Discipline, Discipline, Discipline

Perspectives

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A 2007 study showed that 88 percent of people who set New Year’s resolutions failed, although 52 percent of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning.1

If you are tired of trying to renew your mind and get closer to God only to fail in the end, God is calling you to adjust your expectations. This kind of transformation is not an overnight process. Becoming a generational curse breaker takes effort. Working through our baggage takes time. And it’s not something we can do on our own. God is the only One who can make us the people we so long to be. Many who struggle with a roller-coaster faith usually want the quick fixes. Just read a book, make a new commitment, see a wise counselor, attend a conference, shed tears at an altar, memorize a few verses . . . and, abracadabra, you are a mature Christian. But there is no fast solution that is effective and pain-free. There are no shortcuts to lasting transformation.

While God helps us along this journey in many ways, three things in particular have made the process easier for me.

Spiritual transformation requires discipline.

I’m not a gym-nut type of girl, nor do I have huge muscles by any stretch, but I wanted to begin lifting weights to feel empowered and maintain my health. When I first got into weight lifting, I was highly intimidated. Once, when I stopped to get a drink from the water fountain, I locked eyes with a woman in her fifties who was ripped! I decided to just go up to her and ask her how she did it. Her answer? Discipline. She said she’d push herself, even when she felt like she didn’t have strength left. She said she’d wake up and go, even when her body was dying to sleep in. 

In 1 Timothy 4:7, Paul instructed Timothy, “Train yourself to be godly.” Paul goes on to say, “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (verse 8).

That woman I met at the gym worked really hard for those muscles. Every step forward in her progress was the result of her choices, big and small. Spiritual transformation is the same way. It is a muscle that we can work on, and we can train ourselves to be godly! Jesus modeled it for us. Jesus was the only perfect being ever to live in this world, and He still practiced spiritual disciplines. That’s how important they are. Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus fasting, submitting, praying, worshiping, practicing community, and reading Scripture. Jesus is the One who gives us power to pursue these disciplines in the first place.

If Jesus thought spiritual disciplines were critical for Himself, then they should be even more critical for us.

Spiritual transformation is not passive.

In the Bible, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We must recognize that remaining in Christ is not something that will happen by chance. Jesus tells us that staying connected to Him is something we must do day in and day out. As we maintain that connection to the vine, fruit is produced in us, and we begin to look more and more like our Father. That’s why we need a fresh look at the gospel on a daily basis.

Obeying does require effort, but the more we obey in faith, the more we grow in holiness. Are you surrendering to God daily? Are you bringing each decision that you have to make before the Cross? Are you actively trying to center yourself in His love by what you listen to and watch and converse about throughout the day?

Spiritual transformation flows out of an intimate relationship with Jesus.

The more we fall in love with Jesus, the more we will want to obey Him and stay close to Him. The ultimate problem in our world is idolatry. Whom and what do you worship? True transformation will take place when you’re weaned off of your love of this world and you become devoted to Christ.

God created our hearts for one purpose: to glorify Him and only Him. Unfortunately, we have an enemy whose plan is to split our hearts in two. Satan knows he can’t have our whole heart, but he’s more than happy to take a part of it. It’s up to us to decide where our loyalty lies and to guard our hearts. People who are half-committed, half-in and half-out—who have one foot on one side of the battlefield and the other foot in the enemy’s camp—can accomplish much destruction not only in their own lives but also in the lives of those around them. That is why we must give God our undivided hearts by getting rid of idols and pursuing Him intimately.

You didn’t meet Jesus just to pray the salvation prayer one time and go on living as you did before. Those spiritual highs that you experience occasionally are not enough. God wants you to say yes to this transformation journey. God wants you to say yes to getting to the root of the things you can’t let go of. God wants you to say yes to being ignited—for real this time.

If you’re scared to say that wholehearted yes, you’re not alone. In the Bible, Esther said yes, even though it could’ve cost her very life. Abraham said yes when he went to sacrifice his son, even though God had given the child to him. Mary said yes to miraculously carrying the Savior of the world, even though people would think badly of her. And lastly, Jesus Christ said yes to an agonizing death on a cross for you and me, even though it meant taking the full punishment for our sins.

It’s pretty much always nerve-racking to say yes to God. Yet, at the end of the day, all the figures from the Bible whom I just mentioned led exemplary lives that eventually led to “Not my will, Lord. But your will be done” (see Luke 22:42). And it’s the best response we will ever make.

Giving God this wholehearted yes amid uncertainty might just be the most radical and wild thing a Christian could do.

If you’re ready to say yes to this transformation journey with your whole heart, you are also saying yes to the wilderness season. You are saying yes to trusting God to expose your mess. You are saying yes to becoming a mature Christian who doesn’t give the enemy any power at all.

Opening those attics of our hearts is a gut-wrenching process, but until we allow God into our hurtful memories, we will never experience true freedom and restoration from them.

The longer you put off being fully vulnerable with God, the harder your heart will become and the more lukewarm you will feel. You’ll rob yourself of the joy that comes from hearing these beautiful words of your Savior: “Daughter, your faith has made you well” (Mark 5:34, nkjv).


Adapted from Ignited: A Fresh Approach to Getting—and Staying—on Fire for God, by Jonni Nicole Parsons, released from Tyndale House Publishers in October 2022. 

By Jonni Nicole Parsons

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