Self-Discipline – How important is it to deal with our bodies and its cravings in our walk with God?
We are born again as a “NEW” creation. (2 Cor 5:17)
We are born of an incorruptible seed. (1 Pet 1:23)
We are not of this world. (John 17:16)
We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. (2 Cor 5:21)
We cannot sin. (1 John 3:9)
We cannot be condemned. (Romans 8:1)
We are citizens of heaven. (Phil 3:20)
We know we are righteous. We are born again and this time of an incorruptible seed. We are not of this world. We cannot sin. We cannot be condemned. We are citizens of heaven. We are a new creation in Christ and more. This is all true of course. Jesus has done everything that was needed to be done to ensure that we as His children are given ALL things pertaining to life and ALL things pertaining to godliness.
We know all this and believe it too. We do have faith. Yet, in practicality, there still seems to be a struggle in experiencing all that in real life. Why is this? Christians still struggle in their prayer life. Everything is a spiritual warfare for some. People still struggle with sinful habits and addictions. In other words, there are many Christians who are little to no different from anybody else in the world, except that they believe in Jesus and go to church. Why is this? I mean, if Jesus removed sin from us, if Jesus set us free from condemnation and bondage to the devil, if Jesus has given us a NEW life and called us His brethren and made us joint heirs with Him, then why this struggle? If we really are not of this world, if we really have access to the throne of God and can address Him as our Father and if we can really ask whatever we wish in Jesus name, then why do things not work that way in our lives?
The fact is this. When we became new born-again creatures, not only did we become new, our desires changed too. We now want to live new lives that are in line with the incorruptible seed of righteousness in us. Our spirit man has come alive and we want to live the God kind of life. We want to be like who Jesus was. And that is natural and expected because we are indeed born of Him and are like Him in every way. We were not like that before.
But, everything that Jesus did for us has only affected our spirit man or our inner being; our true self. He always addressed our spirit. Jesus said “The words I speak to you are spirit and they are life”. Our spirit was dead. Our being born again has made our spirits alive. Our bodies didn’t get born again though. The corruptible has not put on incorruptible as yet. That will happen upon our Lord’s return. Our bodies will be transformed to glorious bodies in the twinkling of an eye without any flaws when the Lord returns. But for now, we are here on earth with an “unsaved” body with all its cravings, desires and lustful passions, which upon death will return to dust.
Galatians 5:17 – For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
1 John 2:16 - For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
Anything that is not of God in your life will hinder the fullness of God in your life. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. These are not from God. And these are the very reasons for a struggling Christian life. Let me explain.
Lust of the flesh – This can be explained as a deep desire for food, for sensual pleasure, for ungodly entertainment, sex, nicotine, alcohol, drugs and whatever else your body (or feelings) craves for. You think fulfilling the lust of the flesh will satisfy the lust, but it only hungers for more. It is never satisfied.
Lust of the eyes – This can be explained as a deep desire for something in the world that is appealing to your eyes. For e.g.: jewellery that could enhance your social status, furniture, larger homes, cars, etc. In short, anything that you look at and desire for yourself either to satisfy your greed or to maintain a social status. Let me clarify that God is not against His children having good things in life. But a worldly lust for them is not from God.
Pride of life – This can be explained as anything you think you can do without God. When you say “I will call out to God in prayer when I need help, but these things I can manage on my own”, then you have just displayed the pride of life. E.g.: You have enough money and can afford to buy a piece of jewellery or a car that you are aspiring to buy. Then you say to yourself “I don’t need to pray about this. I only need to pray when I have a desire and I don’t have the means to get it”. That attitude is pride of life. And the bible says its not from God but of the fallen sinful world.
Ezekiel 16:49 is a great example. “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”
When you think of Sodom, you would think of sexually immoral and perverse people. But see where it all started…It started with the pride of life.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have any desires at all. Desires are in fact from God and the bible says if we delight in the Lord, He will grant us the desires of our heart. Desires are different from lust. Lust is impulsive.
Anything that is not of God in your life will hinder the fullness of God in your life. We are called to cut the flesh off from the equation to experience the fullness of God in your life. Do not give in to the desires of the flesh. We are in fact encouraged to put to death the lusts of our flesh. That takes effort and self-discipline on our part.
Romans 8:13 - For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
It’s amazing how many verses in the bible teach us about our responsibility in controlling our bodies so that we can experience the fullness of the God kind of life. And all these verses are addressed to Christians, believers, followers of Christ, saved people. Paul has had amazing revelation in this area.
1 Cor 6:19 – Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit….
Most people respect a church building. When they come inside the church, they never smoke. When they enter a church, they don’t swear, or drink alcohol. Because in their mind, they think the church building is a holy place. But the bible says, our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. So, if we don’t do certain things in a church building, how come we allow those things in our bodies?
1 Cor 6:19-20 – You were bought at a price…
The value of something is determined by the price that was paid for it. Because such a huge price has been paid for your body, glorify God in your bodies.
