Discipline prevents The Slide

No great company sets a goal to slide into mediocrity. No newlyweds, madly in-love, plan to divorce down the road. No fit, muscular athlete figures how to put on a hundred pounds ... in the next few years. No neighborhood holds a meeting to outline steps toward a rundown community. No committed, vibrant Christian dreams of a day when he or she will reject and curse and simply walk away from God, living a life of joyless compromise.
- Jose Barreda

One of the reasons we "train wisely" and pursue discipline is because our story contains The Slide. We live in a slidden world. Small, incremental slips(not spectacular sins) hold us captive. We die the death by a thousand cuts. I mean, kinda.

We believe in the gospel and rely on the Saviour. Though we are dying, held, slipping and sliding, we are solid and stable and free and alive. We pursue discipline, not out of desperation, but as a strategy.

Reading Proverbs 6 highlights this. A little sleep, a little slumber and poverty will come on your like an armed man. Constant vigilance is necessary. But how do we reconcile this with constant grace, constant providence, constant security in Christ?

Does our status in Christ remove our need for "training wisely" in order to prevent The Slide?


  1. Hey Steve,

    It's Chris James, author of duodigest.blogspot.com. I just noticed I'm on your blogroll and am just wondering if we know each other. Cheers! - Chris

  2. I've heard it said that Christian discipline is the outworking - the bringing out into our behavior and consciousness - of inner grace, that is, the conversion or "circumcision" of our hearts that is a work of God, a work of unmerited grace.
    Thus, "Work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.' Philippians 2:12-13

  3. Chris, great to hear from you.

    No, we don't know each other. I just stumbled across your blog a while back and really like it, so I guess that puts me in the "fan" category.

    If you've never read duodigest, it's a very thoughtful blog on ministry, discipleship and the church that's written by a clergy couple over in Menlo Park.

  4. Larry, I think that's a great way of talking about Christian discipline. As part of God's work of sanctification in our lives and communities, we should expect to see behavioural changes. John Ortberg says it like this: "We shall morph indeed."

    I'm hoping to do a little more study of Galatians and Philippians as I blog about discipline over Christmas break. I've always found that "work out as he works in" line to be both inspiring and confusing.

    Thanks for sharing this insight. You confirmed for me that that angle is one I should explore a little more.

  5. It is confusing. It is daunting to think about how you would begin to draw the distinction between grace and works (or, in our particular context here, grace and discipline) to someone of another faith and culture. But, I think Paul's comment in this passage is maybe uniquely useful on the point in all of Scripture. It helps me to imagine it in almost physical or visible terms. That is, think of God's work of grace in one's heart as a kind of light that, by its own nature, begins to seep out into consciousness. Our discipline, then, is more or less to take cognizance of this grace - our new identity in Christ - and to incorporate it into our thought and behavior. This does not completely solve the paradox, I know, but I get nervous talking about one kind of works/human effort, i. e. "trying hard" versus what is, arguably, at least, another kind of works: "training wisely." Some critic might argue that you are still, in the end, advocating a salvation of works, it's just that you have now got a smarter (more works?) strategy. Again, I realize this does not solve the problem, we have to have some deliberate role in the process. We are not mere passive vessels. But, I wonder if there is not some wisdom, even in talk of Christian discipline, to keep the focus ever on God and His working and not on our own sweat, even if it is "wise sweat?" You know, "lest no man should boast?"