Bible Faith Fellowship: Substance Over Form

Self Discipline in 2012 and Forever

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Barry Johnson

Self Discipline in 2012 and Forever Self Discipline in 2012 and Forever

Date 2012-01-01
Series Spiritual Deception
Document (PDF) BFF-20120101-SelfDisciplineIn2012AndForever.pdf

Call to Worship

II Corinthians 6:15-16, And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. Praise God that he chooses to inhabit our lives!! Ephesians 2:13-22, But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Again, Praise God that he chooses to inhabit our lives!!


2012 marks about 5.5 years of the local and global economic recession, with local real estate values having peaked in August 2006. This cycle of history has been life-changing for most of us, because it has changed the circumstances of our lives, and has also changed our perceptions of the circumstances of our lives. For many of us, and probably for most of us, at times we have felt, and we have perceived ourselves to be, helpless, uncertain and endangered. Yet, by God”s grace, we are still here, in spite of the changed circumstances of our lives, and in spite of our perceptions of helplessness, uncertainty and endangerment.

Now, 5.5 years later, none of us see that things are much improved in the economy, but, God asks us, “So what?” God asks this of us because he knows, and he wants us to know, that the economy is simply part of the circumstances of our lives. God asks us, “So what?”, because God is never looking for an improvement in our circumstances; rather, and more deeply, God is always looking for improvement in our spiritual selves, and thereby in improvement in our perception of our circumstances.

Over the years, I have come to realize that most people”s New Year”s Resolutions have to do with self-improvement. And God does not necessarily frown on that for His children, as self-improvement requires self-discipline, and for the right things, God really likes self-discipline (See Galatians 5:23). But God is mostly after our improvement, He seeks after the maturing of our spiritual selves, regardless of our circumstances. The maturing of our spiritual selves requires self-discipline. This is what God wants our New Year”s Resolutions for 2012 to focus on.

The reason that self-discipline is required for the improvement, for the maturing, of our spiritual persons, is that such maturing requires that we make choices and not quit. Self-discipline is our personal accountability source that enables and empowers us to choose not to quit, not to quit on God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and not to quit on ourselves, regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of how helpless we find, or perceive, ourselves to be, in the circumstances of our generation, of our cycle of history, of our season of life.

Self-discipline is important, in part, because the life styles of the wicked ones, especially of the rich and famous wicked ones, tempt us to break our commitment of faith to obey God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and their Words. In other words, those life styles are among the circumstances of life that tempt us to quit. As we look around us, this is among the circumstances that we see, in a world of very successful lost and wicked souls: that the ways of the wicked are always prospering; the wicked sneers at, “trash talks” to, his enemies; the wicked boasts of his own heart”s desires and he blesses the greedy; the wicked conspire and operate in secret to disadvantage the poor and helpless; the arrogance of the wicked causes them and empowers them to renounce the Lord of hosts, to say in their hearts that God has forgotten about me; that God hides his face and won”t see what I, in my hiddenness, am doing, because they believe that God will not require an account from them; that nothing can shake them loose, can move them, from their arrogance and ill-gotten gains; their mouths are full of cursing, deceit and oppression; they bring nothing but trouble and evil to those around them.

Look around you; look on the news; look at the broken culture in which we live: abortions, illegitimate children, theft, covetousness, lawlessness, disregard for human life and for the work product — the fruit of the labors — of others.

In Ecclesiastes 1:9, Solomon wrote that . . . there is nothing new under the sun. And, so there is not. What we see around us today is a manifestation of the evils known since man roamed the planet outside of the Garden of Evil: the evil in and of our broken culture; our broken families; our children abhorred at conception, murdered in utero by abortions and ex utero by late-term abortions, and then, our children, if they escape the womb, often preyed upon by pedophiles; the poor manipulated today by lottery tickets siphoning off food and rent money and by the lust for newest, most fashionable things to covet, like over-hyped athletic shoes of all things!

In these circumstances and considering the coming New Year 2012, my readings for the past couple of weeks have really focused on Psalms 10 and 11, which are the reference texts for this sermon today. The Holy Spirit has drawn me to these two Psalms, with instruction to me to share this message with you today as you kick off the New Year 2012.

Let”s read Psalm 11, first: In the Lord I put my trust. How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain.”? For look! The wicked bend their bow; they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in His holy temple. The Lord”s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.

As King David contemplated in this Psalm, verse 3, If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?, (BJ: Remember what are the foundations? From our Call to Worship today: Ephesians 2:20, “the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” and that is what so many in our country, our world, our culture, seek to destroy!) He was asking what do we do, we who believe in Jehovah God, when things are so bad that the Godly-Christian foundations of our culture, our families, our nation seem destroyed or almost so. And this was not an abstract question, not then for King David, nor is it an abstract question for us today. In Psalm 10, the Psalmist described the then-world as so rotten, so evil, that the righteous and the believers thought themselves to be helpless in the circumstances.

