Discipline for the purpose of Holiness

I just finished the chapter on discipline in the book “The Pursuit of Holiness” (side note: Have you read it? If not, I challenge you to buy it and read it).

Why do we so often say we want to conquer a specific sin/sin pattern in our life, but then when it comes down to it, we fall back into it time after time after time? I know I do that, all the time. In our pursuit of holiness, why is failure more common than victory? What is discipline, really, and how do we practice it on a daily basis?

Hear the Word of the Lord:

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom He loves, He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives'” –Hebrews 12:4-6

“But you did not learn Christ in this way [in futility], if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” — Ephesians 4:20-25

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequately equipped for every good work.” –2 Timothy 3:16-17

“But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourselves for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and the life to come.” –1 Timothy 4:7-8


Our failure comes because we want instant holiness. We want to pray one prayer for deliverance, for strength, for courage, for power, to be able to say no, to become holy, and that be it. This is especially true in my generation….for the most part if it takes time or is difficult, then we aren’t interested.

Yet scripture teaches us the opposite of instant results, instant victory, instant freedom. It speaks to resistance, fleeing, beating our bodies and making them our slave (1 Cor. 9:24-27), laying aside the old self and ‘putting on’ the new self, sacrifice, suffering, trials and training.

All of those take time. And all of those require action on our part. We cannot just say a prayer and hope the sin will just disappear. We have to fight. We have to resist. We must choose to pursue the things of the spirit rather than our flesh. And believe me, it is not easy. Our flesh wants to win. Our fleshly desires want to win out over our spirit.

But why should we fight? What makes the pain worth it? 1 Timothy gives us the answer to that….because we are fighting for something eternal. Because godliness and holiness, unlike any earthly pursuit we could ever chase, will impact our lives here on earth, and in heaven. Because Christ suffered for us, and He calls us to suffer for him. He calls us to discipline, to godliness, to holiness. That alone makes me see that my personal pursuit of holiness makes it more worthy, more glorious, more beautiful and more convicting a cause than anything I could every pursue on this earth.

Discipline then, is not a list of do’s and don’ts. It is not following a ‘method’ or a plan. It is acknowledging failure, then getting up and pressing on, instead of laying down and declaring defeat. It is recognizing that I will not achieve victory quickly, nor without being firmly grounded in the Word, and closely walking with Jesus. It is a ever growing willingness to sacrifice my own time, desires and pleasures, because I know what I am striving towards. When I clearly see what is waiting at the end, it makes the practice of discipline worth it.


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