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When I was in primary school there was an old preacher who used to come to our school’s assembly, he would make us shout the words self-control, self-disciple and sound mind each time he came. Every sermon he preached started and concluded with these words. We recited these words so much so that they became a part of our vocabulary. Even when we came across him in the streets of Kwa-Thema, we would start to shout out these words to him “self-control, self-disciple and sound mind” and he will shout them back to us. At that time I didn’t even understand the weight and the sense of commitment these words carried. I have grown to understand that these words are fundamental qualities that everyone must possess to enjoy life and fulfil the mandate God gave them here on earth.  

Without self-control, we are destructive not only to ourselves but to God’s purpose for our lives. Without self-discipline, we remain defeated by all kinds of circumstances. And without a sound-mind, we are invaded by things that cause us to be unstable in our convictions.  

SELF-CONTROL  

Being self-controlled is the very foundation for living a life of righteousness and selflessness that reflects Jesus and brings glory to God. We have the power to bring sin under control when we have self-control. But without self-control, sin controls us. 

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without  walls.” Proverbs 25:28. The Contemporary English Version puts it in this way “Losing self-control leaves you as helpless as a city without a wall.” (CEV). 

A city without walls simply means you are exposed to any kind of sin: lies, manipulation, fear, sexual immorality, pretence, anger, etc. Basically, anything can come through your thoughts, control your actions, shape your habits and form your character. 

The problem with sin is that it wants to grow. Wherever sin is given a doorway, it is not satisfied in being a little secret, sin grows and ultimately destroys whatever thing it inhabits, John 10:10. Lack of self-control will destroy your marriage, career, relationships, and ultimately your life.  “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control  than one who takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32.   

Without self-control we destroy a legacy we have built for years in just a day; we are the ones who bring threat to the very heroic works we have done. Lack of self-control undermines everything! 

PSYCHOLOGICAL VIEW 

The Psychology Today, defines self-control as, “The ability to manage one’s impulses, emotions, and behaviours to achieve long-term goals.” The direct link between self-control and achievement of desired goals is apparent in this definition.  The Positive Psychology puts it this way, “Self-control serves as an executive function necessary for individual goal attainment.” Self-control is necessary and mandatory for anyone who wants to achieve their goals: healthy living, debt-free, career growth, or healthy relationships. 

BIBLICAL VIEW 

Biblically, self-control is not only an ability to impose restrictions and boundaries upon oneself to achieve end goals, but it is a fruit of the Spirit that you produce to the glory of God. The difference here is that self-control is not something that comes from our desire to achieve something, but it is a virtue that emanates from our spirit. Self-control is something we do as a result of the Person and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  This means that self-control is an act of our spirit over our flesh, which is evidence of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  

In fact, self-control is a spiritual exercise/practice that keeps us grounded in our godly nature. Thus, self-control is not what we do to get somewhere in life (end goal) but something we do to remain where we are in God – righteous and holy.  

Self-control is to dictate the pleasures of the flesh instead of being controlled by them. Our lack of self-control is to stand in the way of the Holy Spirit. To practise and maintain self-control we need to put a spotlight on our daily habits.   

YOUR HABITS 

Human beings are habitual beings; we live better when we have established habits. Good habits benefit and empower our wellbeing, inspire our development, and inspire success in our lives. On the other hand, bad habits cost us our time, growth, health, money and deprive us of the life God intended for us through redemption.  

Your body thrives on perpetual habits. Habits become so strong that they control you instead of you controlling them. These are the things that you have repeatedly exposed your body to and they now define how you spend your time and money.  

The body needs us to respond to it with serious and strict measures to gain back control. If not, you will find yourself rendered powerless to the desires of the body. You may have a strong will to do something but find yourself failing to do it, due to the lack of control you have over your own physical body. For example, how many times have you felt a need to eat healthily, drink more water, or even exercise but your body fails and resists responding to those good intentions? How many times have you felt a strong need to read the Bible or pray, but don’t actually do it? This proves that your body responds to habits and not to your strong will or good intentions.   

If you want to change how things are in your life, change your habits. Change how you spend your time and the comforts that you have created for yourself! Old habits need to be replaced by new habits. Make it a habit to read one chapter of the Bible per day, memorise a verse or a passage of scripture. Make prayer to be a habit. Make giving, eating well, working hard and studying to be your new habits.  

Do not just say I want to pray more. Look at your current habits and replace them with the new habit of prayer; do it until prayer becomes a prevailing habit.  

You need to make your habits to come from your spiritual convictions, then the body will start to follow these new positive habits. This is how you gain self-control back, by replacing your old habits with new ones, informed by your spiritual convictions. It will not come as easy as it sounds, hence you will need to be disciplined.  

