The fruit of discipline is not holiness; it is not purity or righteousness.
Those things only come to a heart that is humble. They are gifts from our Heavenly Father and cannot be earned.
The fruit of discipline is a heart that is surrendered, humble, and ready to receive our Father's gifts and blessings.
I had a friend in high school with whom I played baseball, and he was amazing! He was one of the best catchers in the city. He loved catching so much that he would go to the neighborhood ball park by himself and practice. I know… How do you practice catching by yourself?! But he did. He would work on very specific disciplines in an effort to become a better catcher.
Unfortunately, as he began to try out for colleges, the college coaches said that he had taught himself wrong catching techniques. The disciplines he had so diligently practiced actually became a stumbling block to his becoming a better catcher. He was also inflexible regarding playing other positions (pride).
Eventually, he lost his love of playing the game.
Like my friend, we can get caught up in the "disciplines of the Christian life" (praying, reading the Bible, meditating, silence, solitude, fasting etc..) and lose our love for the game, which is life to the full offered by grace in Christ.
Like my friend, we can become proud as we master certain disciplines, and we judge others or feel as though we are above others who don't practice the same disciplines we do.
This is exactly what the Pharisees did. They were masters at discipline and keeping the law, but they did not know Jesus, and their pride made others feel oppressed and marginalized. Jesus wouldn't have it.
He says the following to the Pharisees: You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. John 5:39-40
Jesus offers all of us life to the full (John 10:10); the disciplines are a means to that end, not an end in themselves.
“It is possible to be very disciplined and lose your love for the game of life!”
We need to understand that as we practice the disciplines of the Christian life, we are positioning our hearts in such a way as to receive the blessings from God’s Spirit.
Our discipline does not impress God or make Him love us more. It reveals to Him the work that He is doing and that we are responding to. He looks at us and sees HIS handiwork and is pleased, overcome with joy at how beautiful, powerful, and lovely we are as a result of His work, not ours.
The more I pray, the more I want to pray, not because I think it makes me holy or closer to God. I pray more because when I am praying, I sometimes (not always) experience His presence and His love for me. Or sometimes I might experience his Spirit convicting me and transforming my heart.
What brings me back for more is the expectation that I might experience more of His love for me and more of His transformation in my heart. This doesn't always happen. However, it will never happen if I am undisciplined and am never creating space for it to happen.
So, discipline is good, and it is necessary to enable us to grow in our relationship with God.
But, as we enter into obedience, seeking to please our Father, let’s do so with hearts that are expectant, humble, and open to His blessings and transformation. BUT, we must not demand His blessings or think that we have earned them by our actions. The result of that will be pride, cynicism, and frustration with God and others who are not acting as holy as we are.
Sound familiar? Yes, you will become a pharisee!
Stay disciplined, posturing your heart to "catch" the blessings God is throwing your way!