The Swamp or the River

The center of Christian discipline is this:  “The love of Christ constrains me,” or “narrows me.  The difference between a swamp and a river is that a river has banks, and a swamp has none – it spreads over everything. Civilizations organize themselves around rivers.  Some people are like rivers.  They know where they want to go, and they confine themselves to the banks that lead to the goal. But some people are swamps: they spread over everything; their minds are so open they cannot hold a conviction; they are everything and nothing. . . Paul could say, “This one thing I do.”  They can say, “These forty things I dabble in.”  Paul left a mark.  They leave a blur.    –    E. Stanley Jones

river-banksLike the banks of the river, when we commit ourselves to the constraining love of Christ, such discipline occasions habits of the heart.  Such habits constrain us. Jesus’ commitment to the love of the Father resulted in three disciplined habits: 1) He read the Word of God.  Luke’s gospel (4:16) reads that it was his custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath where he would stand up and read the scriptures.  2) He frequently sought solitude to pray. “He went into the mountain to pray as was his custom.”  And 3) He shared what he had and what he gained through the Scriptures and prayer.  In John 17:14, Jesus says in his prayer to the Father, “I have given them your Word,” and in 17:22, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”  In the life of Christ, The River of Life is one of disciplined habit. In this way, the love of Christ constrains.  If we love Him, we will exercise the disciplines of prayer, reading the Word of God, and sharing the Truth with others.

Stanley Jones says in his autobiography, A Song of Ascents,  “Long before I had discovered these three things in the Scriptures, I say this instinctively (or was I led by the Spirit or both): the deep ingrained necessity of these three simple habits. So I fixed them deep into habit; they became part of me.”

O, God our Father.  The swamp is not the place for me.  I want to move with you in the River of Life.  Your grace takes the form of constraining love.  You show me the way to my only realistic response to your great love for me.  I confess it takes time and discipline to form core habits.  I ask for more grace to strengthen my resolve to love you more and to reflect that love in the life-changing habits after the likeness of my Lord, Jesus.  Amen!

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