In the first essay in this series, we established that the DOC lifestyle is simply the highest New Testament lifestyle.  It is the style of life taught by Jesus and the authors of the New Testament.  Then we began to discuss “The Cause of Our Lifestyle,” by which is meant the reasons why we strive for the highest New Testament lifestyle.  And the first reason we saw was our great need for it.  We frequently fail to be and do what Christ wants us to be and do. 
 
            We explored two primary reasons for our failure.  One reason for our failure is the daily pressures of life.  And I illustrated with the story of Chippy the parakeet. 
 
            A second reason for our failure is our natural human tendency to be undisciplined.  God is gracious; and he will do everything for us that he deems necessary, if we cannot do it for ourselves.  But he will not do those things for us that we can do for ourselves.  He will not force us out of bed in the morning.  He will not make us refuse a second helping of food.  He will not do our work for us.  Our spiritual formation is a cooperative venture.  We have to do our part through self-discipline. 
 
            We went on from there to discuss three special areas of need that Dr. Day pointed out in his 1947 book, Discipline and Discovery.  We talked about how we must get free from the selfish self that lurks within us, and from two additional tyrants that are manifestations of the selfish self; namely, our desire for things, and our obsession with what other people think.
 
            I summarized that discussion of the cause of our New Testament lifestyle as follows.  First of all, we have a great need of it.  We often fail in our relationship to God, because of the pressures of daily life, or because we lack discipline.  Indeed, we find ourselves so much in the grip of self, things and people that we drift away form God, causing our relationship to him to suffer.  Obviously, if we are to fulfill God’s dream for our lives, those tyrannies must be broken. 
 
            In this essay I want us to begin to pursue the question of how we can overcome the tyranny of self, things and people, and thus overcome our sin and failures.  The answer of course is not simple.  The obvious and most important means is to do it by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.  But as we have seen, it takes cooperation on our part.  So if we go beyond that obvious truth, two things are certain.  One, we cannot achieve victory over these kinds of problems without wanting to please God.  And two, we cannot please God without self-discipline. 
 
            In some cases self-discipline may not be enough; we might need professional help as well.  But self-discipline is essential.  Indeed as Dr. Day said, “Discipline is Emancipation” (Title of Chapter III, D&D, p. 17).  By that he meant that the exercise of physical and spiritual disciplines empowers us to free ourselves from the tyrannies that want to grip the necks of our spiritual lives and choke us to death. 
 
            Thus self-discipline is an important way to work with God.  When God tries to work with a person who offers no disciplined cooperation, the effort becomes a heart-breaking spectacle.  As Dr. Day puts it, too often a man, “will not lift his face out of the dust, or shake off the shackles of his ego-centric self” (D&D, p. 9).
 
            In our churches we hear again and again that only God can save; and that is absolutely true.  But what we frequently do not hear is that we must cooperate with God in the process.  People never are saved against their will, and no one goes on to perfection without desiring to please God.  Furthermore, no one is perfected in love without self-discipline.  Day goes on to say:
 
            Real discipline is not vain effort to save one’s self.  It is an intelligent application to the self of those … principles which enable the self to enter into life-giving fellowship with God who is our salvation (D&D, p. 9).
 
            Thus we see that the key to the whole matter.  The experience of spiritual maturity (the Spirit-filled life, entire sanctification, total commitment, Christian perfection, holiness, whatever you prefer to call it) has two aspects.  On the one hand, it is totally dependent on our relationship to God.  But on the other hand, self-discipline is essential.  Our relationship to God in Christ is the essential ingredient.  But self-discipline is required to maintain the relationship.
 
            At this point we will do well to remember two cautions about discipline offered by Dr. Day.  First, “discipline must not be practiced for its own sake.”  Self-discipline is a means to an end, not an end in itself.  When we allow our disciplines to become the important thing, pride enters in.  Keeping score, counting our successes, adding up our victories becomes the issue.  Why we might even begin to feel like a saint!  But the problem is saints never keep score; they never contrast others unfavorably with themselves; and they never believe that their disciplines are noteworthy.
 
            The second of Dr. Day’s cautions is, “discipline must never be conceived as denial or destruction of our own uniqueness.”  Each of us has a special uniqueness as a Christian individual.  We have our own gifts and graces.  And God calls us to fulfill a life and ministry that only we can fulfill.  That means that we must not waste spiritual or physical energy trying to be someone else!  We must let God help us to be the person he wants us to be (D&D, pp. 127-138).
 
