The Need For Self-Discipline Today, Part 1

Grace For The Journey


Growth in personal holiness is largely determined by our progress in self-discipline.  Without this foundational discipline, there can be no advancement in grace.  Before other disciplines can be administered, whether in the home, business, or church, there first must be self-discipline.

Admittedly, personal discipline is not a popular subject today.  In our society, any insistence upon self-discipline is largely resisted, even among many Christians. Legalism, they cry, defending their rights of Christian liberty.  These free-spirited believers maintain that discipline restricts their freedom in Christ, binding them in a spiritual straight-jacket.

But many of these believers have so abused their freedom in Christ that they have virtually no spiritual discipline.  They have swung the pendulum so drastically toward Christian liberty that their spiritual lives are out of balance.  Such neglect of self-discipline prolongs their spiritual immaturity, leaving them with little self-control to resist temptation and sin.

It is important to understand something very clearly . . .

If there is no discipline,

There is no discipleship.

If we do not discipline ourselves, God Himself will discipline us (Hebrews 12:5-11).  One way or another, there will be discipline in our lives.  Given our tendency toward sin, we must discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness, lest we be disciplined by God.

What Is Self-Discipline?

The Greek word translated “discipline” comes from a word which denotes “power or lordship.”

Self-discipline means

To “exercise power over one’s self.”

It is the ability to keep one’s self under control.

The word indicates self-mastery

Over one’s inner desires, thoughts, actions, and words.

It is the control a believer must

Exercise over his life (Galatians 5:23).

This same word is used in 1 Corinthians 7:9 to indicate the “self-control” one must show over unlawful sexual desires.  Likewise, elders must be “self-controlled” (Titus 1:8), disciplined in their inward attitudes and outward actions.  Mastery of self is non-negotiable for spiritual leadership.

The opposite of self-discipline is a self-indulgent lifestyle that produces “the works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21).

Any lack of self-control

Will inevitably

Result in sinful deeds.

But where self-mastery exists,

There is a strong resistance

To sensual appetites and sinful choices.

Self-rule brings every

Thought, word, and deed

Captive to the obedience

Of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Any advance in personal holiness

Demands self-control.

What Self-Discipline Is Not

To best understand what self-discipline is, we need to see what it is not.

Two erroneous views of the Christian life

– Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism –

Distort the truth of self-discipline.

In the fourth century, a British ascetic named Pelagius (AD 354–420) taught the fatal error that . . .

Man has the inherent ability

To both save and sanctify himself.

By a person’s sheer force of will,

He claimed, he is able

To accomplish the divine will.

By this . . .

Pelagius denied original sin

And the total depravity of mankind.

The mere knowledge of the divine law,

He insisted, is all that is needed.

By his own free will,

Man may discipline himself

By self-determination.

Pelagius was denounced as a heretic by the Council of Carthage for this fatal teaching (AD 418).  Tragically, however, Pelagianism remains with us . . .

Many today falsely assume

That they can simply will themselves

To be whatever they want to be.

This mindless mantra is found in today’s self-help movement and prosperity gospel, chanting, “What the mind can conceive, the will can accomplish.”  The ability of self-discipline, they claim, is within us.

A second erroneous view is semi-Pelagianism.  This is an attempt to blend Plaggianm with Christianity.

It assumes that man has some ability

To save and sanctify himself.

A person must supply his willpower

In partnership with God.

In this joint venture . . .

God and man are co-contributors to self-discipline.

God gives a measure of grace,

But man supplies the rest.

Semi-Pelagianism is only half-Christian.  This compromising position was likewise declared heretical by the Western Church in the Second Council of Orange (AD 529). Yet tragically, this tainted legacy remains to this day in the man-centered theology of Arminianism (he taught “that man is the final arbiter of his election, and that God elects him on the basis of foreseen faith which is exercised by libertarian free will of each man, thus making man ultimately decisive)” and in the pragmatic methods of Charles Finney (he taught that “we are all born in a state of moral neutrality, able to choose between good and evil”“to choose between being good or being sinful).”

Instead . . .

The truth was taught by another

Fourth century teacher named

Augustine (AD 354–430).

This gifted leader asserted

That God is the sole author of

Man’s salvation and sanctification.

By His sovereign grace,

God “monergistically regenerates spiritually dead sinners.”

Every Christian is responsible to pursue holiness, yet God must work within us to produce personal godliness (Philippians 2:13-14).  Augustinian teaching rightly understands that only God can produce authentic self-discipline in the believer.

In tomorrow’s blog we will look at what God can do through our lives as He produces the Spirit-controlled life that we need.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”



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