Sunday, April 7, 2013

Strike A Blow

Strike A Blow
April 8, 2013
1 Corinthians 9:27   "No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. "

Self-discipline is one of the hardest virtues to establish.  If it is developed in us as a child it is much easier as an adult to administer.  Unfortunately, many of us let ourselves go and fall into the trap of giving in to self.  Paul warns of giving in to self, suggesting it could disqualify us for Heavenly rewards, possibly even sending us to hell.  While giving in to a small, little self-indulgence may not have an immediate effect, it could set you on the wrong path.  People who overeat understand this all too well.  Giving in to a poor food choice during a moment of weakness does not make a person obese.  However, creating the habit of poor food choices and not being able to stop creates a dangerous path to early death caused by heart disease.  It takes self-discipline to eat correctly.  Likewise, if  you ask anyone with an addictive behavior, it all started with a poor choice and not showing restraint.  Soon, it becomes virtually impossible to stop and self-discipline is a wayward point.

To create self-discipline, Paul says we must strike a blow to our bodies to beat it into submission.  This analogy is akin to using a whip on a donkey to lead it where it should go.  Paul is suggesting that our bodies are as stubborn as mules and it takes a physical act to keep us on the right path.  He says we must beat our bodies and make it our slave, controlling it rather than being controlled by it or its desires.  No one likes to hear this; we want to have the freedom to do what we want.  Self-discipline however keeps us safe, not in the easy times but in the hard times.  Elsewhere in his letters, Paul says that in the later days we will become "lovers of selves . . . without self-control . . . rash . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."

While it is no surprise that people are like this, notice he says if someone is a lover of pleasure then he does not love God.  In fact, the next sentence in Scripture declares if a person is demonstrating these vices, then he has no form of godliness inside him.  Harsh as it seems, it will put a person into hell.  This is why Paul tells us to beat our bodies into submission now, saving us from a life of ungodliness.  But how do we beat our bodies into submission, demonstrating self-discipline?  Paul isn't saying we should really use a whip like with a donkey.

Jesus actually gives us a clue into what Paul was talking about.  Before Paul even became a Christian, Jesus told us what to do.  He said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."  Notice the word "discipline" has the word "disciple" in it.  Jesus said that to become a disciple a person must live by denying his flesh.  To deny means to withhold, not as a form of punishment but as a way of administering what is actually good.  It is good to show restraint by withholding even something that is harmless in an effort to demonstrate self-discipline. 

In fact, this is the way to strike a blow to the body, by withholding what it wants.  Practice doing this with something easy and harmless, like withholding from social media for one day.  Deny your flesh what it thinks it wants in an effort to bring it under submission.  Get into the habit of fasting from various things in your life to build up your self-discipline.  Fasting is lost on the modern church.  For some reason we don't think it is necessary even though it creates in us a habit of self-discipline.  Do this when it is easy and you'll be less likely to submit to something harmful for lack of self-discipline.  You may not like it, but it is far better than beating yourself like a donkey.  Or maybe that's what it will actually take.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, 1 Cor 9:24-27, 2 Tim 1:7, 2 Tim 3:1-5

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