources of temptation: the world, the flesh, and the Devil.”

I know it’s rather passé, even for Christians, to talk about the devil. We like to think we’re so much cooler than to engage in a conversation about Satan without at least sharing a knowing look of “this is how people used to talk about the devil.” The fact is, the Bible is either right or wrong about Satan, and there’s no room for smiling condescension.

And the world. “The world, or the sinful society in which we live, is characterized by the subtle and relentless pressure it brings to bear upon us to conform to its values and practices. It creeps us on us little by little. What was once unthinkable becomes thinkable, then doable, and finally acceptable to society at large. Sin becomes respectable, and so Christians finally embrace it. It is my perception that Christians are no more than five to ten years behind the world in embracing most sinful practices.”

Read that paragraph over again. My ears burned when I read it. That description may have summarized that last 50 years of American Christianity.

But he saves most of his ammunition in this chapter for “the flesh.” That means us. That means, he says, that “our greatest source of temptation dwells within us.” It is our sinful, fallen nature. As long as we live on this planet, we have to deal with the consequences of sin, and especially as those consequences play out in ourselves and our lives.

To summarize what he counsels us to do: know yourself; study your weaknesses; identify areas of strength (and be extremely careful about them – they can be as much our downfall as our weaknesses); look for the little things, “the things that seem so unimportant;” understand what the Apostle Paul meant by Christian “liberty” – it is not a license to do whatever we please; and employ the best defense we have available to us – the study of God’s Word and prayer.

This chapter may not contain the most popular things he has to say in the book, but it might likely be the most important.

Tim Challies at Informing the Reforming is leading a discussion of The Discipline of Grace. To see what he has to say and comments (and links) by others, please visit Tim’s site.


David Rupert said...

Glynn, I know in my life there is a slow creep. Whether it's in my waistline or my discipline in thought life, one compromise leads to another.

Jerry Bridges has long been a book friend of mine, as I have treasured his practical advice. The Pursuit of Holiness changed my life. Thanks for this review.

Anonymous said...

I've heard people say that before. "Watch yourself now."

Seems like it doesn't take much for something to be a downfall.

Have you ever seen a cat creep-up on it prey?