SELF-DISCIPLE 

How do you turn your spiritual convictions into habits? You do so by self-disciple and repetition. Subjecting your body to strict rules to gain control is the key. Your willingness to suffer temporal pain, be inconvenienced and delay gratification in the body to experience the joy and freedom in your spirit is what matters most. In other words, make your body a slave to your spiritual convictions so that your spirit can be free to worship, serve and live for God.  

“For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” Romans 6:10.  

Many Christians despise discipline in the name of grace.  However, grace empowers our will to say no to ungodliness, Titus 2:11. Grace does not render us hopeless in our addictions, reducing us to merely managers of guilt in the cycle of sin. Grace does not replace the drive and effort to overcome sin, but it empowers that drive to overcome. We are made free in Christ, but we must fight to keep that freedom. Paul puts it this way: 

“So, Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” Galatians 5:1. 

In fact, self-disciple is a spiritual exercise that leads to godliness. 

“Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:27 (CSB). 

The Amplified Version emphasizes the type of discipline Paul is putting himself under with the adjective ‘STRICTLY’. He says, “I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave” (AMP).  

Christianity is a life of self-discipline. We are trained into godliness through self-discipline: 

“God’s discipline is always good for us so that we might share in  His holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful! But afterwards, there will be a  peaceful  harvest of right living for those who are trained in  this way.” Hebrews  12:10-11.  

Our willingness to be disciplined by God through His Spirit and Word, and through church leadership, is a necessary exercise for godliness. Physical exercise is hard and painful but necessary for healthy living, so it is with spiritual discipline: 

“Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 9:25.  

If we believe that Christ has made us His righteousness through His blood, then we need to train our mind and body to live according to this truth. Fight to gain what God has freely given to you in Christ Jesus. Push back everything that threatens your freedom in the Lord. 

SOUND-MIND 

A sound mind is a right judgement of things that are based on the Word of God. Having a sound mind is to have and maintain God’s perspective of yourself and your surroundings. It is to have an elevated outlook informed by God’s Word and inspired by the Holy Spirit. We are not born with a sound mind; it is not something that comes naturally to human beings. The Bible warns us that in this world we will have many troubles but it continues to say, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. God is the one who gives us a sound-mind but it is up to us to keep. 

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love,  and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7.  

The word sound-mind from this verse is interpreted as self-controlself-disciplinegood judgement, or sound judgement. In this context, Apostle Paul encourages Timothy to actively use the gift in his life and to stand for the gospel. Basically, Paul is saying to the young Timothy, “do not be intimidated but rely on the Holy Spirit who gives power, love, and a stable mind.”   

You don’t have a sound-mind when your mental framework is subject to fear, past trauma and low self-esteem. When you respond to your circumstances, opportunities, and challenges through clouded emotions such as fear, instead of self-control and correct interpretation of things based on the view of the Spirit which leads to calmness and confidence in God.  

A sound mind is not something that just happens to you by default. You need to be self-disciplined and be in control of your thoughts and imagination. The Bible asks us to renew our minds (Romans 12:2) and to seek things that are above where Christ is seated (Colossians 3:1).  

The ability to control your thoughts is very important in maintaining and enjoying your liberty in Christ.  

God has given us so much through His promises and blessings in Christ Jesus, but we do not get to fully experience them because of the lifestyle we subject ourselves to. You are already free, but that freedom depends on your lifestyle: you can undermine or uphold your freedom in Christ by how you think and thus conduct yourself. It all starts in your thoughts. 

The Bible tells us what should dominate our thoughts day and night: 

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8.  

This is what David says about his thinking: “I think about you, God before my thoughts turn to you during the night.” Psalms 63. May your thoughts always turn towards God’s glorious presence and knowledge so that your life is formed and informed by it. 

Let this be your prayer: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my rock, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14. 

No matter what life throws at you, maintain a sound-mind. Keep the mind of Christ in all things. Respond to your circumstances with a sober and sound judgment, trusting God and knowing that “all things work for your good” Romans 8:28. A sound-mind is a gift from God, never surrender it to any circumstance or situation in life.  

CONCLUSION 

The life we are called to live is a life of warfare. We are in a constant battle to subdue the desires of the flesh, Galatians 5:19-21 and to reject every opinion/imagination that is against the knowledge of God in our lives, 2 Corinthians 10:4-6.  

How do we win this battle? By walking in the Spirit:  

“So, I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16. 

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Romans 13:14.  

There is no benefit in the flesh, no matter how much you go out of your way to satisfy it. Jesus said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” John 6:63. 

May you gain back control of your mind and have dominion over your flesh. May your habits come from your convictions. May you be fruitful and effective in your knowledge of Christ and live a life worthy of the calling you have received in Christ Jesus. 

Thabang T. Letsie

Pastor at Resolved Church in Pretoria, South Africa. Life is more meaningful when lived with eternal perspective: the gift of God is ETERNAL LIFE and not just life. I love reading, writing, and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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