Larry knew he was overweight; in fact, his doctor had reluctantly informed him that he was obese and unless he lost a certain amount of weight he was headed for serious health problems. At his physician’s advice he went on a strict diet. Stopping at the Quick-Stop he would buy candy, sugared soda pops. Going through the cafeteria line he couldn’t resist filling his plate, not once but several times, with food and especially desserts. Larry obviously had a self-discipline problem, as do millions of Americans who are drastically overweight.
During his term as President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson was somewhat overweight. One day his wife, Lady Bird, challenged him with this blunt assertion: You can’t run a country if you can’t run yourself.” Respecting Lady Bird’s wise observation, the President lost 23 pounds.
This lesson is about one of the most needed, but frowned upon, subjects in society and even the church. The subject is self-discipline. To be more specific spiritual self-discipline. There evidently is a lot of interest in self-discipline. When I typed in self-discipline, my search engine returned 2,360,000 results. Wow! That’s a lot of interest. How about your interest?
What is self-discipline? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as follows: Self-discipline (n), “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it. Synonyms: self-control, restraint, self-restraint, self-command.” Self-discipline is that which you can only do for yourself. It determines your successes and failures.
Since we are talking about Positive Spiritual Self-Discipline we need to define positive and spiritual. Positive is the opposite of negative; it is the opposite of harsh or dogmatic; it is the absence of coercion or punishment; it is grace instead of law. Spiritual is having to do with the inner man, the spiritual side of man; it is the absent of the carnal; it is the quest for Christ-likeness in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. It is seeking to have “the attitude of Christ” in every situation in life. It is minding and pursuing the things of the Spirit.
Positive spiritual self-discipline involves consistency. Here is how the apostle Paul stated this truth: “[A]nd instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ as it is written” (Romans 2:20-22).
Positive spiritual self-discipline is the training and control of oneself and one’s conduct based on the word of God. Spiritual self-discipline is the act or disciplining or power to discipline one’s own habits, feelings, desires, attitudes, urges, and appetites. It is Christ-likeness in action. Spiritual self-discipline gives power to the decision “to deny self, take up a cross and follow Christ” (Matthew 16:24). This won’t happen through osmosis.
We are not born physically with self-discipline; we are not reborn with spiritual self-discipline. Both have to be learned and developed through training. One of the ways self-discipline is developed is through practice. Back in 2008 Malcolm Gladwell wrote a bestseller called Outliers. In his book he presented the results of examining the factors that contribute to high levels of success. Throughout the book the author repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to achieving world calls expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way for a total of around 10,000 hours. While this theory has been debated by psychologists and scientist; accepted and rejected (e.g. a Princeton study rejected the theory), it does give proof that PRACTICE plays a major role in success.
Other studies have affirmed the benefits and role of Deliberate Practice in developing skills and achieving success.
British statesman Edmund Burke argued, “men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there is without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters” (www.sermonsearch.com).
The apostle Paul was the champion of spiritual self-discipline. He drew many examples from the gymnasium and Olympic Games to make his points:
Having noted the requirements and need for spiritual self-discipline, let’s spend a few minutes studying some of the spiritual qualities we need to practice self-discipline in:
Obviously this list can go on and on but these 12 will get us started. How will you intentionally practice these?
The only place you find success before work is in the Dictionary: S comes before W. In developing spiritual self-discipline action comes first—WORK.
Here are only a few of the numerous benefits that result from becoming more spiritually disciplined:
One of the goals of positive spiritual self-discipline is to become less conformed to the world and more transformed into Christ-likeness (cf. Romans 12:1-3; Colossians 3:1-3).
In the middle seventies when the running craze was in full bloom, a news article covered the story of a man in New York who was selling “Running Certificates.” The certificate affirmed that the man was “doing the running” for others. I’m like you. I wonder about the seriousness of such thinking. Obviously, no one can do your running for you. Neither can you hire someone to do your pushups for you. Some things for you can’t be done someone else.
We live in an age when hiring others to do certain chores, of every kind, is very popular. There are TV commercials offering lists you can subscribe to in order to find qualified persons to do tasks for you.
Osmosis has made a subtle but powerful appearance in the church. Osmosis is “an apparently effortless absorption of ideas, feelings, attitudes, etc. Some Christians seem to think, or at least act like they believe, that personal spiritual growth can happen by exposure or “hiring the preacher” to do it for them.
