Desire trumps discipline

Whether it is following the book of James or the slogan of Nike, we must 'Just do it' says Dave Newton.

As a former military man, my Dad was a stickler for details. In our family holidays were planned so well that I had to remind my Dad to program in some time to have fun and relax, meals always started on the dot and being on time meant getting places 30 minutes early.

I remember one occasion when I had a day off school, receiving a formal briefing from my Dad the night before to ensure I stayed out of trouble. With a large map on the table, he proceeded to draw a boundary line explaining I was required to stay inside the boundary but was not, under any circumstances, permitted to stray outside.

I remember nodding my head so hard that I almost convinced myself I was going to obey this time but as soon as the day of adventure arrived the boundary faded in my mind and I simply did what I wanted.

In Matthew’s gospel account Jesus tells a story of a man with two sons. He told the older boy, to go out and work in the vineyard. The son was straight in his response and answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ later on, however, he changed his mind and went and did it anyway.

The father told the other son to go to the vineyard, he responded positively saying, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But in the end, he didn’t go. Jesus continued by asking the listeners a question “Which of the two sons obeyed his father?”.

It’s one thing saying we will do something but it’s quite another thing doing it. You are probably familiar with this phrase, I have to say that it holds a lot of resonance with me. Our good intentions don't always turn into action. It is so easy to make promises to God, others or even ourselves, but simply not follow through on them.

We can probably all recall an occasion where we have expressed to God a desire to change but rendered the decision worthless by not translating our intention into action. As Christ followers we are not simply called to know the right thing to do, we are called, even commanded, to obey.

James puts it so eloquently when he states ‘Don’t simply be hearers of the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says’ (James 1v22).

The famous sports brand Nike put it even simpler ‘Just do it’.

Jesus was teaching those listening that obedience is an essential characteristic of Christian living. It is better to not say something and do it, rather than say it and not do it. That said it is easy to fall into the trap of focussing on the fruit (obedience) rather than the root.

If obeying God and his commands are the outward fruit of our lives it is our devotion and love for Him that is the root enabling us to live the obedient and fruitful lives we have been called to live.

John 14 v 15 ‘If you love me you will obey’. Our obedience is simply an outworking of our desire. Desire trumps discipline every time.

Sitting listening to my Dad's rules, watching him draw his boundaries on the maps helped me to understand what the rules were but didn't do anything to help me keep them. As we seek to be active obedient followers of Jesus remember to focus on the roots first and the fruit will be the natural expression.

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