The Difference Between LAW and DISCIPLINE

Sandeep Poonen

This  is  a  very  important  distinction that  all followers of Jesus must  be able to clearly  show from their lives.   It is very important that all of us live increasingly free from a life under the Law, but also increasingly disciplined lives .

This is a critical distinction, and let me try to explain this statement. We must live  increasingly free from a life  under the Law:

A life under the Law refers to living based on rules and regulations. But we must first  recognize how deep this  mindset is within us.  When we think about the Law, we tend to think about  the Law of Moses (the Ten Commandments and other various laws that we read in the Old Testament).  However, our desire to live our lives with God based on a set of rules predates that. It goes all  the way back to the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the  knowledge of  good and  evil.  The  knowledge of  good and  evil  basically represents living  by   a  set   of  rules.   The   other tree that  contrasts this  is the  tree  of  life (or  eternal life), which is to know God  Himself (John  17:3).  So we can  either follow  a set  of rules that God has given, or we can get to   know God Himself. And if we get to know God, we can live a life that is pleasing to Him based on the Person that we get to know.

Since  it goes back to the first  sin    that we humans committed, we can see how deep-rooted this instinct to   live by a set of rules is.  Even just  think for a minute about your daily walk  with God. How do you assess whether  you are pleasing to God day after day? If you’re like  me, there   is  a HUGE tendency  to think about the things that we did or didn’t do.   Have I been reading my Bible faithfully?   Have I been attending church   regularly?  Have I not been lusting?   Have I not been getting angry?  And    so on. As you can see, I build a set   of rules to  gauge the  quality  of  my    spiritual  life.

This  is not  the  Law  of Moses,  but it’s still a life of rules.  And Jesus   came to this earth to set us free  from living  a life  of  rules  and regulations.  Many Christians  think that  freedom from  the  Law is  freedom  from the Old  Covenant rules  (don’t  commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal,    etc.).   But they keep living life by  a set  of rules  – maybe  rules they  find    from  the teachings  of Jesus.   And they  are  even more  burdened  in life because  of the  even-higher  standards of the  New Covenant (don’t         lust, don’t get  angry, love your  enemies,     etc.). That is not the freedom of    Christ.

I think  that as  we examine  our lives,  we will  see how  deep-rooted our  desire  to  live  based  on rules  is.    And  we  might  be surprised  how much we’re still burdened by a life of  rules, even if they are rules  based on  something  Jesus  said.

We  must  also  live   increasingly disciplined   lives.

Some   people   know   verses   that preach these  truths above,  and highlight them  and celebrate God’s great news  that He  has come  to free  us from  a rule-based  life. But   many such people do  not also embrace  the equally important  truth that we  must live increasingly disciplined  lives.    Some get  so tired of  living by a  set of  rules that  they misunderstand  the    freedom  of Christ  to be  a  freedom without  consequences.

But  let’s  look  at  what  Jesus said about      freedom in John 8:31-32  –Jesus said, here is not   a  set of doctrines or  beliefs.  Jesus explicitly said that HE  IS the truth    (John  14:6).  So to know  the truth is to know  Jesus.  And  so we  can paraphrase the  second sentence to read: And   you   shall   know   Jesus,   and   Jesus said “If you  continue in  My word,  then you  are truly  disciples of Mine; and  you will  know the truth, and  the truth  will make  you free.”

We  must  first  be  crystal  clear  in our minds that “the  truth” here is not a set of doctrines or beliefs. Jesus explicitly said that HE IS the truth (John 14:6). So to know the truth is to know Jesus. And so we can paraphrase the second sentence to read:And you shall know Jesus, and Jesus shall make you free.

This  helps   us  understand   Jesus’s point  here:  If we are disciplined (continue) to live our lives based  on what  Jesus teaches us, then  we will  be true  followers of  Jesus. And  as we  keep following Him,  we will  get to  know  Him more,   and we will enjoy a life of increasing   freedom.
So  discipline  is  vital.   Paul  also tells us that  the Holy Spirit  wants to  grow  the virtue (fruit)  of self-control (discipline) in us  (Gal 5:22-23).  And Paul  tells us that we  receive the Holy Spirit full of power, love,  and discipline (2 Tim 1:7).   Paul also urges  us to live  our lives like  we’re running       a      race and  where  coming 2nd  or  3rd  is    not     enough,    we     must seek to win.  So if we are  genuinely    seeking to live this life like  an athlete training to  come first in  the race, then  we will “exercise  self-control in all  things” (1  Cor 9:25).  So I  will  discipline  my body  and make  it my slave  because  I   do  not  want   to  be disqualified   (1  Cor  9:27).
The picture of the  athlete seeking to  win the race is  very appropriate.  Imagine a man seeking to win the Olympic marathon. He gets up every day before anybody  else is up,   and runs several  hours each week. He monitors every thing he puts into    his body.  He monitors his sleep.  He is single-mindedly focused for YEARS, seeking  to win the Olympics.  But he doesn’t glory  in all his    sacrifice.  These are  all necessary but  joyful sacrifices  because   of  His immense  desire   to  win   the Olympics.
We are  like marathon  runners, who  are seeking  to KNOW  GOD AS  A PERSON more and  more. That’s the  prize.  We want  to know His  ways, what pleases Him, what makes  Him happy, what makes  Him sad, what makes  Him excited, what He looks  forward to, etc.  To  do this,  we make  sacrifices, and live very disciplined lives.  So we make our      bodies our slaves, we obey His commands,  we care  for His  family, etc. But we  don’t expect a medal or glory in  that, because  our immense desire is  that we  win the  prize of knowing God (this is  reflected very clearly as  well in Phil 3:7-14).
Now, knowing God is NOT  revealed to us  through all the stories  about God.  Sure, they give us some     clues, but even humans cannot be described  by any  number  of books  written  about them;  and  neither is our  infinite God.But we  can know God, because  He has  given us  the Holy  Spirit to reveal God to us (John   16:14).  And the daily circumstances and blessings  and trials are ALL  specifically packaged for us to get to KNOW GOD –  through the  Holy Spirit  revealing God  to  us  in the  middle  of  all these situations.
The Holy Spirit will  show us the way of escape out of  every temptation to sin (1 Cor 10:13).  The Holy Spirit will NEVER FORCE US  to take the way of escape as He respects our free will. He will show us  the way of escape, but  we need to be  DISCIPLINED to take the  way of escape.
But if  we are  disciplined to  take the  way of  escape, we will increasingly know  God through  them.  That is why  God tells  us that  we can  rejoice not  only for  every good  and perfect  gift that  comes from above (blessings), but also for the  fiery trials that He allows.   Because we can be ABSOLUTELY  SURE of this:   God causes ALL  THINGS to work  so that we  can get  to know  God (this is our  good) –  Rom 8:28; Psalm 73:28.
Finally, let me end  with the story of  Jacob and Rachel.  Jacob  wanted to marry Rachel, but her father Laban  asked that he first work seven years for him.   That’s a  LONG time,  but because  of the  love that  Jacob had  for Rachel, we read it said that the seven years seemed like only a few days to Jacob (Genesis 29:20). So also will it be with ALL our immense efforts  to be more and more disciplined, more  and more faithful against sin, more  and more loving towards others, etc.   They will be trivial sacrifice  compared to the great reward of knowing God.

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