            The first DOC virtue that we must practice, if we are going to progress in the disciplined life, is obedience.  Obedience is yielding to another’s right of command (D&D, p. 27).  Canby Jones defines “holy obedience” as “doing God’s will before our own” (T. Canby Jones, Triumph Through Obedience, p. 6).
 
            Day correctly began with obedience, because it strikes most quickly at the selfish self that is at the heart of our sin problems, and thus at the heart of the problem of not rightly relating to God.  For many Christians, obedience is not a habit.  This is so, because self is on the throne of their lives, rather than Christ.  The once famous Methodist Bishop, Arthur Moore, used to say, “When we put self on the throne, we put Christ on the cross; when we put Christ on the throne, we put ourself on the cross.”
 
            As Day reminds us, “obedience is both an art and an ever new adventure.  By practice it becomes easier.  Yet every new situation makes new demands that can be met only by creative consecration.  Yesterday’s obedience is never quite adequate for today.  But yesterday’s obedience makes today’s more likely.”  And I might add that today’s obedience makes tomorrow’s more likely.
 
            I want to close by telling you a story about obedience in the secular world, which I trust will illustrate the spiritual reality.  Allan Emery, Christian author of A Turtle on a Fencepost, tells a story of obedience from his own service in the United States Coast Guard, during World War II. 
 
            He was assigned as skipper of a small sailing craft, a converted yacht that was used for antisubmarine patrol off the northeastern coast.  One terrible winter’s night in 1943 he was feeling exceedingly grateful that he and his men were off patrol, with the craft tightly moored to the dock, because a tremendous storm of gale force was raging.
 
            He was about to go to sleep when he was notified that a Navy pilot had gone down, and he was to round up his crew and make an attempt to save that pilot.  He knew that one could survive only minutes in ten-degree waters in gale winds, but that wasn’t his decision to make.  His duty was to obey.  Indeed when he voiced his reluctance to the Captain of the Port, a Captain Scott, the Captain reminded Allan of the motto of the old United States Lifesaving Service, an early organization that the Coast Guard had absorbed: “You have to go out.  You don’t have to come back.”
 
            He found his crew in a local tavern; and as quickly as possible, they headed out to sea.  They proceeded to the latitude and longitude given, being beaten by the gale all the way, and with ice forming on the bow.  But as expected, when they arrived, they found nothing.  Then suddenly someone spotted a light flashing in the distance, towards shore.  They quickly realized it was an S.O.S, and headed directly for the light.  It turned out to be a small Navy ship with its bow hung up on a reef. 
 
            Allan’s vessel was smaller and its draft was shallower, so they took the risk of hanging up themselves to get a line on the grounded vessel.  Otherwise that craft would soon break up on the reef.  They had to come into the wind to do it.  They successfully got a line to the other vessel, but they couldn’t pull it off the reef into the wind.  Indeed, the wind caused Allan’s craft to turn in a way he didn’t want it to; and then he felt the aft part of the keel hit the reef.  It seemed that the end was near for both vessels, that both would break up against the reef.
 
            Then Allan prayed.  He remembered the motto of the old United States Lifesaving Service, of which Captain Scott had reminded him: “You have to go out.  You don’t have to come back.”  As he faced death, he told the Lord that it was all right, but if he wanted anything more from his life, or the lives of the men in those two ships he’d have to move quickly.
 
            Suddenly Allan was aware that a great rush of sea was charging down upon them.  Instinctively he gave his engines full power, and the sea lifted them free.  At the same moment the bow of the other vessel lifted enough that the pull of Emery’s craft hauled it free; and they were able to tow it to safety.
 
            And the pilot they went out to save?  It turned out that he had radioed a wrong position.  He actually ditched just off a Massachusetts beach, and was able to walk ashore.  While reflecting on this later, Allan wrote:
 
            ‘The utter obedience required in the military is accepted as necessary, even when one’s life may be the price of that obedience.  Why does the Christian fail to practice the same obedience in spiritual matters?’  I determined that with God’s help I’d remember Captain Scott’s words to me and apply them to my Christian duty.  ‘You have to go out.  But you don’t have to come back.’
 
            In summary, the primary cause of our DOC lifestyle is our great need of it. 
 
            –We are hammered by life’s problems.
            –We are undisciplined.
            –We are selfish and sinful.
            –And we are in bondage to things and people.
 
            But God brings us to salvation and maturity, if we will cooperate with him, if we will believe and be disciplined.  Once saved, we are to be obedient to the Lord who saves us.  We have to go out.  We don’t have to come back.

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