Self-discipline, by definition, does not come easy. While it might require less effort for some people, we all have to battle against ourselves and our natural inclinations toward indulgence.
For those of us who have been redeemed by and reconciled to God, the battle is significantly greater. We’re not just fighting our natural dispositions—whether we’re organized or prompt. Instead, our self-discipline is a spiritual battle against our flesh. We’re struggling to subdue our past sinful habits and live holy, god-honoring lives.
Ours is a daily struggle—or should be—a battle we will fight as long as we remain on this side of eternity. By God’s grace, He has set us free from our death sentence. But we still bear the grave clothes of our former selves. It’s the struggle to live out the transformation God has already worked in us.
In his message “Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Self-Discipline, Part 1,” John MacArthur gives us some helpful encouragement for that daily struggle. Grounded in the study of 1 Peter 1, he highlights several key elements of Christian self-discipline—starting with the exhortation of verse 13, “Prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit.”
Here’s how John explains Peter’s charge to “keep sober.”
A disciplined mind is a mind that avoids the intoxicating elements and allurements of the world. We’re talking about somebody whose mind is clear, whose priorities are fixed, who has a spiritual steadfastness, who exercises self-control in their thinking, who has balanced priorities. You could even call it moral decisiveness because there are fixed principles in the mind. That’s why sound doctrine is so important; you have to have fixed principles in the mind in order to establish priorities of behavior, mental alertness. It’s the opposite of sort of whimsically careening through life in reckless self-indulgence at the response of your emotions to every option. It’s being able to clear out the clutter from life’s entanglements and sort out what really matters in your mind.
From there, John gives us three guiding principles that shape and secure the self-discipline of God’s people. He discusses the vital importance of remembering who owns you, remembering the covenant of salvation, and recognizing all sin as a violation of our relationship to God. This message ascends some theological heights, but it’s dealing with matters that could not be more personal or practical. I don’t know a believer who doesn’t need to listen—or listen again—to “Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Self-Discipline, Part 1.”
But don’t just take my word for it; here’s what another Grace to You staff member had to say about this message:
This sermon addresses the urgency of living disciplined lives in practical, everyday matters, as well as bringing to bear what the Bible says in 1 Peter 1:13 about girding up our minds. Living out this teaching on self-discipline has helped me establish biblical priorities that are properly motivated by the glory of God and grounded in the truth of God’s Word. I challenge believers to listen to and apply Pastor John’s teaching on the essential Christian attitude of self-discipline for the glory of God and the strength of His church. -Mark G
To listen to “Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Self-Discipline, Part 1,” click here.