Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Blurry Line

After a good conversation I had with a friend recently, I was left thinking about the difference between living a disciplined life and being legalistic. At first glance, they can look the same. At times all that separates them is a gray fuzzy line.

One quality is a Biblical virtue. The other infuriated Jesus. That sounds a little dangerous. Like there should be more distinction.

Speaking of things that deserve a little more distinction...especially first thing in the morning!


Last week I mentioned a few adjustments I'm making for 2012. One was my commitment during the month of January to give up desserts and to only drink water. The other commitment was finding one 15 minute time block per day to focus on prayer. Those can be good, healthy commitments which provide the right structure to help me accomplish the goals I'm trying to reach, or they can turn into legalism.

So how do you know which side of the fence you're on? How can I make sure that my heart is really seeking to honor God instead of just living according to all these man-made rules...crossing all my "t's" and dotting all my "i's" just to impress myself or some random people who probably don't actually care that much?

Here's a few thoughts. Ask yourself:

  1. "What specific goal am I trying to accomplish?" (i.e. losing the 5 pounds I gained over the Christmas holidays or having a more intimate relationship with the Lord)
  2. "Is this structure that I've put in place really going to help me accomplish that goal?"(When it stops helping you accomplish the goal and you're just doing it because you're "suppose to", you need to drop it and find a new way to accomplish your goal.)
  3. "How will I measure my progress?" (Weight loss is easy to measure, intimacy with the Lord is a little more tricky.)
  4. "Should this be an on-going discipline or a short-term commitment?" (I'm not giving up desserts indefinitely. But a more intimate prayer life is something I'm hoping will become apart of who I am long-term.)
  5. "How will I handle failure?" (I've already realized that the weekends are going to be really difficult for me to find that 15 minute time block. But instead of throwing in the towel, I've just adjusted my structure to say that I will find one 15 minute time block five days a week to focus on prayer.)
I think most of us are finally motivated to change something in our lives when the pain of NOT changing is greater than the pain of changing. And, according to Dr. Henry Cloud, when you realize your maturity is not strong enough to make that change, you should add a little external structure. The external structure (or discipline) is simply a tool to get us from point A to point B. 

For me, these added disciplines are a stake in the ground, a line in the sand acknowledging that I believe God wants to move me from here to there, and this is my simple, tangible starting point. You've gotta draw a line somewhere!

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