For some time I have understood that, when it comes to self-discipline, there are two types of people in the church: those who can and those who can't. I'm definitely one of the latter! Before I started to understand the implications of the gospel on every day life I used to beat myself up thinking I'd be never be a 'good' Christian like those organised folks. I think I knew that it was a motivational issue but my understanding of the Gospel was so limited that I didn't realise that it was the only God-given power to motivate me. When discussing this with other Christians who seemed so much better organised and committed than me I'd often be given the advice that "desire follows duty". In other words buckle-down and do your duty then you'll get the desire to do it! This felt like telling me that the way I could jump ten feet in the air is to jump ten feet in the air! I didn't know what to say at the time, but now I do: Rubbish! This is to get it exactly the wrong way round. The biblical way is always "duty follows desire".
The question we should ask is not, what duty do I need to perform, but how does my heart get so transformed that my greatest desire is to serve and glorify God? To answer this we need to start by recognising that we are born to worship. If we don't worship God, we will make our own 'idols' to worship. An idol is anything which we think we have to have in order to feel satisfied/accepted/valued. So, if we lack the desire to live the way God calls us to its because we have other desires which we love more than Him. Therefore the only way our hearts will be transformed is when we see the futility of chasing after our idols and see God as more desirable. How do we do that? Through the Gospel. The gospel reminds us of God's great love for us in dying in our place. It reminds us of His faithfulness and mercy and of our unconditional acceptance and adoption as His son or daughter and of our hope in Him that will never perish or fade. Transformation has two sides to it: we root out our idols and we replace them with love for Christ. To paraphrase Thomas Chalmers in his expulsive power of a new affection, the only way our hearts will relinquish their idols is when they are replaced by a greater love. A love born out of a deepening undertanding of the depths of our sin and the riches of His grace. So, in answer to the original question, in the words of Jonathan Dodson :
"until we clear the shelf of our hearts of subtle idolatries, discipline will not give way to desire".
What about you? What are you chasing after?
May Jesus be the treasure of your heart.