My teaching calendar begins each year with a focus on basic principles of growth through discipline. In fact, a recent year began with two Wednesday evenings (before a near full house) outlining the Word's wisdom, ways and joys in the discovering of 10 basic disciplines of New Testament living. "The 10 Disciplines of the Disciple" focused on the importance of each and on a pathway of application.
I believe wise leaders will not only pursue discipline in their own lives, but will also answer the call to cultivate the same grace (not laws) in others. To help point the way, let me provide a grid of the fundamental disciplines with a summary of the principle behind each point of discipleship. As you use it, consider measuring your present response, and then set your course--to teach and to live--to deepen in the power of the disciplined life.
I hope this proves a helpful "launching pad" toward putting believers "into orbit" around the Sun of Righteousness--Jesus Himself. He's the One who calls us to discipleship. And He's the One who will help us make disciples!
1. Committing to hear God's voice. Jesus said, "'My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me'" (John 10:27, NKJV).
Principle: To read and study God's Word is to lay the foundation for all understanding and growth. However, the Bible is a living Word that has not been given to us solely for information, analysis and education. God wants to speak to each one of His children, to teach and correct, to lead and direct, to keep and protect.
For this to take place vitally and ongoingly, the believer needs to learn to hear the "word" within the Word--to receive the prophetic intent of the Holy Spirit breathing truth into our hearts in order to transform our lives.
2. Living in the power of water baptism. "'Thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness'" (Matt. 3:15).
Principle: Jesus' command to all who receive His life-gift of salvation is that they be baptized in water--a call to experience a dynamic, not merely to observe a duty. To obey is a point of entrance into a river-like pathway of submission to the lordship of Christ, committing to pursue discipleship as one "dead unto sin but alive to God" through the power of the Holy Spirit.
3. Receiving the resources of the Lord's Table. "'Take, eat; this is My body ... Drink ... all of you'" (Matt. 26:26-27).
Principle: The observance of the Lord's table is a practice that frames the centerpiece of Christian faith--the cross--and a priority that focuses on the central Person of our worship, Jesus our Savior. To participate with understanding is to transcend mere tradition and to open to the present dynamic the Holy Spirit will bring where the living Word and living worship converge to release the power of Christ's presence at His table.
4. Continuing in the spirit of forgiveness. In the parable of the unforgiving servant, the master says, "'I forgave you ... Should you not also have had compassion?'" (Matt. 18:32-33).
Principle: The forgiveness of sin given freely to us in Christ through His atoning death and justifying work opens a fountainhead of grace that flows to us without measure. That same measure of graciousness is a summons to every believer, saying, "Freely you have received, freely give"--a call that cannot remain unanswered except at the expense of blockage, bondage and withering of soul.
5. Feeding on the Word of God. "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'" (Matt. 4:4).
Principle: Persistence on a daily pathway, progressing through the Bible, though beset by distraction and schedule irregularity, is not only essential--it can be joyous! God's Word is the ever-available supernatural source for faith, wisdom, growth and freedom in Christ, and there is no substitute for its power to nurture, counsel and sustain.
6. Maintaining integrity of heart. "'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God'" (Matt. 5:8).
Principle: Contrary to the ideas of Western intellectualism, God is not known via the mind but via the heart. Our intelligence may deduce things about Him, and our minds study realities revealed by Him, but God is ultimately known in Person and in intimacy by those who seek Him with all their hearts.
Once He is met and known, advancement on the path to maturity and personal effectiveness is realized in the fullest way only as a discipline of purity and totality of heart-yieldedness, and vulnerability to the Holy Spirit is maintained in humility and childlikeness.
7. Abiding in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. "'He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:38).
Principle: Nothing in the believer's life is more essential to his or her becoming a daily, fully empowered replication and representative of Jesus Christ than being and keeping filled with the Holy Spirit. From Pentecost until our Lord's return, the church's commission is to receive "power from on high," "do business till I come," "go into all the world" and to experience "the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs" (Luke 24:49; 19:13; Mark 16:15-20).
The full mandate is only possible through being baptized in the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:5-8; 2:1-4) and continually being freshly filled with His love and power (see Rom. 5:6; Acts 4:8, 7:55, 13:52; Eph. 5:18-20).
8. Living a life of submission. "'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me'" (Matt. 16:24).
Principle: As disciples of Jesus, we have been called to the One, "who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but ... taking the very nature of a servant ... he humbled himself and became obedient to ... even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:6-8, NIV).
The pathway of biblical surrender is not only to yield to Christ as Lord, but also to follow Him as the Servant who "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28, NKJV).
9. The practice of solitude. "In the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed" (Mark 1:35).
Principle: The disciple must learn the wisdom and the habit of regularly experiencing both the private, personal presence of God and the benefit of personal time and space away from life's daily demands. Without it, life and service will become a blur, producing discouragement, distraction or defeat. With it, life is regularly being recharged with energy and spiritual dynamic.
10. Pursuing the life of a worshiper. "'The hour is coming ... when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him'" (John 4:23).
Principle: Worship is the ultimate priority of every believer, not only because God is worthy of our worship, but also because it is His designed means to arrange His entry into our personal world as well as those circumstances where His sovereign workings have placed us.
Worship is the capstone to the 10 primary disciplines because it opens the doorway to God's superintendency and supernatural presence and power as the governing influence and the purifying element in all life issues. Worship is also the pathway into prayer--the all-encompassing discipline--and is prayer's essential point of entry to the Father and of faith in His almightiness.
Prayer: The overarching discipline. It is fully intentional that prayer is not listed in the 10 basic disciplines. This is certainly not because it is optional or unimportant, but because it is so central to the actuation of all disciplines and the pursuit of all of a disciple's life that it would seem misleading to place it within the list.
Prayer in all its forms spreads out to overarch the structures of the disciplines. It is both the roof and the skylight, just as the Word of God provides the footings and the foundation. But it is different from the reading and study of God's Word in the scope of the variety of exercises available and the dimensions of depth that may be realized. Because prayer moves beyond the comprehensible at times, it opens that which is "above all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20).
Worship, exaltation, adoration, thanksgiving and praise join with confession, repentance, petition, supplication, intercession and warfare. Prayer in its manifold expressions forms an indescribable spectrum of wonder in our approach to, seeking of, growing in, asking of and knowing God.
Ultimately, intimacy in knowing God through prayer transcends all the possibilities of insight in discovering God through His Word. This in no way minimizes the essential wisdom of studying and growing in the Word. It is simply an honest and needed acknowledgment--the deepest knowledge of God is never acquired through the human mind but by the human spirit. Thus, prayer becomes the school where all we would know, learn, live and apply of the Lord and His ways is initiated in our lives to become incarnated in our living.
Take inventory. Begin it thoughtfully in God's presence, and grow in it prayerfully by His Spirit's power.
Jack Hayford is chancellor of The King's College and Seminary in Van Nuys, California, and author of many books, including the newly released Sharpening Your Leading Edge (www.charismahouse.com), from which this column is adapted.