As a Christian you are 100 percent responsible for your spiritual growth. This is documented in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 4:11-15:
And He himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some
Evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of
The saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of
Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge
Of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature
Of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed
To and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the
Trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but,
Speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.
I once heard a preacher say, “Sitting in a chicken house won’t make you a chicken…sitting in a church house won’t make you a Christian.” This may be somewhat crude, but true.
The apostle Peter commands each Christian to do his or her on adding: “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, ADD TO YOUR FAITH virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:5-8).
We can “hire” someone to teach us, preach to us, and read to us. We can even “hire” someone to show us how to do spirituality, but we can’t hire someone to grow our personal spirituality. It is our task alone.
We can read the word, take notes about the word, believe the word, but that doesn’t DO the word, which is what we are commanded to do. James wrote, “Therefore, lay aside all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness and RECEIVE with meekness the IMPLANTED word, which is able to save your souls. But be DOERS of the WORD, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:21, 22).
Let’s think about some practical applications of our personal responsibility to grow spiritually:
This list of Christian attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors could go on and on, but these should confirm that we can’t “hire” or “deputize” someone to grow spiritually for us.
It’s amazing that we know how to plan for financial growth, intellectual growth, and growth in other areas of life, but when it comes to planning for personal spiritual growth we neglect the most important growth area of all. Growing spiritually requires the setting of spiritual goals, most of which are revealed in God’s word.
The goal of spiritual growth is simple—GROW INTO CHRIST-LIKENESS. But the goal is not easy or a piece of cake. It requires commitment and intentional actions.
What is your plan to grow spiritually?
A common belief and practice from a secular or worldly mindset is that friendships are made when persons have “things in common”—the more, the better. Marriages break up because couples conclude that they no longer, if they ever did, have anything in common. People form “friendships” based on everything from A to Z. This secular attitude has carried over into the church as members “make friends” based on the same standards they do in the world.
The expansion of friendship boundaries is one of the major goals of Christianity, as members come into the body of Christ from “all nations” (Isaiah 2:2-4; Matthew 28:18-20). It started immediately after the church was established:
The Greek word translated common is koinos and means “Fellowship..sharing together”. It is the root word for “Fellowship” (cf. Acts 2:42; Galatians 2:9; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 3:9; Phil.1:5, 2:1, 3;10; 1 John 1:3, 6, 7; 2 Cor. 6:14).
Webster defines the English word, common, as: (Adj. from Latin root “communis”—“shared by all or many”). 1. Belonging equally to, or shared by, two or more or by all … 2. Belonging or relating to the community at large … 3. Widely existing; in general; prevalent ..”.
If a group of people does not share any common beliefs, values, and purposes, then the highest virtue among them must be to tolerate each other’s personal beliefs and behavior. A society cannot stand strong and united together without common values, morals, beliefs, laws, ethics, and faith. To the degree they don’t have things in common, to that degree there is division. The greater the disconnect, the greater the division. Witness what’s happening in the USA.
