Grace and Discipline - a Small Group Study

Christians live in grace and by grace, not by works. We cannot boast about our own works, no matter how good they are. God gets all the glory, for he is the one who motivates us to do anything good. Even the faith we have is a gift of God.

So, to ensure that God gets all the glory, should we sit back and do nothing? Should we not study unless God motivates us to feel like it, should we not pray unless he motivates us to feel like it, should we not do any good works unless he initiates them? Does any talk of discipline take the initiative away from God, give people opportunity to boast, and become a form of legalism?

Is discipline an enemy of grace? If it’s all of grace, what need is there for any discipline? If God does the work, why should we try?

Parents: have you ever taught a child to do something by doing it with the child – so much so that you were actually doing all the work and the child was just following along? Did you want the child to try, or to quit trying? Give an example.

In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul tells us, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” Who was doing the working – was it God, or was it Paul? What characteristic of God did Paul say was working in him?

Key Scripture: Romans 12:1-8 (NIV)

  1. After Paul has explained to the Romans that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as our atoning sacrifice, he now begins to stress some practical applications. Does he exhort us to be passive, to wait upon the Lord for him to work in us? Verses 1-2.
  2. How might Paul respond if we asked him: “You tell us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. How do we go about that?” Is that something we do, or do we wait for God to do it?
  3. Paul says that we are members not just of Jesus Christ, but also of one another – we belong to one another (verse 5). How might this affect our behavior?
All our responses to God’s dealings with us and all our practice of the spiritual disciplines must be based on the knowledge that God is dealing with us in grace.

– Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, p. 79

4. Paul talks about spiritual gifts – given by grace – in verses 6-8. Do these gifts of grace do their own work in our lives, or is there something we are supposed to do with them? Do our efforts take anything away from God’s glory?

5. In Galatians 2:20, Paul said, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.” Who was doing the living – Paul, or Christ? (See 1 Corinthians 9:27 and Romans 15:18).
By themselves the spiritual disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done.

– Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p. 7

In Colossians 1:29, Paul explained how he proclaimed Christ: “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” Who was doing the working in Paul’s life? Are we to strive for grace in the same way? How can we labor without taking any credit for it?

John Piper says that God gives us faith, but yet it is still we who believe and trust. “It is unbiblical and irrational to say that, because the grace of God produces in us an active trust in God, we don’t need to exert an active trust in God. Is it not irrational to say, ‘God enables us to trust him; therefore we don’t need to trust him?’” (http://www.soundofgrace.com/piper98/09-20-98.htm). How might this principle apply to works?

There is not a single instance in the New Testament teaching on holiness where we are taught to depend on the Holy Spirit without a corresponding exercise of discipline on our part.

– Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, p. 130

Challenges for Growth:

  1. How can we work as hard as Paul did without being legalistic? Can we ask God for more zeal than we really want?
  2. If we don’t want that much zeal, why not? What is more important to us than zeal?
  3. Since we belong to one another, what is my responsibility toward you to help you in obeying Paul’s exhortations?
  4. Do we look on grace as a cover for wrong-doing, or as a motivation for right-doing?

Michael Morrison

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