DOC: BACK TO BASICS 12: ACTIVE CHURCH PARTICIPATION

            The fourth recommended spiritual disciple of the DOC is active church participation.  From the beginning Dr. Day made it clear that the DOC was intended to augment church participation, not replace it.  Since the movement has been ecumenical for nearly its entire history, it does not matter whether the church with which one is affiliated is Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant (denominational or independent).  But the vision of the movement always has included the recommendation of active church participation. 
 
            In my personal journey I joined a church when I was twelve, after attending a class taught by our elderly pastor.  Through my high school years I actively participated in that church, though how I understand that concept today is quite different from what it was then.  I attended Sunday school and Sunday services; and when of high school age, I sang in the choir and participated in the church’s youth group. 
 
            After high school graduation I spent four years in the Air Force and basically slid into an inactive relationship with the church.  In the meantime Tillie and I married and had our first child.  When we returned to our hometown, we resumed church attendance; but our participation was limited and distant. 
 
            Since those days I have learned that our situation during those years was quite common to many church people.  And it still is true today.  It is easy to float around on the fringes of church participation.  One can feel a part of it without committing much of oneself; and in most churches, little is required. 
 
            In my own case the problem was lack of commitment.  I wasn’t just lacking commitment to the church.  I lacked commitment to the Lord of the Church.  It was only when I was twenty-six years old that Tillie and I finally made a full commitment of our lives to the Lord Jesus.  That was the turning point in our lives.  We were living in Tennessee at the time, and we were in a local church with a fiery and dedicated pastor and preacher.  We grew spiritually very quickly under his tutelage, and then only months later a friend introduced us to the Disciplined Order of Christ. 
 
            We attended our first DOC retreat in the summer of 1964.  I was deeply impressed by the literature of the movement, but even more deeply impressed by the people who were part of it.  I quickly saw active church participation modeled by Christians who were dedicated to Christ in ways I never had experienced.  I discovered the world of classic spiritual literature.  I learned that there are levels of prayer and meditation that I had not yet entered.  I saw that the fruit of the Spirit really could manifest itself in the lives of real, everyday people. 
 
            And all the while it was clear that the deeper Christian life was to be lived out in the world and the local church.  I met people who were passionate about working on behalf of the poor.  Social concerns and issues were not just points of discussion for these people.  They were matters for Christian work that included getting one’s hands dirty. 
 
            If one were to ask me what the differences are in my understanding of active participation in a church today compared with my understanding those many years ago when Tillie and I began the journey, I would answer as follows.  First, the activities as such are not that different.  As a retired minister whose primary ministry for about thirty years was a teaching ministry, I teach a Sunday school class.  I am active in the church’s men’s and senior citizen’s groups.  I serve the administrative side of church affairs by serving as chair of the finance committee.  And I mentor students from a nearby seminary who do a practicum type of course in our local church. 
 
            The big difference from those early years is a developed sense of commitment, not only to my denomination, but also to the local church fellowship.  I believe the DOC strongly influenced that loyalty in me.  Over the years I have seen an increasing willingness on the part of Christians in general to take a consumer’s attitude to the Church.  If their local congregation makes a decision of which they do not approve, they leave.  If the pastor doesn’t preach the way they prefer, they leave.  If they are miffed in some way, they leave. 
 
            I rarely have seen that attitude towards the local church in the DOC.  The people of the DOC are much more likely to pray for their pastor than to leave their church because of him.  They tend to understand that they cannot always have their way in a local church situation.  And because of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, they rarely get miffed; and if they do, they get over it quickly. 
 
            May your local congregation bless you.  And may you enjoy your active church participation. 

DOC: BACK TO BASICS 11: SMALL GROUP FELLOWSHIP

            The second recommended spiritual disciple of the DOC is personal commitment.  I am not writing an essay on that, because it has to do with the style of life that emphasizes the virtues set forth by Dr. Day in his “manual” for the DOC, Discipline and Discovery, and I covered those in the first nine essays in this series.  In my last essay I wrote about the discipline of private prayer; and in this essay I am taking up the third discipline, small group fellowship. 
 
