Discipline Makes the Impossible Possible

This article continues my series on spiritual disciplines titled Why Men Need Discipline.”  Today’s article is called “Discipline Makes the Impossible Possible” and speaks to the continuing development of the Christian into a person who is “perfect”  as our “heavenly Father is perfect.”

Did You Say: “Be Perfect”?

Sometimes I am disturbed by what Scripture says.   An example is contained in Matthew 5:48 where we are commanded to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Really?  Be perfect?  That appears quite impossible.  I know I am not perfect.  Far from it.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am not perfect.  And neither are you.  So, why would God issue this seemingly impossible command to us?  (It is a “command” and not a “suggestion” by the way).

Well, I know that God is perfectly just, meaning that He is perfectly fair to us.  So, I can know that God would not require something of me, or from me, that would be impossible for me to attain.  Therefore, it is only logical that “being perfect” must be possible.  And, more than that, not only must it be possible for me to achieve, it also must be GOOD FOR ME! (see Matthew 7:9-11)

The good news for us is that God doesn’t leave this “possible impossible” task to us to attain on our own.  Quite the contrary.

We are Perfect because of Imputed Righteousness 

The Bible tells us that when we repent of our sin and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, that God considers us righteous in his sight.  This means that even though we aren’t “really” holy, God chooses on His own to declare us holy.  Essentially, for our benefit, God “pretends” that we are completely righteous because Jesus has “covered” our unrighteousness with his sacrificed blood.  That’s the only way true relationship with a completely holy God can exist – if He chooses not to count our unholiness against us.  It’s imputed righteousness that “gets us into heaven.”

That’s the first way that the “impossible becomes possible” – just because God says so!

We are becoming Perfect because of Imparted Righteousness

It is not so difficult to accept that God can look past our transgressions and determine on His own that we are righteous (i.e., perfect) in His sight.  God is merciful.  God is full of grace.  However, it is hard to accept that we are also being made perfect; that in this life that we can live a perfectly holy and righteous life.  But that’s also what the Bible teaches.

In 2 Peter 1:4, we are told that we are “partakers of the divine nature.”  What that means is that over time, through our circumstances, our choices, God’s leading, and our decisions, that we become more and more holy.  We become more righteous as we are transformed into the likeness of Christ.  Our daily lives here on earth actually change from unholiness to slightly less unholiness to slightly less unholiness and on and on.

This takes training and it takes time.  Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, participating in worship, learning self-control, seeking wisdom and patience and goodness and kindness, and allowing love to be evident in our actions slowly (and not so slowly at times) mold us into people who reflect Christ and are permanently changed.  This is referred to as “imparted righteousness” meaning that God is “imparting” (or “giving to us”) righteousness.

This training is not easy.  It takes the discipline of making the right choices daily.  It means sacrificing what we may naturally desire in exchange for what God desires.  It means being obedient to the Word even if we don’t feel like it and even when we don’t fully understand it.  It means learning from failure.  It means conforming our attitudes, our minds, our hearts and our actions to the Word of God and His ways, more and more every day.  It’s imparted righteousness that makes us better disciples and ambassadors for God’s work here on earth.

The Bottom Line

God gives us the ability to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12).  As we “train” ourselves by engaging in spiritual disciplines, regularly and in increasing measure over time, we do just that – we work out the unholiness that wants to control us, and allow God to work in the holiness that He wants to control us.

What’s Next?

Hopefully, you’ve been reviewing the various spiritual disciplines that I outlined previously and have been identifying which of those could use some improvement in your own life.  If not, I suggest that you review them now.

It is now time to make a specific plan of action.  What is your plan for Bible study?  What is your plan for quiet devotion time?  What is your plan for prayer?  Where are you going to serve the Lord this week?  Make a decision to implement these into your life right now in specific, detailed ways.

 

A Simple, Intentional Bible Reading Plan

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

During a recent sermon, I mentioned a daily Bible reading plan that I have used for almost 15 years.  Some have asked me to share it here.  In addition to my Bible reading plan, I am also sharing some thoughts and ideas about reading other material on a regular basis and in an intentional way.

Reading the Bible Is God Speaking to You

Reading the Bible is a spiritual discipline.  Reading is different from studying.  It is not memorizing or mediating.  While all of those disciplines are of great value, I believe a great place to start my day is just reading the Bible.

The Bible is God’s Word.  It is God speaking.  When we read the words of the Bible, it is God speaking words to us.  That’s pretty awesome!  And, almost 15 years ago, I decided that I would like to hear from God regularly, so I started a plan of reading my Bible regularly.

The system that I developed for me is not complex and it is certainly not novel.  But it works for me for a few reasons:  First, it doesn’t take long to do what I am about to describe (about 20 minutes or so, depending on the particular text).  Second, because I do the same thing every day, I don’t have to think about what to read next (which is often a stumbling block for some people; i.e., “where do I start?”).  Third, the plan I use takes me through the Bible systematically and completely each year, and for many portions of the Bible, several times a year.  I like the discipline of reading the entire Bible, not jus the parts that I “like.”

Here is my daily routine:

  1. Read 2 chapters in the Old Testament (start at the beginning), except don’t read Psalms or Proverbs in this section of the plan. (By doing this each day, you get through the entire Old Testament at least once in a year).
  2. Read 1 Psalm every day.  (By doing this each day, you will read through the book of Psalms more than twice each year).
  3. Read the Proverb chapter that corresponds to the day of the month.  (There are 31 Proverbs so there is one for each day.  By doing this, you will essentially read Proverbs 12 times each year).
  4. Read two chapters in the New Testament each day.  (By doing this, you will read through the New Testament several times each year).

Read Other Good Books, Too

In addition to reading the Bible, it is very important to read a variety of other good books on a regular basis.  I have found that the more intentional I am with my reading of books, the better I become in nearly every other aspect of my life.  As I read, I become a better leader, father, husband and friend.  I am wiser and more patient.  I am much more thoughtful.  I believe it helps me be a better pastor, too.

There are many things to read.  There are more books available to read than any one person could ever accomplish in a lifetime.  So, it is important to be intentional in choosing what to read.  While reading in and of itself has value, there can be no real argument against the proposition that some books are more valuable than others!

Be Intentional in Your Reading Choices

Vary your areas of reading so that you get a broad spectrum of insight and knowledge.  Read books that are related to your profession so you can keep up on trends and new information.  Read books on leadership and history.  Read books that are classics, including Christian classics.  Read books that will inspire you.  Read biographies.  And, it is even good to read a good, fiction novel every now and again (but not exclusively!).

I suggest that you have at least one book that you are reading at any given time.  Some people I know often have several books they are reading at one time.  I usually have a couple going at any given time, with a few “on the shelf” waiting.  For example, right now I am reading “Team of Rivals” (a historical biography of President Lincoln and others) as well as a leadership book by John Maxwell.  Recently I finished a book by Marc Driscoll titled “On Church Leadership” which was very good.

The more you read, the more you will enjoy it.  Try it.  I challenge you to turn off the t.v. for just 30 minutes a day and read instead.  See what changes will happen in your life.

Share Your Best Reading Suggestions

I invite you to share your best reading suggestions in the comment section of the blog.