How Discipline Can Hurt Our Relationship with Jesus
Creating and keeping a regular time with the Lord takes discipline. It takes time, determination, and restraint to create routines that help sustain a godly life. Discipline is a necessary virtue, but it can become a vice. Sometimes our perspective on and motivations for the spiritual disciplines we develop can hinder our walk with Christ.
Our discipline should be driven by our desire to obey, be near, and become like our beautiful Jesus. But sometimes, we can be motivated by pride or even fear. We find ourselves striving to be loved rather than resting in His love; still trying to find favor with God. Suddenly, the disciplines we’ve so painstakingly built, turn into our biggest idols. Routines can become roadblocks instead of pathways to fellowship with God. This essential element of our relationship with the Lord needs to be balanced with the remembrance that our spiritual disciplines do not earn our salvation, our Savior’s love, or any extra merit with God.
Spiritual habits such as Bible reading, prayer, and church are essential to our health and for fully living out being a new creation in Christ. The danger is in placing more of our focus and effort on the practices of faith rather than on the Person of Jesus Christ.
This is a very thin line in our hearts. Displacing Jesus with our disciplines can happen in many ways. Sometimes it looks like using our spiritual disciplines to keep score. We save them and then pull out our tally sheet when we think God owes us something. Other times we may struggle with pride as we compare our spiritual achievements to others. We gauge each other’s spirituality by prayers, devotional time, or the number of memory verses we know. We can become driven by our desperate need to be loved by a great and terrible God. We can begin to see Him as the taskmaster of our faith, desiring our perfect completion of spiritual works to gain His favor.
The tragic reality of humanity is that the best we can offer does not grant us access to God. The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus has achieved our salvation! Our daily completed Bible reading plans, our church attendance, our memory verses, our spiritual songs, and hymns, are all worship for what Christ has already done with His death and resurrection. We don’t need to make Him love us. We love Him because He loved us first! Our discipline is a restful, joyful response to Him, not a weak effort to get Him to respond to us.
So, how do we know whether our motivations are as good as our habits? We ask the Holy Spirit to help us discern when we need to hold our disciplines tightly and when we may need to loosen our grip and set our hearts and minds on what Christ has done. Do not fall into the trap that your disciplines earn you any extra love from God, because they do not. Rest instead in the work of righteousness of Christ and enjoy His presence as you worship Him with all your heart in all your habits.
- Search your heart and see if there are any disciplines that you are holding too tightly.
- Ask God to show you where you may be placing your routine above Him.
- If you are able, switch up the timing of your Quiet Time routine.
- Remember that the condition of your heart is what is most important to God, not the accomplishments of your disciplines.
- Do not get discouraged by the days that your disciplines fall by the wayside. Start again when you can.
|Erica Hunt lives with her husband, Justin, in South Dakota. She teaches middle school and loves traveling, collecting quotes, learning fun facts and historical information, drinking coffee, eating ice cream, and enjoying good conversations with friends.|