DEFINITION OF A SMALL GROUP
 
            The phrase, small group fellowship, covers a large territory.  Christian small groups are quite varied.  Harold Freer (Field Representative and then Executive Director, of the DOC from 1961-67) and Francis Hall defined the “prayer group” (other designations are “sharing group,” “fellowship group,” and “prayer cell”) as “a small, intimate comradeship, united in a common commitment which through regular group discipline seeks spiritual power and direction” (Two Or Three Together, p. 23).  I would define it a bit differently, though certainly along the same lines.  A Christian small group consists of two to twelve persons who have committed themselves to meet with one another regularly to seek the fellowship and will of God in Christ. 
 
BIBLICAL AND HISTROICAL REASONS FOR SMALL GROUPS
 
            The DOC has recommended small group fellowship since its beginnings, and for good reason.  Jesus himself commanded it (Matt. 18:19-20), and history has confirmed it.  Although there have been revivals of Christianity without a prominent preacher or song leader (or both), it seems clear that there have been none without an accompanying wave of prayer; and many times the prayer has been in small groups. 
 
I will cite only one of the best-known examples from history, namely, the Wesleyan revival of eighteenth-century England.  That revival began in a sense when John Wesley took leadership of a small group prayer meeting on the Oxford campus, which became known (in derision) as the “Holy Club.”  The young men in that group, including Charles Wesley and George Whitefield in addition to John, later became the leaders of the great revival. 
 
John Wesley’s famous “heart-warming” experience took place at a small group prayer meeting on Aldersgate Street; and John later made membership in small groups the keystone for follow-up and nurture of the converts of his ministry.  George Whitefield, who actually drew larger crowds and had more converts than Wesley, in retrospect said that his converts were “a rope of sand” in comparison to Wesley’s, because he did not nurture them in small groups. 
 
BENEFITS OF SMALL GROUPS
 
            As we return to the present, small groups still occasionally power larger movements, but every small group produces beneficial results locally.  First, and foremost, the groups benefit those persons and churches, etc. for whom the participants pray.  Prayer does make a difference.  If we didn’t believe that, we would not pray.  And multitudes of Christians can testify to the power of their small group’s prayers to bring change into the lives of people and churches for which their groups have prayed. 
 
Second, the group benefits the individual participants themselves; and that is what the next part of this essay will focus upon.  The first benefit to participants is the additional opportunity to fellowship with God and other Christians.  Of course we fellowship with God in public worship and in private prayer.  And we gain fellowship with other Christians in the context of public worship, church school, and service to others.  But the dynamics of small group fellowship are quite different.  The intimacy, confidentiality and small setting provide a place for deeper, richer fellowship and personal growth.  As friendships develop, or grow deeper, in the fellowship of the group, we enjoy one another more and begin to care for and support one another in more direct ways. 
 
            A second benefit for participants is personal strengthening.  All of us experience difficulties in our personal lives, some traumatic.  Once we are comfortable in a small group setting, we feel freer to share those needs; and when we do, that permits the group to minister to us.  Again many can, and will, testify to answered prayer in relation to the spiritual, physical, and relational issues of their lives. 
 
            A third benefit is shared knowledge and wisdom.  Many groups incorporate some kind of study into their regular (usually weekly) meetings.  The group’s study of the Bible or a good Christian book enables the participants to share their insights and wisdom with one another, which opens their minds and hearts not only to new light on the meaning of life, but also to the will of God for the group and the individuals involved. 
 
            If the members of the group grasp the benefits mentioned thus far, a fourth benefit will begin to manifest itself, namely, spiritual transformation.  As we grow in our love and knowledge of God and one another, we are changed.  As we receive the Holy Spirit in his fullness and seek his face in the group experience (along with our other public and private Christian experiences), we begin to grow in the likeness of Christ (or that growth is speeds up).  The very first small group that Tillie and I were part of came about because of the caring attention of a laywoman in our church.  It was 1963, and Tillie and I had just publicly made full commitments to Christ.  Ackey, the woman mentioned, came to us and volunteered to meet with us weekly to pray and study the Bible.  She not only prayed with us, but she mentored us in the faith by means of that weekly small group meeting; and that was instrumental in our rapid spiritual transformation. 
 
