Book review. “Disciplines of a Godly Man” by R. Kent Hughes. 301pages paperback. Crossway Books 2001.
Hughes’ key verse is I Timothy 4:7,8, “Exercise (discipline or train) thyself rather unto godliness.” Rev. Hughes is convinced that godliness and discipline are intrinsically linked. His opening chapter is entitled “Discipline for godliness.” Thereafter the book chapters include the topics of discipline in relationships, discipline of self (soul and character) and discipline in church life (ministry). “You will get nowhere in life without discipline, whether in the arts, business, athletics or any academic subject.” For the believer discipline is God-centred and for his glory. This means hard work! Godly habits (spiritual disciplines) are often hard on the flesh because our old man is naturally lazy, sinful and selfish but they are basic in reaching our heavenly goal and living daily with that perspective in mind.
He covers sexual purity (I Thess.4:3-8) as basic, with self-control of the eyes, commitment to spouse, a supreme love for God, prizing of fellowship with him, as together important in the battle with lust. Chapters on being a committed father, choosing friends wisely, being involved in same-sex Bible studies with accountability, he says are other important disciplines in our relationships.
A Christian must discipline his mind and exclude the intake of many things (Phil.4:8) including the various types of screens and include regular Bible reading and good (Reformed-JK) Christian books. He must pray and have a prayer list, and work at prayer. When we get to worship he mistakes worship in spirit to mean our spirit rather than the Holy Spirit which is lamentable as without the Comforter and his power we cannot worship aright. When it comes to personal godliness he emphasises integrity, control of the tongue, listing good guidelines for speech, and hard work. He has a chapter on persevering to the end of our Christian race and another on being a committed member of a true church which then becomes central in our lives. He devotes a chapter to disciplined leadership, one to witnessing, one to giving and another to serving others. Discipline in the means of grace and grace granted as a result issue in hard work (I Corinthians 15:10).
In his appendices he includes daily Bible readings for the year which are something I would hope most of us already follow. We should ignore his chapters on Christian books as many are not Reformed and may be very misleading. We have a wealth of excellent Reformed books available at the RFPA, along with the Standard Bearer and Beacon Lights. We should also ignore his unregulated and unreformed views about choirs and church singing which include a chapter of hymns and choruses many of which might be termed “spiritual nursery rhymes”, a far cry from our all encompassing Spirit-breathed edifying Psalms of David.
So notwithstanding the few weaknesses–a good read especially if you need more discipline in your Christian life!