Being a disciple 4: Transformed habits


Luke 2:41-52

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Train as Jesus trained

Gym training pushups

TRAINING and growing go together. Jesus was the superb trainer – but here we are looking at how He trained Himself. One of the mysteries of Jesus being wholly God and wholly man is that He was fully human in His earthly incarnate life – the principles of training and growing applied to Him, and they do to us.

When He was 12 years old, His family took Him to Jerusalem for Passover, and when they set off back home, He stayed behind without permission. Three days later, His somewhat distraught parents found Him deep in dialogue with the teachers. He had unusual ability to understand and he also had wisdom beyond His years – but this ‘wunderkind’ with a giant intellect returned home in submission to His parents.

Luke wrote (Luke 2:41-52) that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature – so although he was perfect, He still had to grow and to learn (perhaps being perfect includes retaining the capacity to learn). Hebrews 5:8 tells us that He learned through the things He suffered; for us, life provides the fuel for our transformation, and this was true for Jesus, too, growing from boy to man, from teacher to saviour, from leader to Lord: “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9 NKJV).

Disciples of Jesus are those who follow the practices of Jesus in their lives, embracing humility, obedience, submission – and sacrifice. At the point at which we choose to follow Him, regeneration takes place whereby we are justified, and receive legal standing with God as His child, positioned to be spiritually formed as an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.

Training is committing to arrange our lives around the practices of Jesus. Trying is another thing entirely – it happens when disciples mistakenly try to reach a goal without the proper tools or means. So trying to practise spiritual discipline is playing or posing. On the other hand, because Jesus fasted, spent time in solitude, studied and sacrificed, we too want to grow in these disciplines, starting where we are and working up. We’ve answered the call to follow Him – what could be more natural than to want to live our lives the way Jesus did? And so, over time, the positive effects of training discipline grows us as disciples.

I heard a Radio 4 interview with TV presenter and director who was described as very fit and ‘built’, and he was talking about how he likes to spend time in the gym. Just as that training builds muscle mass, so spiritual exercise builds character. Think of spiritual disciplines as tools that that prepare us for what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and as it needs to be done.

We don’t need to go overboard on all the spiritual disciplines all the time (definitely trying, not training!). That would put up quite a barrier to our relationships with those around us. We see Jesus practising spiritual disciplines in a healthy and balanced way – not being a spiritual discipline fanatic. He did what met the need of the moment. Some were staples of His spiritual diet – others He used more situationally.

Here’s a list of what Jesus practised:

Silence (Matthew 4:1-11)
Solitude (Mark 1:35)
Fasting (Matthew 4:1-11)
Frugality (Luke 9:58)
Prayer (Luke 6:12)
Secrecy (Matthew 6:1-7 and Mark 4:1
Submission (John 5:18-37)
Humility (Philippians 2:5-8)
Obedience (Luke 22:41-42)
Sacrifice (Hebrews 10:9-10)
Study (Luke 22:14)
Confession (Mark 8:31 and 14:36)
Worship (John 4:21-24).

Immediately we can see that some of these are day by day staples e.g. worship and prayer while others (secrecy, silence) might be more appropriate to a particular time or season.


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