CHARACTERISTICS OF SMALL GROUPS
 
            I already have mentioned some of the characteristics.  Obviously such groups are small.  In my definition I suggested that they vary in size from two to twelve people.  However, I believe three to eight is the optimum number.  Once the group moves beyond eight some of the small group dynamics begin to change. 
 
Intimacy is another positive characteristic that I mentioned earlier.  The intimacy level is one of those group dynamics that changes when the group grows above eight.  Unfaltering trust among the participants is necessary for a small group to reach its potential, and it is difficult (thought not impossible) for people to entrust themselves to a larger group. 
 
            A third characteristic is a common goal or goals.  The group needs to decide what it wants to accomplish, with every member committed to that goal or goals.  Growth in Christ often is an overarching goal of small groups.  And prayer for one another and others, study of devotional classics or the Bible, and personal sharing all are common means of attaining the larger goal.  A group may choose to focus rather heavily on one of these.  Or they may decide to work together at all three.  But it must be a group decision in order for the members to commit themselves to it fully. 
 
FORMING A SMALL GROUP
 
            Anyone can start a prayer and sharing group.  The qualifications are twofold.  First, one needs to desire a deeper walk with God; and two, one needs to desire to share the journey with others.  The first step in the process is to pray.  Pray that6 God will lead you to another seeker who may become a prayer partner.  Then the second step is to follow the guidance given.  Do not quench the Spirit’s leadership by self-consciousness.  Share your interest with others to whom you feel led to do so.  A positive result may not be immediate, but God will provide. 
 
            To draw on my own experience once again, Tillie and I once started a couples group by the praying and inviting process just outlined.  After prayer, we invited another couple that seemed to have a compatible interest and shared the basic vision with them, though we made it clear that we welcomed their input into the kind of group it should be.  When we had secured their commitment, the four of us decided on making an invitation to a third couple that we agreed upon.  Because of the intimacy factor mentioned above, and the busy schedules of the six people involved, we limited the group to the three couples.  We decided to focus on a biblically related study and prayer, though our fellowship and friendship was an extremely important part of the group’s growth dynamic.  When one of the couples moved away from the area, we invited another to take their place; and in this particular case, the change worked.  The group continued as successful as before. 
 
            Most groups meet in the homes of its member.  Sometimes the members of the group will take turns hosting it in their homes.  In other cases, one of the members will offer his or her home as the regular meeting place.  Some groups meet in churches.  Others meet in a private dining room at a restaurant.  The place of meeting is not overly important as long as it is comfortable and private enough not to distract from the purpose of the group.
 
            It is critical that members of a group at least commit themselves to regular attendance at group meetings and daily prayer (some groups set a time period of fifteen or thirty minutes). 
 
LEADERSHIP
 
            Mature groups can function without a leader; but most groups, even mature ones, benefit from having someone to guide the sessions.  It is easy for a group to get off track and waste time, or to be dominated by a particular participant, unless someone can gently nudge things along and encourage shy members to share their opinions. 
 
            If groups are vital and members talk about it, others may want to participate.  That is fine, if the group is open to growth.  Indeed some groups encourage growth.  But it is an issue that ought to be discussed during the formation period.  If a group grows to more than twelve, it will need to consider splitting into two groups, or the small group dynamic will be lost.  In addition, the group should not retrace ground already covered to bring a new member “up to speed.”  That can be done privately, or by recommending a book, etc.
 
            Unfortunately, most small groups do eventually stagnate.  It is important for the members to recognize it when it happens, and they need to be open to discussing the problem.  When the reason for forming the group is accomplished: the study is finished, the sharing has worn itself out, or the prayers are the same every week, one of two things must be done.  Either the group must admit that it has accomplished its purpose and the time to disband has come; or it must reinvent itself: plan a new study, become an intercessory group instead of a sharing group, etc.

DOC: BACK TO BASICS 10: PRIVATE PRAYER

            This series of essays represents an attempt to get back to the “basics” of the DOC lifestyle.  The first nine essays in the series dealt with the virtues set froth by Dr. Day in his “manual” for the DOC, Discipline and Discovery.  Beginning with this essay, we are shifting to the seven recommended disciplines of the Order, the first one of which is private prayer. 
 
