As a child in a Christian home, I did not start out with an understanding of the word discipline. I simply knew that I belonged to people who loved me and cared for me. That is dependence. They spoke to me, and I answered. That is responsibility. They gave me things to do, and I did them. That is obedience. It adds up to discipline. In other words, the totality of the believer’s response is discipline. While there are instances where the two words discipline and obedience seem to be interchangeable, I am using the first as comprehending the second and always presupposing both dependence and responsibility. We might say that discipline is the disciple’s “career.” It defines the very shape of the disciple’s life. Obedience, on the other hand refers to specific action.
Discipline is the believer’s answer to God’s call. It is the recognition, not of the solution to his problems or the supply of his needs, but of mastery. God addresses us. We are responsible—that is, we must make a response. We may choose to say yes and thus fulfill the Creator’s glorious purpose for us, or we may say no and violate it. This is what is meant by moral responsibility. God calls us to freedom, fulfillment, and joy—but we can refuse them. In a deep mystery, hidden in God’s purposes for man before the foundation of the world, lies the truth of man’s free will and God’s sovereignty. This much we know: a God who is sovereign chose to create a man capable of willing his own freedom and therefore capable of answering the call. . .
Discipline is the wholehearted yes to the call of God. When I know myself called, summoned, addressed, taken possession of, known, acted upon, I have heard the Master. I put myself gladly, fully, and forever at His disposal, and to whatever He says my answer is yes.
**Excerpt originally published in “Discipline, The Glad Surrender” pp. 17-18.