In studying discipline in its various forms, we can attain a deeper understanding of the concept. Examining discipline in general and in the home, we take the same concepts used in the latter and apply them to self-discipline in our lives.
Self-discipline is an exceedingly practical study. It lies at the heart of submission to Christ (Mark 8:34). Dying to self requires a cessation of our fleshly impulses. The minute-to-minute battles we face in this arena are extraordinary. Fleshly pursuits and lusts rage a vicious warfare against, as Lincoln said, “the better angels of our nature.”/1
In order to exercise proper self-discipline, we need to accomplish the following.
First, we must establish an authority in our lives. In the examination of parental authority, we discussed how children must know their parents are the arbitrators of truth (they, the parents, having fed on God’s as the ultimate authority) (cf. Colossians 3:17). Children must know their parents are serious in their authority, also. Their commands are authentic and must be followed. Likewise, we must have the same authority in our personal lives.
Most use their feelings as their authority, to their destruction. James Dobson relates a story of a traditionally awful football team who is told by a businessman that each player and coach would receive a new Ford if they could defeat their rival. The team exuberantly faced their task and, with all the emotion they could muster, stormed onto the field. In short order, they limped back to their dressing room after a 38-0 loss. “Seven days of hurrah couldn’t compensate for the player’s lack of discipline, experience, and coaching. Such is the nature of emotion.”/2
The fickle standards of society are equally suspect. Their shifting sands cannot be trusted.
God’s Word is the only reliable authority. It never changes and contains the power and wisdom of heaven itself (Hebrews 13:8; Matthew 28:18-20). We establish Scripture as our guide and let Christ make the decisions in our lives. We will then have the authority that we need to stay disciplined.
Second, we must establish boundaries. Taking Scripture as our authority, we establish the boundaries we will need to keep ourselves in line. Paul said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27). He fights his fleshly impulses daily in order to remain pure. In 1 Corinthians 9:24 the phrase “runs the race” translates a Greek word meaning, “to spend one’s strength in performing or attaining something.”/3 The victory will be well worth the sacrifice.
Parents set boundaries for their children that are not to be crossed. Likewise, we must do the same for ourselves. If lust is our problem, then we set boundaries so we do not cross them. With any reward, a price has to be paid. Heaven is worth all of the small discomforts here on earth.
“We must face the fact that many today are notoriously careless in their living. This attitude finds its way into the church. We have liberty, we have money, we live in comparative luxury. As a result, discipline practically has disappeared. What would a violin solo sound like if the strings on the musician’s instrument were all hanging loose, not stretched tight, not ‘disciplined’?”/4
Third, we must establish consequences. When we sin, there will be consequences. We must claim them as the natural result of our sin. There is a price for rebelling against God by giving into our fleshly desires. To let them reign in our lives takes Christ from the throne of our hearts (Ephesians 3:14-19). In the void, Satan will be very eager to mount the throne.
2/ Source unknown
3/ Joseph Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1977), 630.
Can We Control our Sinful Passions?