Discipline: Is It Misunderstood as Legalism?
An all too common error in evangelical circles today is to mistake discipline as legalism. Legalism is following a religious system in order to win favor from God; it is man performing in order to be acceptable. Discipline is the process of developing habits needed for successful living. Discipline is needed in all areas of our life, for our mental, physical, relational and spiritual development. Without discipline we remain infantile, underdeveloped, immature, incapable of reaching the capacity needed for a happy fulfilled life.
Not too many people will argue the need for physical exercise for our physical health, but when the same discipline is needed for our spiritual health, we hear, "that's legalistic." The disciplines of daily Bible reading, prayer, self-control, giving, and church attendance are fundamental for spiritual success. (1 Timothy 4:8 "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.") (NIV)
These spiritual disciplines are God's ways of growing us. When we couch discipline under the guise of legalism we pervert God's ways of maturing us, we become sluggish, sickly Christians, unable to carry our cross, unable to fulfill our purposes, unable to achieve the fulfillment God desires for us. What disciplines do you need to develop? Let God help you develop them!