Discipline and Self-Control
Some years ago a Christian artist painted two pictures of Jesus Christ and hanged them together in a gallery. The first picture was a picture of the Jewish Christ. It was very beautifully done. It would bring a sense of inspiration and worship to anyone who looked at it.
In that same gallery hanging next to that picture, the traditional picture of Christ, was another picture by the same artist. He had painted a picture of Christ that showed His face disfigured and ugly. It was, to be sure, a misrepresentation of the genuineness of the Lord. It was the same person as in the other picture and the artist was asked why he had painted the two pictures. He had said they both are pictures of Christ.
He replied, “The first picture is Christ as He really is and the second is the picture of Christ that the world sees when they look at His church, those who represent Him in their world.”
The picture of the ugly and disfigured Christ is an indictment on all of us because we know there is a great deal of truth in that. The world does not see Jesus physically as the disciples saw Him, but the world sees Christ through His “body” which is the “church…the redeemed” who have Christ living in their hearts, the true believers.
There is someone, somewhere, who sees Christ in you, lived out and expressed through you, and that Christ they “see in you” may be the only Christ that they see at all as you continue to represent Him, that is, Christ Jesus.
As we have studied the fruit of the Spirit of God, we have been brought face to face with the kind of life that God expects us to live. If we are to truly represent Him in our world, the only way we can, is by the indwelling and the anointing of the Holy Spirit of God within us. We do not have the strength to do so otherwise.
Discussing the Fruit of the Spirit has been a tremendous encouragement and a great challenge: to see the pictures of the Christian, that God expects to see when He looks at us walking in the Spirit. It’s thrilling and exciting to see the standard that God holds up for us, that He wants us to live in a certain way, that these characteristics which are the full picture of the Christian, being controlled by the Holy Spirit of God, is the kind of Christian God intends for us to be in “our” world.
Temperance is the ninth representation of the fruit of the Spirit. Temperance, defined as self-control, self-discipline is so important. If we don’t have self-control, we will never be able to implement the means of grace that will develop all of these other characteristics in our life.
The fact is the “Fruit of the Spirit” is going to be developed in the life of the Christian in keeping with His discipline in the Word of God and is the means of grace, whereby we can grow and be mature. If we are undisciplined and so lacking in self-control that we never take the time to do the things God told us to do for our growth, then all the other characteristics that we have studied are simply unreachable ideals that we dream about someone else having.
Now discipline is a very important characteristic, not only for those of us who have walked in the faith for years, but also important for those who may be younger or babes in Christ. Discipline in early life paves the way for great achievement. Those who achieve much in life, work, while others waste time; they will study while others sleep; they will pray while others play. If God gives us a job to do, let’s give it all we have! Without discipline and self-control, we cannot succeed.
You just don’t succeed, even in the secular world unless you’re willing to pay the price of discipline. Lots of people would like to succeed but they’re not willing to go through the necessary process. They’re not willing to pay the price.
There’s no reward without sacrifice. The principle of self-control and discipline is taught throughout the Word of God. If we are a person exemplifying self-control, we will keep our priorities in focus and it will include time on our knees with our Lord and time in His Word, the Bible.
Self-control will keep us from sinful conformity to the world. Practicing self-control will not allow us to be poured into the mold of the world by the peers of our day thus forcing us to go in a direction that is not pleasing to God.
That means that we are to be willing to walk that lonely road, even if no one else goes that way. Because we know it’s God’s way, we’ll walk that way, for we desire to be a person of discipline and self-control.
Galatians 5:22, 23
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Each created individual has desires and physical appetites. God’s Word says to the Christian, “Walk in the Spirit.” When we obey the truth we know from God’s Word, our bodies are not under the control of our desires, so what’s out in the world we choose not to mimic. Sexual sin has crept into the church body and has destroyed the Christian testimony and Christian influence of many. Paul is saying to us that God desires His people to be self-controlled people in every situation. We can, because God makes it possible through us.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
God created us with desires. He always wants the best for His children. That’s why God has given us His Word, the Bible. He draws boundaries around some things because the God who created us knows what is best for us, but when violated against God’s will and His purpose, can bring destruction.