Here are some more verses that talk about self-discipline if that wasn’t enough:
James 1:26 – if you won’t control your tongue, your religion is useless
Colossians 3: 1-6 – Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
James 1:13-16 – Do not be deceived…Sin and the desires of the flesh are deceptive in nature. They lie.
Romans 13:13-14 – Make no provision for the flesh
Romans 8:5-14 – Carnal mind is enmity against God. Do you see that when we are in the flesh, we can’t experience the God kind of life? Verse 8 confirms it.
Verse 9 says “We are not in the flesh…to remind us that we are born again. New creatures in Christ. Our spirit is alive and born of the incorruptible seed of righteousness if the Spirit of God is in us. Well, “if the Spirit of God is in us” is a pre-requisite of course.
Romans 8:12-14 – by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body
1 Cor 9:24-27 – I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. This passage is addressed to Christians in Corinth. In our walk with God (race), we can all come first and obtain a prize. But as an athlete disciplines himself to win, so also, we must discipline ourselves to win. Run in such a way to win.
The living bible says, “I make my body do what it should do and not what it wants to do.” Paul said that.
This is critical to make progress as a Christian. We need to add discipline to our faith and that takes effort on our part.
Ephesians 5:3-5 – But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, not covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
1 Peter 1:13-16 – Rest your hope fully upon the grace, BUT ALSO be holy
Romans 12:1 – present your bodies as living sacrifices -
Galatians 5:19-22 – The works of the flesh are evident
Ephesians 2:1-5 – We once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling desires of the flesh and of the mind. But God made us alive together with Christ and made us sit together in heavenly places…
Why say this if God didn’t want us to live or knew that we cannot live in the fullness of godliness?
Romans 1:24-26 – Very important to note here is that “they exchanged the truth of God for the lie”.
1 The 4:4-5 – you should KNOW HOW TO POSSESS your own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust
2 Tim 3:1-13 – Paul admonishes Timothy that in the last days saying, many men will have a form of godliness but deny its power. They will become lovers of pleasure.
1 Peter 4:1-2 – Therefore since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
Friends, there is a place in God where you do not have to always be struggling in prayer trying to get what you want. There is a place where you don’t even have to ask. You instinctively know the Lords will. There is a place in God where it is no stress to walk with God. His burden is light. His yoke is easy.
So how do you put to death the lusts of your flesh, the lust of your eyes and the pride of life?
We need to stop thinking that our bodies are us. It is not. The new born-again self is us. The body is our temporary home and the bible even calls it our “tent”. 2 Cor 5:1
Erroneously thinking that our bodies are us causes us to also own the selfish desires of our bodies. And that includes the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. But our bodies are not us. So we don’t need to own its desires.
So, we need to look at our bodies as a tool outside of us that we “use” as children of God. Its something we use. Its not us. Just as you use a hammer for a purpose and lay it aside when you don’t need it, or a microwave or a car. But all these are non-living things and don’t crave to be used. Our bodies have lusts and crave to be fulfilled. Therefore, we need to learn to say NO and discipline ourselves. The apostle Paul said, “I beat my body and bring it to subjection”. In other words, he refrained from giving in to the cravings of his body. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Gal 5:22-23 This is why you should get into a habit of fasting. Fasting greatly help in denying your flesh the cravings. Consciously control the cravings of the flesh. Do not give a foothold to the lust of the flesh or the lust of the eyes or to the pride of life.
A suggestion for those who need practical help: Pray and tell the Lord that you intend to consciously make an effort to put to death the lusts of your flesh, the lusts of your eyes and the pride of life. Ask him for grace and start out in faith. Mark the date you decided to start on your calendar. Then mark dots each day for the number of times you think you failed that day in any area. Don’t feel guilty about it at all. Just ask the Lord for forgiveness and to grant you the grace to continue. He is faithful to forgive and will definitely bless you just because you have started out this walk of self-discipline. Ask Him to give you the “gift” of self-discipline. Then continue on. Watch the number of dots reduce in a few weeks’ time and before long it will become your life style. When nothing stands between you and God, everything about your life will miraculously change.
I wish to encourage you to start to put in an effort to discipline your bodies friends. Do nothing without talking to God first. Even when you have the money and the means to buy something, pray about it first and ask God if it’s the right thing to do. Don’t treat God like a genie and approach Him only when you want something and you don’t have the means to get it. Instead, know that He is your loving Father and walk in intimacy with Him. When you spend your money on something “after” talking to Him, your joy is so much multiplied.
The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. These are not from God but is of the world. Anything that is not of God in your life will hinder the fullness of God in your life. It will steal your joy, your happiness, your health and your prosperity. On the contrary, when you have nothing standing between you and God and you are able to stand before Him with a clear conscience, you will truly experience life and life more abundantly.
I was radically transformed by the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ back in 1997 in a most unusual way and unusual place. Read my testimony here. Over the years of my walk with God, I have come to realize a few basic truths that have altered my life.