I’ve been doing CrossFit for a few years now, and it’s truly something I’ve grown to enjoy. As a mother, instead of bubble baths and pedicures, I just want time alone to work out.
I know that makes me sound like a really fit person trust me. But I’m not.
My CrossFit journey has actually made me appreciate people who are incredibly fit all the more. And that’s because their self-discipline far exceeds mine. In order for a person to have a six-pack, they have to be diligent, day in and day out. Not only with their workout schedule, but also the kinds of food they eat. The saying, “abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym” is true.
I like the freedom to eat what I want, so I have zero ambitions to build a six-pack.
It often seems as if freedom and self-discipline are always working against one another. And that can even be true of our faith.
The bible tells us that we’re free in Christ and no longer bound by the law. But it also calls us to exercise self-discipline. These might seem like contradictions in the life of a believer. But they aren’t.
Paul actually faces this head on when he says, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:15-16)
I don’t think this was only an issue in first century Rome. We face the very same issue today. As we survey the current culture, Christians are often using their freedom in Jesus as a reason not to exercise self-discipline. That’s a problem.
While I’m not by any means suggesting we become legalists, I do think we’re damaging our witness for Jesus by abusing our freedoms. In our current cultural climate, there are a few trends that seem to point to a lack of self-control in the name of freedom. That’s not what Jesus intended.
Here are 3 ways you might be using your freedom in Christ as an excuse for a lack of self-discipline.
1. Your mantra is “I deserve it.”
A popular way of thinking is to live by this motto: You deserve it.
As Christians, we know that’s not true. The bible tells us that no man is deserving of anything good. What we do deserve is eternal separation from God because of our sin. I think it’s safe to say that just about every Christian is consciously aware of this truth. But the cultural mantra of you deserve it has a way of sneaking into our lives ever so subtly.
You might see this play out in your life when it comes to your finances. Maybe you make space for your frequent coffee runs, Amazon orders, or food delivery services, because you work hard for your money and you deserve to enjoy it. But you don’t make space in your finances to give to your church or extend generosity in other ways.
Oftentimes, we justify our small comfort spending as our need to care for ourselves. When our financial priorities aren’t straight, we mask our lack of self-control in popular ideas of self-care.
Again, I want to caution us against swinging to the other end of the spectrum and falling into legalism. So when it comes to your finances there is space for you to enjoy your money, but it must be met with self-restraint and balance.Oftentimes, we justify our small comfort spending as our need to care for ourselves. When our financial priorities aren't straight, we mask our lack of self-control in popular ideas of self-care. Click To Tweet
Other ways the you deserve it mantra unknowingly appears in our lives is in our commitments to others. You might have packed your schedule full, and now you’re completely exhausted. Something needs to give somewhere, so you decide you’re no longer going to follow through with your commitment to serve at church because you need at least one day of rest. Maybe there’s another area in your life that you can adjust but you decide serving at church is good, because you don’t really love to do that anyways and you deserve to rest.
Certainly, there’s truth in the need for work-life balance and rest, but there’s also wisdom to exercise in what you decide to let go of in order to find balance.
I understand these examples are highly situational. But if you feel slightly convicted or the need to explain yourself, then it’s likely you’re leaning into the freedom of Jesus at the expense of self-discipline. Jesus intended for these two principles to work together and not against one another.Certainly, there's truth in the need for work-life balance and rest, but there's also wisdom to exercise in what you decided to let go of in order to find balance. Click To Tweet
2. You root for people who speak “truth” at the expense of love.
As new as social media is, it has become part of the fabric of our culture. It gives platforms and voices to people who would have never had them before. It also allows you to connect with leaders and influencers in ways you never could have before. These in and of themselves aren’t bad things. But the way they are used matters.
You have the freedom to agree with or disagree with the opinion of anyone you’d like on social media. But what I find to be the most disturbing is the way so many Christians have accepted and rooted for the opinion of others who speak so harshly and with such disdain for fellow image-bearers.
When I’ve asked people about the manner in which these influential people are speaking, the response I’ve often received is that “So-and-So is just speaking truth.” Now, I’m all for speaking the truth. But that has never given a person a pass to be vile and harsh with their words.
We’re supposed to speak truth in love. This isn’t easy. It takes a lot of self-discipline to find the way to share truth in love. It requires thought and care to go into your words before they exit your mouth. It requires you to value and respect the person you are speaking to or about regardless of your differences.
To speak truth in love is a tall calling, but one every single believer is called to.
When we openly cheer on and accept leaders or influencers to share truth apart from love, we’re abusing our freedoms at the expense of self-discipline. We must not let the noble cry of truth make cloudy the biblical mandate of how to share that truth in love. We cannot and we must not champion anyone’s voice who throws aside love for the sake of telling it like it is.It takes a lot of self-discipline to find the way to share truth in love. Click To Tweet
3. Your online presence doesn’t mirror your in-person presence.
As much as we feel connected to others through social media, we also tend to lose sight of our common humanity when we interact with people online. There is something about responding to someone digitally that gives people a boldness that most don’t have in-person.
Dale and I have seen this when someone doesn’t agree with something we’ve posted on our social media or written in a blog. The issue isn’t so much that others disagree with us. We fully expect that. It’s the tone of their response that’s so off putting.
I’m certain most people who disagree with us would approach the conversation differently if we met in-person. I imagine there would be a greater sense of self-discipline and restraint in their tone and even word choice.
If your interactions on social media with someone you disagree with is different than your in-person response, then you might not be exercising self-discipline in the way Jesus has called you to. Our culture has made this type of engagement acceptable and normative. But Jesus hasn’t.If your interactions on social media with someone you disagree with is different than your in-person response, then you might not be exercising self-discipline in the way Jesus has called you to. Click To Tweet
Self-discipline matters in your pursuit to holiness.
CrossFit athletes (and really all athletes) are rigorous about their diets and exercise regimens for the sake of performing well. But the bible doesn’t call us to self-restraint for the sake of simply making us virtuous people. He calls us to be self-disciplined so that we can be more like him.
It’s only through the Holy Spirit that we can see a true working out of restraint against our sinful nature. But we must rely on him to see this fruit of the Spirit grow in our lives.
Self-discipline is necessary in your journey to holiness.