“I know this happens. I know it's inevitable. The declining spiritual prioritization in this culture, makes "church" no longer a discipline or commitment. But here's my thought today: This barren, dis-guarded, and unkept temple (pictured here) isn't the only thing deteriorating. It may be you. It could be me. Are we the real reason why we're not as effective because we've allowed our "living temple" to decay, stagnate and decline?”
As I read this post on Sue Duffield Ministries page it struck a chord in me. The word “discipline” stuck out. We don’t like discipline. We see it as negative, restrictive, and old fashioned. We’re free and independent and don’t want anyone telling us what we should do.
Maybe it triggers pictures of switches, paddles, privileges revoked and shouting matches with parents. Or punishment by teachers with expulsion or after school detention. But if we’re honest, most of us instinctively first think of discipline as negative and we don’t want to have anything to do with it.
However, believe it or not, there is a much fuller definition of discipline that is positive and, if applied, produces positive results rather than negative punishment. According to dictionary.com discipline is “a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training. The rigor or training effect of experience, adversity; To train by instruction and exercise; drill.“ It is also described as “to punish or penalize in order to train and control behavior, correct; chastise.” For a pianist the discipline of playing the scales, though boring, actually produces dexterity and muscle memory that frees them up for playing the hardest of pieces later. Discipline prepares us and frees us though it seems restrictive at the time.
In reality, discipline is both proactive as in training and reactive as in correcting and punishing. The more we are proactive in training ourselves and those in our care the less we need to be reactive.
In our culture, going to church has become restrictive to our own desires or wants. Maybe it’s not as entertaining as a trip to the beach or as relaxing as staying home and having a big breakfast together in our pajamas. The reasons are myriad. However, what if we are missing out on proactive training for righteousness that will nurture and protect us for the coming week and impending challenges?
The very act of choosing to make being with God and His family a priority is a rich discipline that grows deep roots of stability and spiritual prosperity. There’s a mysterious synergy of the Spirit at work in us as the Body of Christ when we come together to worship God as one. An intertwining of our hearts and lives together with Christ that builds us up into a holy habitation that strengthens us for the walking in the Spirit and being more like Jesus. This is God’s goal for us – that Christ be formed in us so that we reflect His glory and splendor.
I realize our culture has changed and that going to church at a specific time on a specific day of the week has fallen out of popularity. Sunday is now crowded with sports events, baby and bridal showers, family and community events and a long list of things to accomplish before the new week begins. I also realize that in some churches it seems like there’s nothing spiritual happening and it’s just an empty ritual. For these reasons many have forsaken the gathering together as the Body of Christ in one place on a regular basis.
I believe we are going to reap the consequences in our lives, families, communities and nation in ways that will be a slow decaying of the soul. Our nation already is reaping the consequences. Instant gratification has replaced the path of discipline. However, there’s a blessing just in submitting to the discipline of the Lord that is missed when we do our own thing or whatever feels good to us.
Yes, we can watch the sermon or service online. Yes, we can listen to podcasts during the week and these things are good. But absolutely nothing can take the place of the spiritual dynamic that happens when the Body of Christ comes together in one place to worship God. Jesus tells us that “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” (Hebrews 3:12) Jesus, Himself, is present to declare Who God is and reveal Him to us in a dynamic that is absent online.
Proverbs 3:11-12 tells us, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” I’ve often heard the excuse that because one was forced as a child or teen to go to church that they don’t want to do it today. Break your agreement with this excuse. Let it go. You’re an adult now and can learn to appreciate the benefits and make them a priority by your own choice. Find a church where the worship is dynamic, and the Word is preached with anointing and you’ll feel the benefits almost immediately.
I had a lady tell me, “I’ve been going to the Catholic church for twelve years and I came in here today for the first time and I just started crying. I don’t understand it.” I’ve heard this many times from guests. I believe she felt the presence of the Lord in a way she had never encountered before. The love you feel from God and one another is nourishing and healing. Hope arises and anxiety melts in the presence of the Lord.
I also just heard the testimony of a young lady who was an atheist but on coming to the young adult meetings and feeling the love and acceptance of the people, she opened up to God. She has now made a commitment to being baptized and being "all in."
You may be thinking, “but you don’t know my situation and how difficult it is to get all my children ready and it’s more of an aggravation than a benefit.” Believe me there were Sundays I felt that way, but God saw my effort, my determination and discipline and I believe He rewarded me in ways I couldn’t even see or feel. His blessing was there just because I obeyed whether I felt it or not. Plus, I felt the accomplishment of not being defeated by all the aggravation and difficulty.
The discipline of coming together to worship God in one place will be one of the things that keeps your spiritual house from crumbling. Yes, it may mean you’ll have to be more disciplined with your time and schedule but it’s an investment that yields benefits beyond anything you can imagine. God went “all in” for us in giving His Son. Is it really that difficult to make being with God and His family a priority?
Take a long hard look at the condition of your spiritual temple. What training might you need to add to build it back up? God needs His Church to be at its best to impact the world not crumbling and falling apart. Which will you be?