It’s time for me to meditate on the cross again. I don’t post these excerpts from Maxwell’s book entitled Born Crucified so much for my readers as for an exercise for myself in focusing on the cross of Christ. On the horizon, I can see the need for a fresh denial of myself, my right to live, my preferences, and to embrace the cross in a deeper way. I have a feeling it’s going to cut fairly deep this time. These quotes are from the chapter titled The Cross and Discipline continued.
HOW THE WORLD of flesh rebukes and reproaches the Church! It endures all manner of privation and peril, runs risks that make us shiver–all to achieve its goal. In their fight to scale Mount Everest some years ago, a company of daring spirits were so bodily fit that they climbed and lived at an altitude of 27,000 feet. They said that dozens of others could do the same "if only they liked," but they couldn’t like. The narrator says that these "have not the spirit." He then says of one of the climbers, "Many excelled him in bodily fitness, but where he excelled was in spirit. His spirit drove his body to the utmost limit. His spirit would not allow him to give up. He must make one last desperate effort." And then the writer says, "The spirit will drive the body on and the body will respond to the spirit." These men passed through terrific trials, casualties mounted– a broken leg–a clot on the brain–feet frostbitten to the ankles–pneumonia, and deaths.
My friend, have you ever begun to climb? Have you ever entered the ranks? Have you ever so mastered yourself that through the Spirit you can say to the body, as the trembling soldier said going over the top, "Come on, old body. You would shake worse than that if you knew where I am going to take you." It seems to be supposed, by churches everywhere, that believers, young and old, instead of being recruits to Christ’s army, arc to be "cradled and coddled, and wheeled in a perambulator to heaven under the caressing smiles of their mother church; whereas as a matter of fact, God no sooner saves a soul than his trumpet-blast calls him to suffer hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (Panton).
After reading this cute Family Circus comic, I thought to myself, you know, practice really does NOT make perfect, but discipline makes us disciples. The LORD is not calling us to practice until we get things perfect, but He is calling us to discipline ourselves in order that we might be His disciples, or His disciplined ones.
In dealing with the subject of self-discipline, it is difficult to escape being stigmatized by some as an ascetic or monk. The whisper of asceticism frightens the easily frightened. But while Paul was neither ascetic nor monk, he knew that "the flesh with its affections and lusts" was his most dangerous enemy. He said: "So fight I, as not beating the air: but I buffet my body" –bruise it black and blue, make it livid, every blow striking home (Ellicott)–"and bring it into bondage," i.e, lead it as a captive. Paul knew his dangers; he never ceased to dread the flesh.
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. When she ceases to bleed, she ceases to bless. She can thrive through persecution, but never through peace and plenty. Christ sends not peace, but a sword. But we have become soft. We have ceased to be soldiers, have ceased to storm forts, have ceased to sacrifice. We want spiritual society, not rugged soldiery. The "soft slipper" stage has taken us. "I’ve had my day–now the rocking chair has gotten me."
In the middle section of this chapter, Maxwell points out many practical places where discipline should be at the forefront of our thinking. I’ll close my post with these thoughts.
There is everywhere, especially in our cities, the plague of late talking, and night lunching which has nothing whatsoever to do with the King’s business. We dare to repeat ourselves at this point. The time for God, for His Word, and for prayer is, as a result, cut short the next morning. Let the Cross cut off that false habit. Don’t pray about it. Quit it. Then don’t pray about getting up in the morning. Get up.
It will seem severe to some to cut loose from an unholy affection, a fleshly attachment. Have you had a "crush" on somebody? God hates it. You deny it. Deny self there. That is discipline.
Others suffer from a tongue loose at both ends. Such persons will be forced to keep a strict watch over themselves, and cry continually, "Set a watch, 0 Lord, before my mouth."
Others will learn to endure under the discipline of some ever-present opposition, an opposition of suspicion, of slander, of being wounded in the house of their friends. Their "daily furnace" is the tongue of man. Such is their inescapable lot. What an opportunity to get the gold of self discipline!
Others will need to exercise a rigid self-discipline, in order to endure that defeat, that failure, that misunderstanding, that utter discrediting of their best efforts–patiently.
Are you providentially located? Learn to be faithful right there. Be content. Do not wish yourself "other-where."
Are you naturally hasty, impetuous, and zealous? We knew one such person who never learned to discipline himself "to be quiet." He became sour, and sick, and–dead.
A great mother in Israel said: "There are many women who would not be entirely well for anything in the world. No one would enquire about them."
Many parents will suffer a painful inner crucifixion through learning to discipline their children. Those who have not disciplined themselves–how can they discipline their children? Children are being denied proper and godly discipline today because the parents have not yet learned to hate their "own flesh." Not having laid the Cross on his own flesh, the parent denies the Cross to his child. "He that spareth his rod hateth his son."
There are still others who are weak, sensitive, and nervous in body. One who knows says, "There will be days when the smallest fret, a jarring noise, bustling people, people who drum on the rail of the bed, or knock it, or drop things, a crooked picture, wrong colors put together, a book upside down, something perversely lost among the bed clothes will be absurdly but intensely irritating; even common good temper will need to be prayed for then; it will not come of itself" (Amy Carmichael).
But what shall we say about the lack of church discipline? Trace this lack to its root and it will be found in the soft Christians who refuse to separate themselves from the unholy, who refuse to stand out against sin, who refuse to uncover sin in others–all in spite of God’s, "Neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal."
Have fun and stay crucified ~ Galatians 2:20
-The Orange Mailman