1. We have a common Father (Rom. 1:7; 2 Cor. 1:2).
2. We have a common Savior (Acts 4:10-12).
3. We have a common Witness and Gift (Rom. 8:26-28; Acts 2:38; 5:32).
4. We have a common problem (Isa. 59:1, 2; Rom. 3:23).
5. We have a common sacrifice (Jno. 1:29; Matt. 26:28).
6. We have a common commitment (Matt. 16:24).
7. We have a common faith (Jude 3; Rom. 5:1)
8. We have a common home (Jno. 14:1-6; 1 Pet. 1:5-7).
9. We have a common enemy (1 Peter 5:8).
10. We have a common fight (Eph. 6:10-20).
11. We have a common plan (Eph. 4:1-7).
12. We have a common power (Rom. 1:14-16; Eph. 3:20).
13. We have a common objective (Eph. 3:21).
14. We have a common mission (Mk. 16:15, 16).
15. We have common (mutual) connection (1 Cor. 12:12-31).
16. We have a common service (Eph. 6:7; Phil. 2:30; Rom. 12:1).
17. We share a common meal (1 Cor. 11:
18. We have a common Mediator (1 Tim. 2:1-5).
19. We have a common High Priest (Heb. 6:20; 7:26-28).
20. We have a common obedience (Heb. 5:7-9).
21. We have a common reward (Rev. 2:10).
22. We have a common guide book (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
23. We have a common meeting (Heb. 10:25).
24. We have a common partnership (1 Cor. 3:7-10).
25. We have a common appointment (Heb. 9:27).
26. We have a common placement (1 Cor. 12;18; Acts 2:47).
27. We have a common grace (Eph. 2:5-9).
28. We have a common calling (2 Thess. 2:14).
29. We have a common responsibility (Gal. 6:1,2; Jas. 1;27; Gal. 6:10).
30. We have a common leadership (Heb. 13:17).
31. We have a common curriculum (2 Tim. 2:15; Psa. 119).
32. We have a common marriage (Rom. 7:4; Eph. 5:22-33).
33. We have a common growth goal (Eph. 4:11-16).
34. We have a common thinking agenda (Col. 3:2; Phil, 4:7-10).
35. We have a common Friend (Jno. 15:14-17).
36. We have a common race (Heb. 12:1-3).
What are some intentional ways you are establishing and maintaining friendships with your Christian brothers and sisters?
How many remember this Nursery Rhyme?
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses, and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!
Evidently this rhyme is as popular today as it was when I was a kid. For example it has been viewed in an animation form on ChuChu TV Kids Songs on YouTube 63,208,520 times (as of 3/8/2016).
The original meaning of Humpty Dumpty is not clear. Some say it as a colloquial term used in 15th century England to describe a person who was fat or obese. The most popular belief is that Humpty Dumpty was a canon mounted on the protective wall of “St. Mary’s Church” in Colchester, England. During the English Civil War (1642-1649), a shot was fired from a Parliamentary canon knocking Humpty Dumpty off the wall. The Royalist—‘all the King’s men’— attempted to raise Humpy Dumpty on to another part of the wall but it failed. After an eleven weeks siege Colchester fell. (www.powerfulwords.infonursey_rhymes/humpty_dumpty.htm).
In this lesson I will be using Humpty Dumpty as a metaphor or symbol to represent the world in which we live. We live in a Humpty Dumpty world. It has fallen from the wall of honor, justice, righteousness, truth, morality, and respect for what is holy. Sadly, Humpty Dumpty also represents many churches today that have fallen off the wall.
All the King’s horses in governments can’t put Humpty back together again. All the Presidents, Prime Ministers, Dictators, Senators, Congressmen, Governors, Mayors, Commissioners, etc. haven’t been able to put Humpty back together again. In fact, many of these have pushed Humpty off the wall.
Signs Humpty has fallen off the Secular Wall
We need to open our eyes and see the many evidences that Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall all over the world. Jesus taught this lesson to the Pharisees who were asking for a sign: “He answered and said unto them, ‘When it is evening you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, “it will be foul weather, for the sky is red and threatening.” Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:2, 3). Stop for a moment. Look at the world around you.
Even a casual look reveals the numerous signs that Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall:
Can you think of additional falls Humpty Dumpty has taken? These eight simply remind us that the “whole world resides in wickedness” (1 John 5:19). How about your Humpty Dumpty world?
Signs Humpty has been Pushed off Church Walls
Pastor Humpty Dumpty sat on the Ecclesiastical wall
Pastor Humpty Dumpty had a backsliding fall.
All the creeds and councils, and all the church men
Couldn’t get Pastor Humpty Dumpty back to the Bible again.
This little rhyme of mine is my attempt to call our attention to the spiritual and biblical walls Humpty Dumpty has fallen from. There are many:
Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again
There have been numerous attempts to put Humpty Dumpty together again. Humpty has been broken into so many pieces that human efforts through government, psychiatry, law, social programs, entertainment, cults, self-help, and religion cannot and have not been able to put Humpty Dumpty together again.
Only the Creator—God Himself—and the King—Jesus Christ can put Humpty Dumpty together again. Man’s brokenness is basically a spiritual problem. His peace and security has been broken by sin; it has estranged himself from God (Isaiah 59:1, 2). To a Humpty Dumpty world Jesus announced, “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 14:6). To the weary and heavy laden—the broken--He extended this invitation: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My Yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
In putting the spiritual Humpty Dumpty back together again there are several actions that will help us:
These 8 actions are only a few of the steps we can take in putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. We didn’t cover it but Humpty Dumpty has taken a fall in our personal lives. In our families, on our jobs, among our friends, in our communities, etc. God will help you put Humpty back together again. Go to Him!
