For myself there was first a desire to want to know God, but that deep love wasn't embedded in my heart yet, that love affair wasn't there yet, and just out of discipline, I had to press into those things, because I knew I wanted it. I knew about Him and I knew I wanted to love Him and I had to press into those things. Like the runner who runs the race to win the prize, he gets out of bed in the morning when he doesn't feel like it to run those miles because he knows in the end there's the prize that he wants to attain. I know at first it was a discipline thing, but out of the obedience it birthed a real love that was there that became a love affair.
Any kind of discipline can't be self-serving, and discipline, even as a discipline, needs to be towards Him. It has to be a relational discipline as opposed to an external discipline. If I know that I shouldn't indulge myself in some fleshly way with food or something, I can exert a discipline over my life and not eat this dessert. There is no power in that. That's a Romans 7 thing, and there is no power. You can't sustain that sort of discipline in your life, whether it's to get up early in the morning and "pray," or to not eat something or to not do something or whatever. That sort of discipline that is horizontal is unsustainable. "Well, it's the right thing, so I'll do it." It's unsustainable. If instead I say, "Jesus, I don't know. I don't think that You are in this. I want to offer this to you as a gift. If it's a choice between me eating it or me giving it to You, I think I will give it to You as a gift." Now that's a discipline you could say, because I'm not eating this thing. But it's a whole different story to do it with Him, from Him and through Him and to Him, as opposed to just an external "what's the right thing and what's the wrong thing." "What's the right thing and what's the wrong thing" is religion. The other is relationship, and that sustains our life and it flourishes in us, and builds affections in us as we see Him bless us, as you make sacrifices, as you take your grocery money and give it to someone else and it's not just "this is the right thing to do because we are Christians," but you do this as a gift to Jesus. Really to Jesus. That's a transaction, that's something you have to do in your heart and mind is to acknowledge by faith that I'm not doing this externally as the Christian thing to do as a nice person. This is a gift I really am giving to Jesus. And then you see Him answer that by making things abound in your own life in a physical way. The very day after you do something, something ten times greater comes back to bless you. And you say, "Jesus!" Well you wouldn't do that; you wouldn't grow in that affection to Jesus if what you did was a good Christian act. If you don't plug it in on the front side in a vertical way, when it returns to you, it's just "well, it just happened. That was cool." It stays in the theological realm rather than a relational realm. It begins in relationship and returns in relationship.
Some of these disciplines that we talk about are "Jesus, I really don't want to get up right now, but I promised you that I would and so I shall." That's different than, "I will get up, I will get up, I have to get up, because if I don't get up then things will get worse, and if I do get up things will get better." All of that is horizontal and unsustainable. But to say, "Jesus, really, I feel really rotten right now. But I want to do this for you." If that's what we are calling discipline, I'm for it. But not the other kind, because it will just frustrate you. And it won't bear the fruit of deeper relationship and affection and love. It will bear the fruit of being religious. If you are very good at getting up, you will be judgmental of those that aren't. If you are terrible at getting up, you will be critical of yourself and then you will harden and be resentful and other sorts of things will happen. But if you are successful and it's something you've given to Jesus, you take no credit for it, and it doesn't even cross your mind again as something you should be proud of. If you are unsuccessful with it, you can discuss it with Him and make amends with Him, talk to Him about it, ask Him for His forgiveness, and it's a relational thing. And even your mistakes end up deepening your life with Him, rather than hardening your heart and causing you to fear.
The discipline that's from Him and through Him and to Him, relational discipline, is very special because there is no way to fail. You can't lose in that. The worst things that happen --"He who has forgiven much loves much." That wasn't a theological forgiveness that the woman was given. That was personal forgiveness from the person of Jesus. Even in our worst case scenario when we've failed, “he who has forgiven much loves much.” If it was vertical, if it was with Jesus in the first place, then even my failures deepen my gratitude to Him, rather than trying to get out of this cycle and into a new cycle. That's a very difficult way to live, and that's not what "Abba Christianity" is about.