            As a Spirit-filled Christian who is committed to God’s written Word, I am fully committed to a life of prayer.  My journey of private prayer began as a boy.  Through the influence of family and church I became an innocent, though naïve, believer in Jesus; and I prayed innocent and naïve prayers.  In 1963 my prayer life became more sophisticated and regular, because in that year I made a complete commitment of my life to Jesus Christ.  Thus I have been praying for most of my life.  I have read hundreds of books about prayer and spent additional hundreds of hours actually praying.  And yet I have barely touched the surface of what it means. 
 
            The Bible makes some wonderful promises in regard to prayer.  To refer only to Jesus and the apostle John, Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).  He also told his disciples, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).  And then the apostle John declares, “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:21-22).  And again he says, “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him” (1 John 5:14-15).  Of course these verses contain some stringent conditions.  For this kind of prayer to take place, we must be obedient disciples who please God, and we must ask according to God’s will.  But that doesn’t take away from the astounding nature of the promise. 
 
            Once in a while a book is seen, or a testimony heard, that suggests our prayers always should be “answered,” meaning answered in a positive sense that the thing prayed for shall happen.  One area of prayer that belies such a view is that of prayer for physical healing.  There is no doubt that we are called to pray for physical healing.  Jesus prayed for the sick and commissioned the church to preach, teach and heal; and the apostle James commanded prayer quite specifically for both physical and spiritual needs, with a strong promise regarding the outcome, as follows:
 
Is any one of you sick?  He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.  If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to each another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. 

 
            The same is true in respect to conversion.  It is clear to most Christians that it is God’s will that every person be converted to Christ.  For example, the apostle Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, after urging prayer for everyone, wrote: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  And as we have just seen, God wills that every Christian be healed when sick.  So we pray for the conversion of the unsaved, and we pray for the sick.  And yet not everyone for whom we pray are converted or healed. 
 
            I suspect that most of us have more difficulty with the lack of miraculous healings than with the lack of conversions.  After all, one who needs conversion must give assent before conversion can take place.  And there can be psychological blocks, etc. that affect the conversion process.  But it is a fairly rare individual who doesn’t want to be healed. 
 
            In my personal experience the biggest disappointment in prayer for the sick came when I was a young pastor serving my first church.  A young couple in our church had two daughters, Tammy and Debbie.  We had forged a friendship with the family and enjoyed their company.  Then Debbie, a beautiful girl about seven years old, suddenly, and inexplicably, came down with spiral meningitis; and her life hung in the balance for several weeks.  Of course her sickness became a matter of intense prayer by the congregation, and especially by me.  During Debbie’s sickness I became convinced in prayer that God was going to heal her.  It was unusual for me to have that kind of conviction in regard to healing prayer.  But it was there.  I really believed that the Lord was going to heal her.  Moreover I believed that conviction came from God. 

 
And then she died.  I was stunned.  It certainly was not that I believed God always answers prayer the way we want him to.  Rather in that particular instance, through prayer, I had become totally convinced that he was going to heal Debbie.  And I was shocked when it didn’t happen.  At the time the parents seemed to take it better than I did; but they couldn’t make the necessary adjustments for the long haul.  Their relationship began to deteriorate, and they divorced.  The experience did not destroy my faith in God, or in his healing power in the present age.  But it did shake me.  And I must admit that never again have I had the same kind of certain faith in the anticipated results of an intercessory prayer. 

