Striving to live a disciplined life

disciplineIt has been a lot of fun teaching through II Thessalonians. I have taught this book many times and, each time I teach through it, I learn new things about God and new things about myself.

If you have been following this series, you are aware of the previous lessons and what they teach. If you have not been following the series, take a moment to play a little catch up by reading the following articles.

  1. The importance of communication
  2. Genuine faith endures persecution
  3. Concerning the Day of the Lord
  4. The Church and the Day of the Lord 
  5. Praying for your disciples

The previous lesson focused on prayer, specifically, praying for your disciples, that they would grow in their knowledge of the Word of God, that they would grow in their faith, that they would grow in their love, and that they would continue making more disciples. 

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to correct some doctrinal issues that the Thessalonians were having. Someone, or a group of people, had come in and taught the Thessalonians that they had missed the Day of the Lord. As a result, many of the Thessalonians had stopped participating in spreading the Gospel. Some even quite working and did not want to do anything. Paul, in chapter 3, is explaining the importance of living a disciplined lifestyle. Why is it difficult to live a disciplined lifestyle? Have you ever considered that?

I. Spiritual warefare exists

As we learned in some of the previous lessons, when a person preaches the Gospel, he or she will be persecuted. This happens because the message of the Gospel pricks people’s sin nature and as a result, they strike out at the one who preaches. This persecution is an attempt by the evil one to silence those who preach the Gospel and make disciples. He uses people to accomplish his goals. The Apostle Paul explains this in chapter 3 of the second letter written to the Thessalonian church.

1 Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;
2 and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.
3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
4 We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command.
5 May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ. (II Thessalonians 3)

Those who do not believe the Gospel and follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called perverse and evil men. They are manipulated by the evil one and end up persecuting those who preach the Gospel and make disciples. This can be a huge obstacle to preaching the Gospel and making disciples. We must pray for each other, knowing that we will all experience this warfare, if we are seeking to live godly lives. We also must never allow obstacles from keeping us from preaching the Gospel and making disciples. These obstacles, in the form of persecution, can derail us from living a disciplined life.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus Christ teaches His disciples how to pray.

9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] (Matthew 6)

In the prayer, He lets us know that the evil one exists and that he seeks to destroy us. We are to pray that the Lord would deliver us from the evil one so that we can continue preaching the Gospel, making disciples, and living a disciplined life. This evil one is active.  His best activity comes through religious people who do not know God.

23 And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.

40 “But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.

41 “You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.

43 “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.

44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8)

The evil one uses people who are worldly, living by the flesh and not focused on spiritual things. Even though they may use spiritual language to mask who they really are and what their true desires are. They are used by the evil one. He lies to them to manipulate them and ultimately will lead them to destruction. That is why persecution of genuine disciples of Jesus Christ will always be around. As disciples, we must not stop in the face of these obstacles. We continue to preach the Gospel. We continue to make disciples. We continue to live a disciplined life.

II. How to live a disciplined life

We have already seen that in order to live a disciplined life, we need to pray that the Gospel would continue to spread though our efforts to make disciples. We need to pray for those who preach the Gospel and make disciples. We need to pray for the spiritual warfare happening in our own lives and in the lives of the disciples around us. In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul gives us some of the keys to victory in order to lead a disciplined life. But, before we get into that, I would like to use a teaching from the Apostle Peter to help us live a disciplined life.

8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (I Peter 5)

Be sober and one the alert. Be ready. The enemy waits for his best opportunity to attack. He waits for you to let your guard down. He waits for the chance for you to relax and are not alert. This is what a lion does with its prey. If we are sober and alert, we will be able to resit the evil one. How? Stand firm in your faith. You are not alone in this battle. Your fellow brothers and sisters are suffering for their faith and in a battle with the evil one just as you are. God will provide His grace so rely on it.

Now, let’s turn back to Ephesians 6.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6)

In order to live a disciplined life and defeat the evil one, we need to be strong in the Lord’s strength. We must put on the full armor of God each and every day. If you put on and use the full armor of God, you will be able to stand firm against the traps of the evil one. We are not fighting against people, even though they may be the ones attacking us. We are fighting a spiritual battle. We have to know what the full armor of God is, practice using it, and actually use it. This will enable us to resist the evil one and continue on living a disciplined life on a daily basis. The full armor of God begins with the Word of God and ends with the Word of God. We must be disciplined students of the Word of God if we are going to live a disciplined life and overcome the evil one.

III. How to love those who are undisciplined

First of all, we have to determine what “undisciplined” means so that we can recognize those brother and sisters who live an undisciplined life. The Greek word that is translated into English as undisciplined is “Ataktos” and it means disorderly, out of rank in a military sense. It also means deviating from the prescribed order or rule. The root of the Greek word “Ataktos” is “Tasso” and it means to put in order, to station, to place in a certain order, to arrange, to assign a place, to appoint. God has a “way ” for us to live and He lays it out in His Word. Undisciplined means to move away from that clearly defined “way” of life. We can conclude based on this information that those who are living an undisciplined lifestyle are not doing it by accident. They are making a choice not to do the things that God requires of them. How do I love them? The first thing that I have to do is to confront them with the Word of God. I do it in love, with respect and humility. I do not join in their undisciplined ways. When they ask me to join them, I refuse and confront them with why I will not join them. Be an example of a person who lives a disciplined lifestyle. See what was covered in the previous section. Show them the importance of daily Bible study and prayer. Show them the value of planning and doing ministry according to a plan.  Be a hard worker in the ministry and set the example. Show them why they should not live off of the backs of others. They need to work for their own bread. Confront them in love when they are living as busybodies, always doing something yet never actually accomplishing anything. Let everyone know that people who are living an undisciplined life have marked themselves and are dangerous to the body of believers. Do not treat him as an enemy because he is a brother in Christ, yet, do confront him and do not associate with him until he repents. This is illustrated by Paul in II Corinthians 5. This is genuine, Biblical love that is necessary for the brother and necessary for the body.

Are you striving to live a disciplined life? Has preaching the Gospel and making disciples brought persecution in your life? Have those obstacles stopped you from preaching the Gospel? Have those obstacles thrown your life into chaos so that you are no longer living a disciplined lifestyle? Are you a disciplined student of the Word of God? Do you spend time in prayer for your ministry, for your disciples, for the furtherance of the Gospel? Do you know how to use the full armor of God? Are you reaching out to help those brothers and sisters around you who are living an undisciplined lifestyle? May the Lord help all of us live a disciplined lifestyle until the Lord returns!

 

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