As we study our Bible, the New Testament, its basic purpose is to help us in every area of our lives. I’d like to suggest some practical helps that I believe God would use in our own lives to help us move in the right direction and keep our lives going the way God wants them to go. We need to realize we’re not alone in the battle. God will be with us, assuming we have surrendered our life to His Lordship, having asked for forgiveness of sin in our life. There is always a battle going on and the devil will see to it that this warfare will continue between him and the Church, and as Christians we need to take a personal stand in our own lives to combat the evil that is so prevalent in our world today. “Taking our stand” begins in the individual’s surrendered heart toward God with the desire to obey His Word.
One fruit of the Spirit is Temperance, Self-control. When we cooperate with the Holy Spirit and get into the Word of God, we realize God expects us to live obediently, according to His Word, the Bible. God wouldn’t command us to live that way if it were not possible. It is possible and God expects us to live like that, according to His Word. Either the Flesh or the Holy Spirit is going to control our lives. We make that choice.
19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
You might say, “I didn’t do any of these things,” but Paul was quick to say in Galatians 5:21 above, “and such like.” We were all sinners before Christ redeemed us.
Christ replaces all those things with the Fruit of the Spirit and according to Galatians Verse 22 (above) God has a standard for His people to pursue.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
We have the strength, Verse 16. He tells us how to attain the strength!
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
In our own strength we don’t have what it takes to accomplish that which is asked of us in the Word of God. Only in Christ, being led by the Spirit, can we comply. Obeying Christ is “the way” to holiness.
One of the things I’ve noticed, and invite you to notice with me, is in Galatians 5:22, above, that these characteristics known as the “fruit of the spirit” are equally divided into three sections and each of those sections has three characteristics.
First, there is a section in the beginning of the list which has to do with the “fruit of the Spirit” and my relationship with God: (1) love and (2) joy and (3) peace. These three characteristics reside in and are expressed through the individual Christian’s relationship with others through the power of God.
For instance, we have love in our lives because of the Holy Spirit who is in our hearts and THE HOLY SPIRIT is the love of God shed abroad in us BY the Holy Spirit. We have joy because we have Jesus Christ and He says, “He wants His joy to be in us.”
We have peace because we have God and the peace of God passes all understanding: thus we have love, joy and peace abiding within us.
The second set of three characteristics has to do with my relationship with others: (1) longsuffering, (2) gentleness, which is kindness, and (3) goodness or generosity. Those three characteristics are important because I am supposed to relate positively to others. If my relationship to God is right, then my relationship to others will be right.
The third list has to do with my relationship within myself: faith or faithfulness, meekness and temperance, which is self-control. What Paul is telling us, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is that the Christian is to be in a good relationship with the Heavenly Father.
Also, the individual is to have a good relationship with others in the body of Christ, the Church, and he is to be properly self-disciplined. Another way you could look at these characteristics is that the first three are personal experiences; the next three are personal relationships and the last three are personal development.
The overwhelming effect of looking at these nine characteristics and realizing that God expects us to live like that, is to bring us to our knees and cause us to recognize that we cannot possibly achieve such a lifestyle on our own, if WE attempt to do it, by what WE can produce in and of ourselves. Depending on self we are absolutely deficient to fulfill God’s desires for how we are to live the Spirit-filled life. We are reminded of that in Scripture.
John 15:5 (Jesus speaking)
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Without God in our lives, we operate in the flesh.
These are just two of the Scriptures that teach us that apart from the Spirit of God we cannot live the Christian life. Our victory, living the Christian life, is achieved by our depending on Christ to equip us and live through us. Anything God asks us to do He asks us to do in dependency on Almighty God and on the Holy Spirit of God.
We become equipped to serve God by asking forgiveness for the sin in our lives. When we ask God, He forgives us and He equips us for service.
Awesome, our God!