This seems the right moment to considered the layered meaning of discipline. It is a practice of something in which one is not proficient: gathering skills and experiences to improve in an application. Its root word – disciple - infers it includes following someone else’s example. So, in spiritual discipline, we engage a practice where Jesus is the discipler; He is at the center. We do it for Him. We let the practice drive us to Him. We will soon see that repentance becomes the epitome of spiritual discipline.
Without God, there is no need for it. Without God, not only is there no need, there is no one to whom to confess or admit anything. Without God, ethical standards are situational, with each person determining (and avoiding) any sense of wrongness. This can be seen in the oft-repeated phrase, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” A subtle, “Sorry about your luck.” At the core, repentance is admitting we are wrong. In this, we are not proficient. Many only have sorrow over their actions when there is a negative consequence. Sorry they got caught. Sorry there were consequences. Maybe even sorry someone else was offended, but that is not the sorrow that leads to repentance, at the heart of which is confession and change. The mark of true “sorriness” (sorrow/grief) is marked by change (true repentance). As long as ego is at the center, little change is possible.
As it is, I [Paul] rejoice not because you were grieved but because you were grieved into repentance…For godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly sorrow produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:7-11
In the translation, The Voice, it is said of godly sorrow: …because you were moved to make a permanent change that can happen only with the realization that your actions have gone against God.
When we wrong someone else, we have sinned against one of God’s and, like any Father, He is just as offended. This applies when we have wronged ourselves with sinful choices which prove to be attack against our own humanity. Even when someone else wrongs us, we reliably sin in response. We may not be the original offender, and whether we attack back or ignore the offense, if we do not forgive, we have sinned. If we choose resentment and bitterness, detachment and separation, or stay wounded, it is evidence of our lack of God and His healing efforts. We are at the center, licking our wounds, petting our passions and massaging our egos, but with God at the center, He exercises our passions towards Him, feeding us with love, filling us with compassion, and healing our injuries.
It is a discipline to train for the right response to sin, no matter its source. If I keep God at the center of mending an offense - a sin - the purpose and practice change. I will be grieved because of how God sees it. I repent in light of God’s provision to do so and because of His desire for unity among His children and because he desires holiness within me. This is because He wants to remain at the center of me and us.
There are godly indicators in wanting to forgive others and myself. It is okay to do it out of obedience, gratitude for my own forgiveness, maybe even to avoid the wrath of God and the consequences He may bring, but what if I had a sorrow over offending God, the lover of my soul, and the Father, who holds me dear? He wants more for me than I want for myself and He knows that sin keeps me from Him and His best. The discipline of true repentance provides an exercise which strengthens my relationship with the Father and carries me through the pain of offenses offered by a sinful world.