Now, let”s read Psalm 10: Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble? The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised. For the wicked boasts of his heart”s desire; he blesses the greedy and renounces the Lord. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts. His ways are always prospering; Your judgments are far above, out of his sight. He has said in his heart, “I shall not be moved; I shall never be in adversity.” His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is trouble and iniquity. He sits in the lurking places of the villages; in the secret places he murders the innocent; his eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless. He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; he lies in wait to catch the poor; he catches the poor when he draws him into his net. So he crouches, he lies low, that the helpless may fall by his strength. He has said in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see.” Arise, O Lord! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble. Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, “You will not require an account.” But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, to repay it by Your hand. The helpless commits himself to You. You are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man; seek out his wickedness until You find none.

The Lord is King forever and ever; the nations have perished out of His land. Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.

Confronted with the circumstances of such evil all around in the circumstances of life, confronted with the perceptions of helplessness in the face of those circumstances, the Psalmist points the way in one pivoting verse, and this verse should be the core of our New Year 2012 Resolutions: Verse 14b, The helpless commits himself to (God). In our weakness and sense of helplessness in 2012, we have God”s strength. We can do all things through Christ, who strengthenest us (Philippians 4:13). But for any of those accomplishments to occur, we, the helpless, must make a choice, a commitment that we, ourselves, will police with self-discipline: and that is the choice to commit ourselves to God. Such a choice of direction requires that we not only choose the course, but choose to stay on the course, like the sea captain, or the airplane pilot who must not allow the circumstances of wind or wave to thrust him off-course. Choosing and keeping a course, a commitment, requires our self-discipline when the circumstances get tough, or when the opportunities for fleshly dalliance become particularly tempting.

As the song proclaims, “Our God is a Mighty Fortress”. As Psalm 10:16 proclaims, The Lord is King, forever and ever. We need to be in that fortress in 2012, as we see these circumstances: that the reserve currency of the world is in trouble; as the power of Islam cements itself in the Northern Rim of Africa, in the Middle East, throughout Europe and Asia, and through the middle of America; as marriage, the essential building-block for stability and prosperity of mankind, falls into extreme disuse, disregard, and dishonor among men and women. We need to be in that fortress, that mighty fortress of our God and we need to stay there, because now we have contemplated that same question that King David asked, Psalm 11:3, If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? That is our question for today; it is our question for 2012, and I believe for years to come, if and as the Lord tarries.

King David gave the foundational answer, in Psalm 11 and in Psalm 10. First, we need to know that our Lord is King forever and ever (Psalm 10:16); then, that our Lord is in His holy temple (which, II Corinthians 6:16, is also in us, the righteous), that our Lord”s throne is in heaven (Psalm 11:4); that His eyes behold all that goes on (Psalm 11:4) — He does see and hear; He does not forget; He will call every man, the righteous and the evil, to account, and only by God”s grace and the Blood of Jesus are the names of the righteous written in the Book of Life; that our Lord tests the righteous (Psalm 11:5) and He loves righteousness (Psalm 11:7), and He detests and brings His consuming fire on the wicked (Psalm 11:5-6).

There are two aspects of God”s dealing with mankind that we need to understand today: one is shaking and the other is burning. To understand these, we need to revisit Hebrews 4:12, For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Of course, you see here the rebuttal of the wicked who say that they must give no account, but more broadly, you see this two-edgedness of the word of God. Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14), even more-so than Holy Scripture is the Word of God. This two-edgedness must be understood in that Jesus, and what He brings to mankind, affects people, broadly speaking, in two very different ways: some accept Him for who He says He is, and some scoff and renounce and reject Him. Some become righteous in their faith, by God”s grace and Jesus” atoning blood at the Cross of Calvary, and some remain evil either by flatly rejecting Jesus or, more subtly, by not embracing Him as Savior. In other words, when Jesus gets to going, the fire and the shaking He releases affects the righteous one way and the wicked a different way.

In our textual Scriptures today, Psalms 10 and 11, we find these principles stated this way: Psalm 10:6, (The wicked) has said in his heart, “I shall not be moved; I shall never be in adversity”. Yet, in Psalm 11:5b-6, King David, the Psalmist, reports to us, But the wicked and the one who loves violence (The Lord”s) soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be a portion of their cup. I don”t know about you, but the last time I burned myself -- and I have only ever been burned accidentally — I moved; I jumped and contorted myself and seized the injured, burnt part of me in pain! I even considered my carelessness to have produced adversity for me. When the raining coals, and the fire, brimstone and burning wind hit any man, he will move and he will know adversity, and the self-speak of the arrogant wicked then is, and will be, revealed for the lie it is! I will tell you about fire and brimstone, and we first find it in Scripture in Genesis 19:24. Guess what God rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah? Fire and Brimstone! That is how bad that stuff is; it destroyed those cities and their inhabitants so thoroughly that, even today, no archaeologist or scientist is sure he has re-located them. And, of course there is that lake of fire that we know of from Revelation 20:14-15, into which are cast Death, Hades and anyone not found written into the Book of Life. That fire, indeed, is the consuming fire of God: It consumes and destroys evil and the wicked ones.

