The Cross and Discipline

I survived the boundary waters of Minnesota a second time.  It was a great trip.  Each day I spent some time in God’s Word studying the giving of the law from Sinai.  My next series will probably be some of those insights.  After that, I may very well visit the interaction I had with Dr. Waldron and others at Illumination.  For those who wonder what I’m talking about, that will be a contrast between Pre-Millennialism and A-Millennialism.  But for today, it’s time to reflect on the cross again.  Maxwell’s classic book, Born Crucified, has so many good stories and insights as to how the cross is to pervade every part of our lives.  Here are some exerpts from the chapter entitled The Cross and Discipline.  The first story brings up the issue of social distinctions, which I blogged about awhile ago.  I never got any feedback on that series, but I may bring it up again, just because it seems to be on my heart lately.

MATHILDE WREDE was a baroness, the daughter of a provincial governor in Finland–an educated, cultured, and gifted musician. In her teens she was taken by the Cross and became Christ’s captive. She literally spent herself for the prisoners of Finland. In her own home "she lived on the same fare as the prisoner in prison, and they knew it. Such were the contrasts in this life–related by birth to the highest breeding and by choice to the greatest need." Dr. Ernest Gordon says, regarding the place of affection she held in the hearts of Finnish prisoners, that "idolized" would be a lean word. "One convict invited her to his home and slept on the floor before her door like a dog so that she should not be disturbed in any way." Dr. Gordon further says regarding her tireless ministry and self-disciplined life:

When, after a night of insomnia, she felt a certain reluctance to take up her daily task, she would say, to herself encouragingly, "Today I have again the privilege of being occupied with my Father’s business." Then while going down the stairway, she would continue, "O my poor body!  How tired you are! We are now going to try again to get a-going. Up to now you have shown yourself obedient and patient when love spurred you to work. I thank you. I know that today you will not leave me in the lurch."

What an emancipation! What a redemption! And what is it to be redeemed, if we be not liberated from the lesser, the lower, the lustful? God help us if Christian victory can make us no "better than our bodies’ inclinations."

Now that statement strikes at the heart of discipline.  Our bodies must be subject to the cross.  Mathilde Wrede had also learned that at the cross she gave up any claim to her social status.  Only in this way could she minister to those who needed Christ, no matter what social status they were in.  Most of the remainder of this chapter utilizes illustrations of the discipline required of a soldier of Christ.  Some of them really hit home.  I’ll try to choose the best ones.

There is scarcely a thrill comparable to that of witnessing a disciplined military commander lead his men into the thick of battle. Such a man can lead them where he could never drive them.  Those who lead others must themselves be disciplined. It is said that in World War I a wellpreserved official "tried to persuade the Arabian leader Faisal (afterward king of Iraq) to undertake the impossible; he said that it would end the war at once if Feisal made his men climb about the precipitous country like goats and tear up the railway."  As Feisal looked at this fellow’s "six feet of comfortable body,’ he asked him if he had ever tried to "goat himself." Those who would lead the Lord’s battalions, whether as Sunday school teacher, preacher, or missionary must learn to "goat themselves" before they can say with Paul, "Ye became followers of us and of the Lord."

The biggest job in the Army is to knock the complacency out of young officers and men, to make them realize that only by dint of their greatest effort, their utmost unselfishness, their infinite pains, and their capacity for self-sacrifice . . . will victory be attained.  We must arouse in them the spirit of the offensive.

Someone says, "What dupes we are of our own desires! Destiny has two ways of crushing us–by refusing our wishes and by fulfilling them. But he who only wills what God wills escapes both catastrophes. AU things work together for his good."

Aaaauuugh!  To think that the best way for Satan to have his way with me is for me to have everything that I want!  How can I even live?

Why do we dwell upon discipline? Because it can never be separated from discipleship. The Captain of our salvation lived one lifelong renunciation and selfchosen martyrdom. Little wonder, then, that the supreme symbol for New Testament discipleship is that of good soldiery. The military note is struck everywhere. Paul speaks of running, racing, wrestling, soldiering, fighting. To him, life is continually a conflict, a contest, a struggle. To many, grace means, get off easy. But "the day of the grace of God that brings for us the discipline of renunciation" (Titus 2:11, 12 Arthur Way) we refuse. To be "strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus," Paul says, is to "endure hardness as a good soldier." When he would sting Timothy, the timid, and challenge him to "stir up the gift of God," he said: "For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline" (11 Tim. 1:7, A.S.V.). Discipline– what an awful word! To this generation the very thought of it is like the sting of cold rain in the face. But true Christian discipline must be rescued from every false fear. While true discipline will never be easy on the flesh–"no man hath a velvet cross"–its main thought is to render us fit for a hard fight, to produce self-control, to stiffen our renewed wills that they may act according to divine principle. True discipline enables us to choose the hard thing if only it will make us a better soldier for Christ.

After spending considerable time on the story of Gideon’s army, Maxwell wraps it up with this insight.

But how different the three hundred. They were self-disciplined, self-controlled spirits, eager for a fight, their whole system set on winning the battle. They catch a mouthful in the palm of the hand–and they are away. Gideon has his army, fit for the fight, self-disciplined as well as courageous.  They had courage plus ordered lives. They were exposed to odds over-whelming. They had to stand the strain, not only of battle, but also of the ridiculous and the unreasonable. Behold a paltry three hundred with pitchers, and lamps, and rams’ horns, against men like grasshoppers for multitude–135,000 of them.  "Our Gideon is Christ," says D. M. Panton, "He walks up and down among the churches, watching us classify ourselves."

When Napoleon addressed his troops in his Piedmont campaign, he said: "You have gained battles without cannon, passed rivers without bridges, performed forced marches without shoes, bivouacked without strong liquors, and often without bread. Thanks for your perseverances! But soldiers, you have done nothing–for there remains much to do.’ By Calvary’s blood and agony, by the crying need of millions; yea, by all the glories these unreached souls may miss, let us lay aside all pettiness, forget our paltry sacrifices, and cease our criminal negligence. Our Napoleon cries out for the self-disciplined, the sacrificial, the man with a passion that is stronger than death- -"for there remains much to do."

This last story reminds me of the latest Sara Groves song.

When I’m weary and overwrought, with so many battles left unfought…

Have fun and stay crucified ~ Galatians 2:20

-The Orange Mailman

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