 
            Dr. Day, the founder of the DOC, had a similar experience that he recorded in his book, An Autobiography of Prayer.  However Day’s disappointment came not in the area of healing prayer, but in the area of prayer for renewal in the church.  The need for renewal in his church and community was manifest.  God had called him to win souls and renew Christians, and God’s word promised power for the effort.  A book entitled Prevailing prayer: the Secret of Soul Winning inspired Day to begin a “protracted meeting,” during which he sponsored prayer meetings every day and preached every evening.  Then he spent an entire night in intense prayer for his church and community.  He described that night this way:
 
The hours passed.  It was winter.  The church grew colder and colder.  My body ached and my heart ached.  The longer I prayed, the more alone I felt.  Where was God?  Had I failed him?  Wasn’t I praying right?  Why didn’t he at least help me pray, breathe some faith into my wavering breast, give me some sign of his presence or some assurance of his power?  At last, toward morning I stumbled, half frozen, homeward through the snow, inwardly defeated, yet still assuring myself that God was merely testing my faith and that the needed revival was on the way.
            But it wasn’t.  It never came to that community.  Stubbornly I continued the series for four weeks, preaching, pleading, praying.  Then the meeting closed, with little apparent result (Autobiography of Prayer, p. 34). 
 
            The kinds of experiences just outlined are not the kind that most pastors and other ministers usually share.  They are too painful and discouraging.  And yet most of us have been through that fire.  In Dr. Day’s case, he found relief in a theology of prayer that emphasized tapping the consciousness of God that always is available to us with our own consciousness in a way that results in a satisfying and creative fellowship with God (Autobiography, pp. 40-46).  That enabled him to lift petitions to God for the purpose of unfolding and seeing fulfilled the will, guidance and power of God, rather than seeking God’s help with his own agendas (Autobiography, p. 100). 
 
            I never would have thought to frame the solution for me in terms of consciousness, as Dr. Day did; but I nevertheless came to a place in my prayer life similar to that of Dr. Day.  The language that has been more comfortable for me is the language of Jesus in his parable of the vine and the branches.  I refer to the language of oneness, or union, with God.  Jesus expressed it in terms of a mutual abiding relationship with him.  In a verse already mentioned above (John 15:7) Jesus declared, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  This mutual abiding relationship between Jesus and believers that Jesus taught is the foundation of my way of understanding intercessory prayer.  By abiding in him, and letting him abide in me (through the indwelling Holy Spirit), I can be in union with him in a way that enables me to pray for his will with true faith (in the sense of trust, trust in the one with whom I am in union). 
 
            There may be a hundred reasons, unknown to me, why a particular prayer is not answered as I envision.  But it doesn’t matter.  I will pray with persistence, as Jesus he taught me to do (Luke 11:5-8; 18:1-8).  But at the same time I will entrust every person and situation to Christ and his omnipotent, loving hand. 
 
            As I said at the beginning of this essay, the first recommended spiritual discipline of the DOC is private prayer.  I am glad that is so.  In no other way are we able to maintain the mutual abiding relationship with Christ that keeps us in the faith and enables us to pray intercessory prayers effectively.  As we in the DOC are called back to the basics of spiritual living, private prayer is a foundation stone. 

DOC: BACK TO BASICS 9: THE CHARACTER OF OUR LIFESTYLE:THE VIRTUE OF LOVE

            In recent essays we have been dealing with four virtues that demonstrate the character of our DOC (Christian) lifestyle.  Thus far we have covered humility, truthfulness, and purity.  In this essay we take up the last virtue offered by Dr. Day in his “manual” for the DOC, Discipline and Discovery, the virtue of love.  Day used the King James translation of the term, “charity,” rather than “love,” because he believed that the modern English word “love” has been so corrupted that it no longer carries its original meaning.  And we certainly have misused the term in our culture.  We use it to describe casual and sinful sexual relations, calling it “making love.”  We use the word for infatuations, parental possessiveness, and torments of jealousy, among other things.  The word “love” has indeed been corrupted (D&D, p. 116). 
 
            On the other hand, the meaning of the word “charity” in English has changed so radically (now used almost exclusively for charitable giving) that the problems with that term are greater than those associated with the word “love.”  So I will use “love” rather than “charity.” 
 
            Dr. Day decided to deal with love as the last in the series.  And that is appropriate.  It seems to me that in a list of Christian virtues, love must stand either first, as the virtue that encompasses all others; or last, as the virtue that consummates all others.  The apostle Paul in Galatians five chose to list it as first among the fruit of the Spirit.  Dr. Day chose to place it last as the consummation of all spiritual disciplines.  Both are right!  Love is the all-encompassing Christian virtue. 
 
