- His Year: Our Words and Deeds
- Romans 7:15-25
- Lyndol Loyd January 15, 2017
Just fifteen days ago we launched into a New Year along with all of the hopes and dreams that come along with it. Since then, here at LakeRidge, we have been examining what it might look like if we were to make 2017 a year devoted to Christ and his purposes – His Year: In Thought, Word and Deed.
In the process, there has been one small thought, that we’ll come back to again and again, that I want to say because I honestly believe this has the potential to propel some of you forward into more of what God wants for you than you’ve ever experienced before.
One of the very real challenges so many people have when they look at others who are more successful, have achieved more, have accomplished more is that they feel intimidated or helpless. They end up wondering, “What are the big things they’re doing that I’m incapable of doing to achieve that success?”
And our key thought flowing through this message series is this: It’s not the big things but it’s so often the small things that no one sees that result in the big things that everyone wants.
We’ve also kept coming back to this quote, “Our thoughts influence our words, our words influence our actions, our actions become our habits and our habits create a destiny.”
Today, I want to talk to you about the power of our words and habits, or we might say our “disciplines,” because we are what we repeatedly do. I want to start today with a very powerful thought about discipline.
Before we do, let me ask how many of you would say you are a very highly disciplined person? “Bring it on!” You’re very disciplined. Raise up your hands.
Let me ask this question, How many would say “not so much. I can tend to be a little more undisciplined”? Raise your hand. I want to just take a moment and say to those of you who feel as if you’re not disciplined, let me give you another way to think about this.
I would argue, respectfully, that you actually are disciplined. You do have some disciplines that you are consistently doing. And you have other disciplines that you do that just aren’t as good or helpful disciplines. But we all are disciplined in different ways.
Some of us are disciplined about hitting the snooze button, morning after morning, when the alarm goes off. Some of us are disciplined about making time for playing video games each day. Some of us are disciplined about making sure we never miss an opportunity to eat. For so many of us the problem is that we just don’t have the right disciplines in our lives.
Today, I want to give you a powerful thought, one that really resonated with me when I read it. Here’s a very simple definition of discipline. Discipline is simply choosing between what we want now and what we want most.
All of you are successful in some area of your life. If you’ll look in that area, you will find consistent disciplines.
Maybe, you say, “I’ve got a good marriage.” And if you do, I promise you there are consistent disciplines. Maybe you eat dinner together and have conversations there, or you’re in a Life Group together, or you get away once a year to reconnect, away from the kids.
Maybe, you’re successful financially. I promise you what you are doing is you are living on less than you make, you are generous and you are investing wisely; those are disciplines.
The opposite is true as well. Any area that you’re not succeeding in, you’ve got some disciplines, they’re just not the right disciplines. We can be so inconsistent in the right disciplines.
For example, some of you say, “I’m going to work out this year.” So you plan to get going, to wake up early and you do it on Monday and on Tuesday. On Wednesday you say, “My shoulder’s kind of hurting.” So you take a rest day. And on Thursday, “It’s kind of cold outside.” You take a rest day. You started, but then you end up stopping.
You say, “I’m going to be disciplined in my eating.” And so Monday, you do it. And Tuesday, you do it, and Wednesday. And you’ve got momentum Thursday and Friday. Then on Saturday, you’re rushed, your kids have to go here and there. Suddenly, Abuelo’s or The Plaza starts calling your name. The next thing you know, you’ve gone for the Fiesta size platter once again, and you have lost momentum. (Not that I would know anything about that. So I’ve heard.) You started strong and yet you end up so inconsistent. I totally and completely relate to that and understand.
What’s even more encouraging, to me, is that the Apostle Paul, who wrote a big portion of the New Testament, and is arguably one of the most effective spiritual leaders in the history of Christianity, struggled with this very same problem.
In fact, in Romans 7:15, his transparency really speaks to me and I can relate to it. Paul says, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”
I relate to that. “I want to do this and then I blow it.” He says, “I want to do what is right but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong but I do it anyway.”
You know what I’m talking about? “I want to eat an apple but the Doritos keep calling my name.” Right? I want to do the right thing and then I end up doing the wrong thing.
He says in verse 20, “But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”
You see, by nature, we are not self-disciplined people. By nature, our sin pulls us away from what God wants. Our sin nature bends us toward doing what is wrong, rather than doing what is right. We want to do what’s right, but our sin nature lures us away from God and tempts us to do what is wrong.
If you’ve ever felt like this, in verse 24, Paul says, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” In other words, “Who can help me overcome the temptation? Who can help me walk away from this sin? Who can help me be consistent? Who can help me have the right disciplines?”
And Paul says, in verse 25, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord…” The answer is “in Jesus Christ, our Lord.” With his help, I can be different. With his help, I can change. By his power, I can be transformed.
