On Self-Discipline

This month’s topic at CSAHM is self-discipline. Now that we are in February, most of us realize just how little self-discipline we have. All those New Year’s Resolutions are just that, part of the New Year, and there they remain, back in January. And we wonder, why is it so hard to be self-disciplined?

When I think of self-discipline, I think of being controlled in my speech, eating, time, spending, and in all my actions and behaviors. People who are self-disciplined seem to be organized, on time, healthy, and prosperous.

And then there’s me.

You too?

The problem with self-discipline and where I often go wrong is the ‘self’ part. I focus on my own strength, my own will, my own resolve. I try harder. I renew my resolve and try a new program. And then I fail again.

I forget just where my strength lies: in Christ.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Ephesians 3:16

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Jesus came because we couldn’t get everything right. He came because we don’t have self-discipline. God sent Jesus into this sin stained world to save us from our sin because we could not save ourselves. And this salvation is not just a one time event. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross saved us from the penalty of sin once and for all. But we also need Jesus each and every day as we fight against the presence of sin in our lives.

The gospel of grace that rescued us from an eternity without God is the same gospel that rescues us from our daily battles with self-discipline.

The Apostle Paul knew this battle with sin. In his letter to the Romans he wrote:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” Romans 7:15-22

Can you relate?

Paul goes on to tell us where we can find hope:

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (24-25)

Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven is the source of all our hope as we continue in this battle with the sin that lingers in our lives. Each time we fall we need to look to Christ and what He has done for us. We need to remember who we are because of Christ. We need to embrace the truths of the gospel each and every day for it reminds that Christ alone is the one who saves and transforms us.

If you’ve looked at your calendar as I have and realized that it’s only been a handful of weeks since the new year started and not much has changed, cling to this truth: because of Christ’s perfect life given to us, we can approach God with full confidence and without shame. We can come before the throne with all our failures and lack of self-discipline and know that He not only hears us but that His grace is actively at work in us, changing us to be more like Christ.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

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