Eighth Sunday After Pentecost: The Importance Of Self Discipline
We must face the fact that many today are notoriously careless in their living. This attitude finds its way into the church. We still have most of our liberty, we have money, we live in comparative luxury. As a result, discipline has practically disappeared. What would a violin solo sound like if the strings on the musician’s instrument were all hanging loose, not stretched tight, not “disciplined“?
Long ago a Chinese man began his career making bell stands for the huge bronze bells that hung in Buddhist temples. This man became prized and celebrated for making the best, most elaborate and enduring bell stands in the entire region. No other person could make the bell stands with such strength and beauty.
His reputation grew vast and his skill was in high demand. One day the celebrated woodcarver was asked, “Please tell us the secret of your success!” He replied: Long before I start making and carving the bell stand, I go into the forest to do the work before the work.
I look at all of the hundreds of trees to find the ideal tree—already formed by God to become a bell stand. I look for the boughs of the tree to be massive, strong and already shaped. It takes a long time to find the right tree. But without doing the work before the work, I could not do what I have accomplished.
The New Testament places great emphasis on the discipline of our bodily members-especially of the ear, the eye and the tongue. In our lesson for today, Paul says in Romans 8:13, that we cannot enjoy spiritual life if we do not mortify the deeds of the body through the power of the Spirit. "For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live." In 1 Corinthians 9:27 , he tells us how severely he disciplined his own body. "But I chastise, or discipline, my body, and bring it into subjection or control: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway." No matter what experience of sanctification we may have had, we still need to discipline our bodily members, as Paul did, till the end of our lives, if we are to be holy.
We must be disciplined about the kind of conversation we give our ears to. We cannot afford to spend our time listening to gossip and slander and then expect our ears to be attuned to hear God's Voice.
Our eyes need to be disciplined in what they are permitted to look at or watch or read-especially in these days. More than one christian has fallen into immorality because he or she did not habitually control their eyes. How many more are perpetually falling in their thought-life, because of indiscipline in this area. "Turn away mine eyes from beholding worthless and vain things," should be our constant prayer (Psalm 119:37).
Our tongues too need to be under the control of the Holy Ghost. Perhaps there is no greater spreader of spiritual death in the Christian Church than the human tongue. When Isaiah saw God's Holiness, he was convicted chiefly of the way he had been using his tongue. Apparently he had not realized this until he saw himself in God's light.
Jeremiah was told by the Lord that he could be God's mouthpiece only if he was careful about the way he used his tongue-if he separated the valueless from the precious in his conversation "and if thou wilt separate the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: they shall be turned to thee, and thou shalt not be turned to them." (Jeremiah 15:19).
These prophets could not afford to be careless about the way they used their tongues, or they would have forfeited the privilege of being God's spokesmen. They could not indulge in loose conversation, idle chatter, gossip, slander and criticism and get away with it. They would have lost their calling thereby. This could be one reason why we have hardly any one who can truly speak for the Lord in our day.
If God has ever put His Word on our lips, then a solemn obligation is upon us to guard these lips for His service alone. We cannot offer a member of our bodies for His use one day and the next day take it back for use at our own discretion. Whatever is once presented to Him is eternally His."
As in the physiology of the body, a doctor can often assess our state of health by looking at our tongues, so too in the spiritual realm, James tells us that the way a man uses his tongue is a test of his spirituality. "If any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man's religion is vain." (James 1:26). He makes bold to say, in James 3:2, that if a man can control his tongue he is a perfect man. "And if anyone does not stumble and offend in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body."
So let us meditate this week on Romans 8:13, let us bring it to mind each day, and let us memorize this verse. "For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify, put under subjection, put under control the deeds of the flesh, you shall live."