            When we seek to define love, we realize that it consists of several attributes.  First, love is selfless.  As Paul expressed in 1 Cor. 13:
 
            Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends (vv. 4-8a).
 
Isn’t that beautiful?  We become so familiar with a passage like this that we tend to forget to smell its roses, so to speak.  Love in us seeks nothing for itself, not even from God. 
 
            Some televangelists today misrepresent the way we are to relate to God’s material blessings with their so-called “prosperity gospel.”  They suggest that we are to expect God to prosper us in a material way.  This idea certainly is not new.  Meister Eckhart, the great 14th century mystic, put the negative side of the principle this way:
 
            Some people want to see God with their eyes as they see their cow, and to love him as they love their cow—for the milk and cheese and profit it brings them.  This is how it is with people who love God for the sake of outward wealth and comfort.  They do not rightly love God, when they love him for their own advantage (cited by Day, D&D, p. 117).
 
            To put it another way, many people treat God the way they treat their auto mechanic.  They want something fixed.  They want help.  And they are willing to pay for it by going to church or something.  But they don’t actually want to have fellowship with God anymore than they want to have fellowship with their mechanic.  As soon as their trouble is fixed they forget about God just as quickly as they forget about their auto mechanic once their car is repaired.  Not all would be that crass.  Some want God around, but as their chauffeur.  They would prefer not to drive their lives alone.  But “beyond the role of servant to their needs, they have no use for God” (D&D, p.118).
 
            Of course genuine love is the opposite of that.  Love wants nothing from God, except his fellowship.  And love would even sacrifice that, if God would be glorified by it (D&D, p. 118).  Yes, love is selfless.
 
            Second. Love is a relationship.  We already have established that love is an abused concept in our culture.  All one has to do is watch a couple of hours of a soap opera to see the term corrupted beyond belief.  A related problem is the fact that many people (including many Christians) now define love as an emotion, as a tender feeling; and that is a fundamental error. 
 
            If love consisted of feelings, we would be forced into despair.  We cannot have warm, tender feelings all of the time.  As Dr. Day says, “emotions are not to be commanded in that fashion” (D&D, p. 120).  Our feelings, even our feelings about God, fluctuate with our emotional ups and downs.  Sometimes, when the harsh realities of life catch up with us; and loved ones are killed or incapacitated, warm fuzzy feelings not only are not there; but negative emotions can push into our consciousness.  Love is a relationship.
 
            Love is not a feeling.  Love is a relationship.  And for the Christian, the primary love relationship is with God.  Our other love relationships meet their potential only when they are “in Christ.”  Tillie and I discovered the wonder of this truth when we both committed ourselves totally to Christ, who then gave us to one another in a way we never knew possible. 
 
            Many times over the years, usually in response to a genuine move of God’s Spirit, I have seen Christians seeking a feeling through worship and praise.  The unfortunate result is that they end up focusing on themselves instead of on God.  Christians whose seek via worship some sort of feeling, even a feeling of love, are immature at best and self-serving at worst.  We must seek to grow our relationship with God in whatever way glorifies him. 
 
            To put it another way, love’s outward expressions are based on the internal relationship.  Therefore all outward expressions of love are based on one’s inner intentions or motives.  But the key to how love functions lies in the will.  In other words love is making choices. 
 
            Thus, third, love is an act of the will.  It is choosing the will of God in every situation.  It is choosing to serve God’s interests in the world instead of our own; it is choosing what is best for others in a given situation instead of for us; it is choosing to keep our relationship with God first and foremost, regardless of our feelings.
 
            And so in those really rough circumstances, love practiced as a daily discipline of decision becomes a way to cope.  We cannot dictate our emotions, but we can determine our motivations.  We cannot force warm fuzzy, feelings toward a drunk driver who kills; but we can, by the grace of God, choose before such tragedies occur to let God’s love flow through us, and love as God loves.  Yes, humility, truthfulness, purity, and love represent the character of the D.O.C. lifestyle. 
 
