self discipline - isolated text in vintage wood letterpress printing blcoks

Self-discipline

For if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31 NKJV).

Is there any traveler who does not get impatient with airport security lines and procedures? Those add extra hours to every trip as well as additional stress and fatigue. I always tell myself (and mean it) that I don’t care what I have to go through as long as it is making me and others safer, but I still get tired and sometimes a little impatient. After all, those lines can be very long and there are often multiple procedures to endure. It adds up quickly.

In a perfect world, such travails would be unnecessary. There would be no terrorists to commit atrocities upon the innocent. Every traveler would be innocent of evil intent and willing to comply with standards of safe and honest conduct. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Of course we know that the world we live in is just not like that. Sin and evil exist. Bad things happen. And we must take precautions and endure some limits to our comfort and freedom because of them. We don’t like it, but it simply is what it is.

But there is a world where the ideal is, if not attained, at least closer to realization. Or it should be. That is the world which Jesus came to initiate, the world he called “the Kingdom of Heaven,” or sometimes, “the Church” (Matthew 16:18-19).

In his discussion of worship within the Corinthian church the apostle Paul identified a key to the realization of true spiritual kingdom-hood. Those Christians had been undisciplined and selfish in their gatherings. Paul rebuked them severely, and then stated this truth: “If we would judge ourselves we would not be judged.”

This may be the best definition of and explanation for self-discipline that I have seen. Were the Corinthians offended at Paul’s severe rebuke? Then, let them take care of the matter themselves. Let them practice self-control in their assemblies and consider the needs and desires of others rather than only their own. Then judgement from outside authority would be unnecessary.

Some of us remember times and places where few people locked their doors. I can remember as a child not knowing where or even if a key to the house could be found. We may wish for a return to such times, but we don’t really expect it to happen.

But in the Lord’s kingdom such trust should be the norm. We are called to his purpose (Romans 8:28), bound together by common faith and love (Philippians 2:1-4), and are one in him (Colossians 3:10-11). Each Christian is to be led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:1-11) in all things, rejecting the fleshly or worldly manner of thinking.

This is the key to the concept of Christian liberty (Galatians 5:1; James 1:25). It is not that we are free to do anything, with no rules or regulations. Rather the Christian is free to do that which he desires to do, because those desires are in conformity with God’s will. We have learned to want to do what we ought to do, and therefore we can do whatever we desire. That is perfect freedom. That also produces a world in which each citizen can be in harmony and peace with all others. That is Christ’s plan, that we judge ourselves so that we do not fall under condemnation in the final judgment.

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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