But when the Lord”s fire comes into the life of a person who seeks, welcomes and receives the Lord, it is different, it is, Malachi 3:1-3, like a refiner”s fire, that does not consume, does not destroy, but purifies us, so that we may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness. What a difference, destruction versus purification unto righteousness -- Oh, hallelejuh!

And like I said, there is another issue here, the one of movement, or non-movement, of shaking or withstanding shaking. The wicked, in his arrogance and rebellion, says, Psalm 10:6, I will not be moved nor suffer adversity. Take a look at Haggai 2:6-9, For thus says the Lord of hosts, “Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,” says the Lord of hosts. “The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,” says the Lord of hosts. “The glory of the latter temple shall be greater than the former,” says the Lord of hosts. “And in this place I will give peace,” says the Lord of hosts. I can tell you, quite honestly, that I believe that when the Lord of hosts, our God, shakes heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land, and shakes all nations, and takes possession of all wealth, all silver and all gold, that we will see a lot of moving by the wicked, and probably some by the righteous! Have you ever seen video footage of a mere earthquake? Nothing there is immovable, not even tectonic plates and mountains, much less mere concrete roads, pilings and buildings, much less some mere wicked man! Oh, and watch an immovable man move when his wealth is taken, even by its rightful and all-powerful owner!

All this fire and shaking, this adversity and movement, gets tied together in Hebrews 12:22-29, But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect (BJ: made perfect by the refiner”s fire, the grace of God, the atonement of Jesus by His blood), to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. (BJ: this is Abel as in Cain and Abel. Abel was the first shepherd and the first martyr and is mentioned in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11:4 as [b]y faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and through it he being dead still speaks.) See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook (BJ: see, “shaking”, again.) the earth, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” (Same stuff as the Haggai passage above.) Now this, “yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. That is the consuming fire we described above for the wicked and evil.

Our God, in His sovereignty and love, tests us believers (Psalm 11: 5a), and in so doing tests our resolve to complete our obedience in faith, tests our self-discipline to obey and, when we have done all we can do, Ephesisans 6:13, to stand, entrusted and committed to God. Those who are self- disciplined in their faith, in having committed, in their helplessness, themselves to God (Psalm 10:14b), who have chosen to put and keep their trust in our Lord (Psalm 11:1) will not be shaken. Those who choose otherwise will be shaken. Those who do not choose Jesus are destroyed in the consuming fire of our God; those who do choose Jesus are purified unto righteousness in the refining fire of our God.

What makes the difference in the shaken and the unshaken, in the consumed and the purified, in the righteous and the wicked, in those registered in heaven in the Book of Life, and those finding a “No Vacancy” sign? The difference is in the heart, which manifests whether or not we truly trust and have truly entrusted ourselves to, God in Jesus. Therefore, the heart, through our spirits, (Hebrews 12: 23, the spirits of just men made perfect) drives and controls our self-discipline of our souls and our bodies (see I Thessalonians 5:23). The wicked, selfishly and arrogantly, asserts, defends and boasts of “his heart”s desire” (Psalm 10:3a). The righteous knows, I Samuel 16:7, that the Lord looks at the heart; that, Psalm 11:4b, the eyes of the Lord behold; that, Psalm 10: 17b, God will prepare his heart; that, Psalm 37:4, if we delight in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart.

There is a balance in our hearts of self-discipline and love: When the love overflows, we delight; when circumstance and perceptions of circumstances, and temptations and failures seem overwhelming, it is self-discipline that marches on, or stands, in faith. In 2012, we need an abundance of self-discipline as we know that each day, Matthew 6:34, will have for us trouble enough of its own.

Self-discipline requires an internal mustering, an internal call to duty, to arms, to boots and saddles. Thus, for self-discipline, we must stir up the gifts of God in us (II Timothy 1:6) to bring those gifts to bear forcefully (for, Matthew 11:12, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force) in support of our “genuine faith” (II Timothy 1:5). I do not today challenge the genuineness of your faith; neither did Paul challenge the genuineness of Timothy”s faith. Paul was saying to Timothy, and the Holy Spirit is saying to each one of us on the first day of 2012, that to sustain the genuineness of our faith, we must stir up the gifts of God in us and that we must have the self-discipline to be single-minded (see James 1: 5-8) and therefore stable in all of His ways this year and forever.

This year, 2012, discipline yourselves to seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, Matthew 6:33, and do not be distracted or tempted into sin by the evil ones and their successes and sin. You do worry about God and be prudent, but let God do the worrying about your circumstances, i.e., what you shall wear, eat and drink.

I leave you with this passage, in which you can take both solace and confidence from the blessed assurance therein, II Thessalonians 3:3, that our . . . Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. You will, however, need your divinely-inspired self-discipline.

God bless you and Amen+