            I want to close the essay by illustrating with the life of our Lord Jesus himself, because as John tells us in John 13:16, “the servant is not greater than his Lord.”  The scene was the Upper Room.  Jesus and the twelve were gathered for what we call the Last Supper.  John tells us that Jesus was aware that his hour had come to depart from the world (v. 1); and “that the Father had given all things into his hands” (v. 3).  He knew that he was the Son of God; he knew that God had given him all authority; and he knew he was on his way to heaven.  He had every reason to be proud.  But he was supremely humble.  He took the role of a servant, and washed the disciple’s feet in order to show them what it means to be humble.
 
            Jesus also was truthful.  He didn’t soft-pedal the future.  Judas was about to betray him, and Jesus forthrightly prophesied that fact in a last ditch effort to save Judas.  In addition Peter was about to deny Jesus.  So Jesus openly confronted Peter, in order that Peter would have no excuse when the time came. 
 
            And Jesus was pure in heart.  Only persons pure in heart can empty themselves of self, as Jesus did,.  And only the Son of God, by nature pure, could empty himself of his divine powers and leave heaven to become a human being in order to save us from our sins.  Jesus’ motive was love, and only love.  That is purity of heart.
 
            Jesus also was love.  As John tells us in his first epistle, God is love (1 John 4:8, 16).  And so is the Son of God.  Jesus was love manifest in the flesh (John 1:14).  Indeed Jesus’ love was greater than his desire for personal honor and glory.  His love was greater than his desire for continuing direct fellowship with the heavenly Father.  And once he became flesh, his love was greater than his desire for wealth and power.  It was greater than his concern for his own feelings, greater even than his concern for continued life.  Jesus was the perfect model of perfect love.  As Rufus Mosely said of Jesus, he is “perfect everything.”
 
            In this series of essays thus far, we have set forth the D.O.C. lifestyle, which is simply the Christian lifestyle as seen in the New Testament, especially in the life of Jesus.  We have seen its cause, its calling, and its character through eight spiritual disciplines: obedience, simplicity, frugality, generosity, humility, truthfulness, purity and love.  May we seek the kind of relationship with God in Christ that enables us to live in this way for his glory. 

DOC: BACK TO BASICS 8: THE CHARACTER OF OUR LIFESTYLE:THE VIRTUE OF PURITY

            In the first two essays in this “Back to Basics” series for the Disciplined Order (much of which is based on Dr. Albert Day’s classic book, Discipline and Discovery), I set forth the cause of our Lifestyle, which included a study of the virtue of obedience.  In the next three essays we considered the calling of our lifestyle.  Under that heading we noted several practical virtues that call us to specific, outward lifestyle decisions: simplicity, frugality, and generosity. 
 
            We now are dealing with four virtues that demonstrate the character of our lifestyle.  To this point we have covered humility and truthfulness.  A third virtue that demonstrates Christian character, and thus the DOC lifestyle, is aspect is purity
 
            Dr. Day begins his treatment of purity by reminding us that it is important to be sexually pure.  The biblical Christian lifestyle calls us to reign in our sexual impulses and refrain from extra-martial sex (D&D, pp. 104-106).  And in a culture like ours, where casual sex is promoted and promiscuity is expected, that reminder is well taken.  But as Day goes on to say, biblical purity is much more than sexual purity, or chastity (pp. 106-107).  I agree with that entirely.  Indeed I believe that chastity is only part of a larger, more important matter; namely, purity of heart.  But before we talk about purity of heart, I want us to reflect a bit on the concept of purity itself. 
 
            The basic idea in the concept of purity is this.  A pure thing is free from anything foreign to its essential character.  As Day illustrates, “pure water is water in which there is nothing but H2O.  Pure poetry is poetry that has nothing in it that is alien to poetry . . . [And] a pure person is one in whom is nothing alien to the character which was God’s intention for him” (p. 107). 
 
            Of course that definition immediately raises the question of how anyone can be pure, because none of us would pass the test of that definition.  Day answers the question by declaring that such purity is our goal, and we must pursue it without arguing about whether or not we can attain it.  God has called us to it, and we must never throw up our hands in despair.  Rather we must seek purity with our whole heart.  Day was so convinced of this that he declared he would venture his eternal salvation on the following statement: “if you will make the purity of God your indefatigable quest, the God of purity will give himself to you in such fullness, that your questions will be transcended in the splendor of the experience which has overtaken you” [His emphasis] (D&D, p. 108). 
 
