“ ... This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation: “I know all the things you do that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. And also buy white garments so you will not be shamed by your nakedness. And buy ointment for your eyes so that you will be able to see. I am the one who corrects and disciplines everyone I love. Be diligent and turn from your indifference.” Revelation 3:14-19 NLT
Governments in dire straits, the economy in distress, education failing, technology overload, global unrest and instability: until recently, we have mostly watched the upheaval and difficulties from a distance. Now it’s on our shores and creeping inward at an alarming rate. Why is this happening?
Why is this happening?
Almost a century ago, as a young boy, Alexander Solzhenitsyn heard this same question in his native country: Why have all these disasters befallen Russia? The answer came from the old people: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Going on to spend more than half a century studying the history of the revolution, and writing his own thoughts on it, he could only answer years later the same way: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
Seventy-five years ago, E. Stanley Jones stated: “One of the needs of the present day is the putting of discipline back into life.” This need came about as society reacting “strongly against the imposed authority and taboos of the Victorian age” did not have anything to take their place. It found the pendulum swinging to the opposite end and allowing greater permissiveness with the belief this would bring the desired freedom.
Jonathon Lunde addresses this crisis today as a discipleship crisis. This is due to the “ever-increasing truncated versions of biblical Christianity.” Many people believe that they are living the Christian life. And he believes that, from their viewpoint they are, at least, as it has been presented to them. But these abridged versions are not adequately preparing us for living as disciples today.
Jones connected discipleship and discipline as having “a close kinship ... no discipline, no disciple.” Teachers were told “the child must be left to guide itself.” This mindset diminishes discipline (training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character). When one cannot discipline (punish or penalize a child or student), then learning and the development of mental faculties and moral character are also compromised.
This mindset has infiltrated the Church as well. As Christians we need to be disciplined enough in the Word (trained) so that we can also be disciplined by the Word (recognizing our sins).
Lunde explains the dilemma: our youth are embracing a Christianity which falls far short of the truth. Why is this? It is partly because their parents and other adult models have also fallen for this watered-down version. Instead of true Christianity, they are practicing what has been dubbed as moralistic therapeutic deism (MTD). This “narcissistic” version of Christianity “requires little from its adherents.” When the watching world sees this “insipid” – pointless and sterile – religion modeled, it develops a “pervasive disillusionment” about Christianity and its claims. This should cause a great concern among practicing Christians, not only because Christianity is always just a generation away from extinction, but even more importantly because of all the souls who are lost when truth is not being taught and embraced.
Addressing the dire need for Truth
In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize for literature, Solzhenitsyn wrote “the soul of the nation” can be preserved through the passing down of its generations of literature. If kept intact it can become “the living memory of the nation, preserving and kindling within itself the flame of the nation’s spent history in a form that is safe from deformation and slander.” He believed literature that gives us truths were good indicators of a healthy society.
There is only one “World Literature” book that can do what Solzhenitsyn believed would draw the disparate societies together. It is the Bible. All other literature and even the notes provided in study Bibles are a men’s thinking and interpretations. But these are secondary to the Holy Word of God. Only His Word is the universal yardstick with which to measure with precision and accuracy everything in life from one corner of the globe to the other.
Jones taught that it was a matter of accepting the discipline “under the guidance of God.” It involves prayer and study of God’s Word. It is not something “that is handed to us” but is something that is drawn from within—a spiritual discipline—between God’s Spirit and oneself. By accepting this discipline, one becomes a disciple of truth.
Recovering the big picture
Lunde believes the only way to correct the need for discipleship is to hear and understand Biblical Christianity right from the source—Jesus Christ. To be able “to hear him faithfully, we must be able to recover a big picture understanding of God’s purposes as they come to full expression in Jesus … the power of his ministry [must be] in the robust richness of the first century.” This is imperative: If we are to expect “people to take Christianity seriously in our context [the twenty-first century] then Christians need to begin taking Jesus seriously in his context.” We need to capture and preserve what Jesus had in mind when He walked this earth. Through His Spirit, He continues to provide these riches, calling us to discipleship.
There is no wiggle room; we must get to know “our own inconsistency and fickleness of heart.” Jesus will be our “Representative ... Redeemer ... [and] reigning King” as well as “Restorer.” He restores our brokenness and unfaithfulness. He comes to our table even in our defilement; He will heal and transform us—physically and spiritually.
Lunde explains when Jesus came to redeem and restore us, it included “attacking the dominion of darkness”—and has foreshadowed the time when Satan’s reign will end. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, they “surrendered to Satan” the authority given to them by God. Jesus has now reclaimed this authority through His “powerful ministry offering gracious refuge and hope to us, who continue to live in the age where Beelzebub’s destructive influence is still afoot.” We are called by Jesus’ authority to share in His ministry to free people from spiritual bondage.
There is a broader biblical narrative that needs to be grasped. It is not only to “fall in love” with Christ but also to “fall at his feet”—to commit to discipline—to learn to “articulate...faith” and to be grounded in the Word by “rooting it in what God has done throughout history.”
Those who are only getting an abridged version of Christianity will be left dangerously alone “to define their discipleship in their own terms, for their own purposes.
For more insight to the importance of good discipline, get the book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, by Dallas Willard, from our online store. Or read the article, “Repertoires of Discipleship,” by T. M. Moore.