Some of you have been trying for years, and today is the day that you get set free. You are never going to be self-disciplined because self is bent toward sin. But when the Spirit takes over in you, the very same Spirit that raised Christ from the grave, you can be Spirit disciplined to do what God wants.
Who can deliver me from this body of death? Thank God it’s found in Jesus Christ our Lord. By the power of Christ, we will choose what we want most, over what we want now. We’re going to train our bodies to be disciplined in what matters most.
How do we do it? How do we move from where we are to becoming disciplined in the right disciplines? I want to read you a portion of scripture that Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, and he’s going to talk about running a race.
When he talked about this, the Corinthians would have been very aware and very into what was known as the Ifmeon [phonetic] games. This was a race that bore patriotic pride for them. This was similar to the Olympics for them, where if you could win, you represented your community, and there was tremendous pride.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, Paul is speaking into a culture that loved the race, “24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.”
He said, “All athletes are disciplined. They’re going to run to win.” In other words, you are not running to place, you are running to maximize the call of God on your life; you are running to win. You’re not running for the bronze, you are running for the gold. You’re going to run to win.
All athletes are disciplined in their training and they would have known that these athletes, chosen for ten-month training, would go to the gymnasium — which believe it or not, the gymnasium was a prominent piece of architecture in this culture, where people would go.
And they would enter into a very strict diet, where they were not allowed alcohol, whatsoever, and no junk food. They were fed only that which would build their bodies. For ten months, they would be exposed to extreme cold and extreme heat so that their body would learn to perform in any condition; they were disciplining their bodies to run, to win.
In fact, they were so into this race — this will sound crazy — but when they would run, they would actually strip off their clothes and run naked so that there would be no piece of clothing that would hinder them from running faster. Thank God we’re not that into it today but that’s what they did.
In fact, if you read Hebrews 12:1, the author of Hebrews says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
You see, we’re going to run this thing to win. Remember what verse 25(b) says? We don’t run to receive an earthly prize, but we run to receive a prize that will never fade away; it’s eternal.
Those runners were running for a wreath of leaves. “Congratulations! You won!”
But we, as followers of Christ, we are living for eternal glory. We are living to stand in the presence of God, to bring him glory and use everything within us to make his name known. Suddenly, we’re not just self-disciplined, you see; we’ve got a secret weapon. We’re spirit-disciplined.
The Spirit helps us overcome the power of sin. Who can help me overcome the temptation and power of sin that I continue to do what I do not want to do? Praise God. It is found in Jesus Christ our Lord. He has the power to help me overcome.
In verse 27 Paul says, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should…” My body wants to do what it should not do, but I discipline like an athlete, training it to do what it should.
I am not self-disciplined, I am Spirit Disciplined. The Spirit of God helps me discipline my body, not to do what it wants to do, but what it ultimately will do to glorify God. I run with purpose in every step.
When you get this and you decide, “I am choosing what I want most over what I want now,” suddenly, you are running with purpose in every step. You take a step and say,
- “I am saying no to bad foods to say yes to a better body,”
- “I am saying no to this financial temptation, to get out of debt,”
- “I am saying yes to love my wife as Christ loved the church,”
- “I’m raising my children to become next-generation world changers.”
I want to ask you two application questions, and the first one should be pretty easy to answer. Hopefully, the second one will be as well. The first one I want to ask is this: What do you want most? This should be easy. And I want you to think about it and write it down.
- Some of you want to get in shape. Write that down.
- Or “I want to get married in the future,”
- Or “I want to get my cholesterol down,”
- Or “I want to get close to God like I used to be in the past,”
- Or “I need to get free from alcohol or drugs because this is wrecking my life.”
- Or “I want to get out of debt.”
Whatever it is. Write it down. What do you want most?
The second question is this: What do you need to do now to have what you want most?
What discipline do you need to add to your life now that will help lead you toward what you ultimately want most? Think about it. It shouldn’t be too difficult. You want to get in shape? Maybe, you need to hire a trainer. You put some money on the line and guess what? You’re going to be more accountable and go to the gym a few times a week.
Maybe you need to pick a Bible reading plan and get two friends to do it with you for accountability; this will help you get closer to God. Maybe you need to join a Life Group and you know it. Maybe you need to stop hem-hawing around and put God first in your finances and trust him with the tithe.
Maybe you need to clean out your pantry and get out all the Twinkies and all the chips and start by providing the right stuff to have close to you to help you to do better.
Maybe you need to commit to a date night with your spouse once a week so you can reconnect with your spouse and build your marriage. Maybe you need to start praying with your kids every single day and commit, before you go to bed, pray with your children.
I don’t know what it will be for you, but when you seek God and say, “God, this is what I believe you want most for me. What one thing do I need to do now that will help me later have, what you want me to have most? I don’t have the ability to do it but, thank God, Jesus Christ does. I am not self-disciplined but I am Spirit disciplined and his Spirit is guiding me.”