            I believe that godly purity is not simply a goal.  It is an attainable goal.  God never requires us to do or be anything we cannot be or do.  Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Mt. 5:8).  Isn’t that interesting?  All of us want to see God.  And Jesus says the persons who do are persons who are pure in heart.
 
            Do you remember Chippy the parakeet from the very first essay in this series?  Chippy went through a lot.  There was the trip through the vacuum cleaner hose into the dirt bag, followed by the plunge under the full flow of the bathroom faucet, followed in turn by a series of blasts from the hair dryer.  And afterwards Chippy didn’t sing much anymore.  He just sat and stared.
 
            When life treats you that way, do you sit and stare like Chippy?  Or do you see God? 
 
            In Psalm 24 David brings these thoughts together when he asks what kind of pilgrim is worthy to go up to the Jerusalem temple, and “stand in [God’s] holy place” (v. 3).  By that question David meant, what is the character of one who can go up to the temple and receive God’s blessing (v.5)?
 
            The answer comes in verse four: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully.  He will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of his salvation.”
 
            Yes, the person who sees God is the person with the pure heart.  And the person with the pure heart is the person with a pure character, a person who rejects the false and the deceitful. Thus the Psalmist was saying in his own way, centuries before Jesus, exactly what Jesus said.  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
 
            Now practically speaking, we are talking about a spiritual “seeing.”  It is metaphorical rather than literal.  It is something that takes place in the heart, not in the cornea.
 
            My son-in-law, Rich Stevenson, calls this spiritual seeing in the heart “heartsight.”  Heartsight is powerful, because it has the power of our emotions behind it.  The heart is the seat of motivation, the arena of passion, the spring of conscience, the center of our inner self.  That is why Jesus said that a fruitful response to the word of God takes place in a good heart (Lk. 8:15).
 
            But what you see in your heart can have negative implications.  That is why Jesus said that sin begins in the heart (Mt. 5:28), and that evil proceeds out of the heart (Mt. 15:19).  And that is why Paul declared to the Romans: “by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath” (Rom. 2:5).
 
            Sometimes when we see with the heart, we see through rose-colored glasses.  My son-in-law suggests that we think for a moment about the people we dated in high school.  I don’t know how helpful that particular exercise is, but we certainly all can identify people and situation where our judgment was suspect, because we looked through rose-colored glasses. 
 
            And when we reflect on those people and situations, we exercise another kind of sight.  It’s called hindsight.  All of us have heard the expression that hindsight is 20/20.  We would make better decisions if our foresight were as good as our hindsight. 
 
            At any rate, Jesus wants us to see God.  He wants us to exercise the power of “heartsight” in a positive, constructive way so that we can enter into the blessing of seeing God.
 
            Of course all of us who believe in God want to see him.  We want to have fellowship with him, now and in the future.  We want to be blessed by his presence in this life, and to dwell in his presence in the life to come.  Or to put it another way, we want to enjoy God’s gifts and blessings while we are alive, and go to heaven when we die.  And purity of heart is the key. 
 
            According to Day, purity encompasses the other virtues already studied: obedience, simplicity, frugality, generosity, humility, and truthfulness.  Persons who are pure in heart will have, by the grace of God, eliminated from their lives all self-will, pride, self-indulgence and falsehood.  And that makes the various virtues of the Christian life possible.  And the key to all of this is purity of motive (D&D, p 109). 
 
            I agree completely with Day.  None of us can be perfect in performance.  But we can be perfect in motive, which is another way of saying pure in heart.  But it is essential for us to realize that we can be perfect in motive only by God’s grace.  We cannot do it in our own strength.  Self-discipline is essential, but self-discipline alone will never make us pure.  Only the indwelling Spirit of God can work the miracle of purity in our hearts (D&D, p. 110).  Thus purity of heart joins humility and truthfulness as important aspects of the character of the D.O.C. lifestyle.