I venture to say that if your birth certificate says “human,” there are things in your past that you regret. In the words of a once popular song, “Regrets, I’ve had a few.” Mary, the mother of a son who was arrested for drug abuse and sales, continually beat herself up with self-accusations that she must have failed her son in the past. Fred fights back the tears when he discusses his failed marriage and divorce; lamenting things he wished he could go back and change or not do. Eric stands by the bedside of his dying mother with the pangs of guilt over his past behavior toward his mother and father.
While it is true that the past is past, we keep it alive and active in our lives and let it rob us of present moments of joy, peace, and happiness. While it is true that the past is an amazing teacher and we learn valuable lessons from past experiences, we tend however, to hold on to those mistakes, failures, and regrets as tools of mental torture.
Ironically, we choose to hold grudges and resentments that create an unforgiving spirit and even hatred of another person. In some warped way of thinking the attitude is “I’m getting back at you by not forgiving you;” we endure the pains from the past as a sign of self-justification. Forgiveness is letting go of the past and not holding the charges perpetually against the person. This isn’t forgetting but reframing.
In the movie, “The Edge of Tomorrow,” Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), attempts to save the human race from an alien invasion by changing the past (cf. www.scienceeveryday.org/2016).
In the movie, “Back to the Future” (1985), Marty McFly meets Dr. Emmett Brown, who has invented a time machine out of a DeLorean car. Through a number of mistakes they travel back to 1955 where Marty becomes involved, in negative ways, in the events that surround his parents’ lives. He must change his involvement before traveling back to the future.
These two movie, and others that could be referred to, remind us of the interest that exists in going back to the past. In almost all fiction the goal is to change, alter, and learn from the past. Some center in eliminating psychological trauma be getting in touch with the past. One popular success guru offers a treatment called “running the movie in your mind of the event back to the beginning, and then changing the sequence,” which changes the present emotion in your life.
However, the stark reality in most of our lives is that the past can’t be changed. But the irony is that we spend a lot of time dwelling in the past. The past is an anchor or weight tied to our ankles that keep us from enjoying and fully participating in today. One writer hit the nail on the head: “There is no future in the past.”
I have two statements I frequently use when trying to help people understand that the past can’t be changed: “You can’t put stink in a skunk” and “You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube.” Yesterday ended last night, tomorrow is not promised, and today is all we have. Today becomes tomorrow’s past. Get a tube of toothpaste, squeeze out three inches and then try to put it back.
Relative to the influence of the past and how to deal with it, the apostle Paul wrote: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, FORGETTING those things which are behind and reaching FORWARD to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14).
I love this quote from Dale Carnegie: “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put the past together again. So lets’ remember: ‘Don’t try to saw sawdust.”
The tendency of most of us is to walk around like Zombies shackled by past mistakes, hurts, disappointments, failures, regrets, and negative attitudes about an event or person in the past. A sage said, “The past is a point of reference, not a place to reside.” It is a psychological truth that “If you look back too much, you’ll soon be moving in that direction.”
You can’t change the past! Agree? However, you can take charge of today and how you choose to think or not to think about the past. You can choose to look forward, like the apostle Paul did and trust God and his promises, forgiveness, and power. Therefore, I CAN CHANGE:
Every day we are given a set of circumstances with which we must deal. How we deal with them relates to our choice of attitude: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Solomon gave us a sound piece of advice: “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For you do not inquire wisely concerning this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10). Choose the Psalmist’s words: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
Is there something in your past that continually robs you of having peace, joy and happiness today? [ ] Yes [ ] No: What is that issue?__________________________________________
Here are ten positive actions that can help you deal with the past:
There are a hundred things
I wish I could undo,
But it cannot happen
The past is gone—it’s through.
We all have done things
That we deeply regret;
The past is past—gone;
So I refuse to be upset.
Today is a brand new day
I’ll not be defined by my past;
I’m turning my cares over to Christ;
And I know I’m free at last.
“If only” are two sad words
But now I can let them go;
Remembering God’s amazing grace
Knowing my Father loves me so.
Let the past be the past
And rejoice in the blessings of today;
Knowing that all your sins
Have been washed away.
No! You can’t put stink back in a skunk. But you don’t have to let the “stinking things” linger in your life or return.