Thursday, November 13, 2014

2 Timothy 2: The Power of Focused Discipline

2 Tim 2:1-7 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

To be a Christian is to be fully human--and only the fully human is most divine. As it is said of Christ in John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." It is Christ in his humanity ("Word became flesh") that we have seen his glory--"glory as of the only Son from the Father." And like all humans, Jesus was subject to the laws of nature--he had to be born, eat, grow up and learn. There is nothing supernatural about his humanity--until he was anointed by the Holy Spirit at the age of 30.

Though an example of perfect humanity in perfect obedience to God, Jesus nevertheless was subject to the laws of nature in his physical, emotional, mental and spiritual development: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52). What makes Jesus so perfectly divine is not because that he was a specimen of superhumanity, but because he was a perfect example of perfect humanity, for God created humans in His image and this image of God is perfectly displayed in Christ's perfect humanity. The opposite of perfect humanity is inhumanity--which is demonic and evil.

So, true godliness doesn't free us from the laws of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth. Like a Christian soldier preparing for war, or a Christian athlete training for a race, or a farmer planting a crop, there are no "supernatural" short-cuts to becoming a competent soldier, or an competitive athlete or a successful farmer just because they are Christians. They would still have to subject themselves to a focused discipline to achieve their goals. In comparing the Christian pursuit of "grace that is in Christ Jesus", Paul is implying that Christians are not exempt from the laws of focused discipline required for success.

Lazy and undisciplined Christians cannot achieve much for God's kingdom, anymore than the lazy and undisciplined soldier, athlete and farmer can expect any success from their endeavor. Grace is not an excuse for laziness, for grace is the reason for focused discipline in our pursuit of godliness.

Father, thank You that You are always bestowing in us the grace of our Lord Jesus as we put our hands to plough. For it is only when we work that we experience Your power working in and through us. Amen.

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