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When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?” - John 5:6 (MSG)
My wife refuses to watch it with me, but Monty Python and the Holy Grail remains one of my favorite comedies of all time. And the scene that comes to mind is the one in which King Arthur must fight the Black Knight in order to cross a bridge. In the course of the battle, one fateful swing lands on the Black Knight’s shoulder, taking his arm off clean. Both men stand there for a moment, and the Black Knight glances down at the arm on the ground.
“Now, stand aside, worthy adversary,” orders King Arthur.
“‘Tis but a scratch,” the Black Knight protests.
“A scratch? Your arm’s off!” exclaims King Arthur incredulously.
“No it isn’t,” the Black Knight insists.
“Well, what’s that, then?” asks King Arthur, pointing to the arm on the ground.
End scene. I’m laughing my head off; my wife leaves the room. I’ll admit, it’s not for everyone. But the point is, the Black Knight has a serious problem, and he’s not willing to admit it. He’s so bullheaded that he fights until he literally has no limbs left, and Arthur crosses the bridge regardless. I wonder what the Black Knight would have said if Jesus had come to the bridge shortly after and asked him, “Do you want to get well?” It’s doubtful that the knight would have been able to admit there was a problem, let alone invite Jesus to heal it.
You may not have lost a limb in a swordfight, but you may be looking at some leftover cookie crumbs on the table; another unchecked box; another bounced check; another tear in the eye of the person you love. You see the evidence of lost battles, and it may be time to stop thinking, “I'll win the next one,” and instead start thinking, “I can’t keep doing this alone… I need someone who can step in and help me fight.”
There is freedom in Christ, but if we are to invite Him or anyone else into the fight, we have to be able to point Him to the battlefield and surrender our battle plans. If we want to see the Lord of Hosts win some glorious battles, then bringing our banner under His is the first thing we must do.
Have you lost some battles recently? Take a moment to read John 5:1–18. What do you learn about Jesus from this passage? Specifically, pay attention to the excuse that the man gives to Jesus in verse 7, and also to Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in verse 17.Share Tweet
Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. - Galatians 5:25 (NLT)
Our present generation is furiously working out how to live responsibly and steward well. We recognize that many of our current cultural, environmental, and social issues are the result of decades of excessive living and unmitigated consumption. We have seen movements like minimalism rise in popularity over the last five years. We have introduced legislation to curb the expulsion of carbon emissions into the atmosphere and have led efforts to find clean fuel alternatives. We are innovating to help clean up the oceans after decades of dumping single-use plastics, and inventing biodegradable products to take their place. We recognize that “continuing course” means almost certain destruction of the things we value most, and so we are doing what we can to change that trajectory.
Paul drives home to the Galatians that when we live by the desires of our flesh, the “results are very clear.” (Just check out 5:19–21 for the super fun and exhaustive list). But God, living and breathing through us, produces in us what we know as the Fruit of the Spirit. Among those amazing qualities of God that we gain from the Spirit is the gift of self-control. We can spend our entire lives trying to “do better,” but here is the truth: The Spirit of God is the course correction. Any path away from God is a path toward destruction (see Romans 2:5–8), but being led by the Spirit puts our feet back on the path to true life.
If I desire more self-control in my life, I cannot find it within myself. If I am the lord of my life, why on earth would I resist myself? How can I desire to satisfy myself less when my only aim is to bring to bear the things which my heart desires? I believe we all want self-control because we see the damaging effects of over-indulgence. But we cannot fall into the ironic trap of digging deeper for self-control. If we want to change trajectory, we have to do something different. Perhaps it’s not the desires of my heart that need to be sought after, but the heart of God. If it is the gift of His Spirit that I’m after, then perhaps I should take my finger off of my own artery and start searching for the pulse of God’s heart. It beats for the Kingdom. It beats for me. And it beats for you.
A moment of honesty: Do you believe, with all of your heart, that God wants His very best for you? Do you believe that if you stopped trying so hard to be satisfied, that God would satisfy you? These are real doubts and fears that we carry, and I promise it’s okay. But now it’s time to offer those to your heavenly Father and ask Him to help you trust Him more.Share Tweet
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. - Romans 12:2 (NLT)
In a galaxy far, far away on a distant, primitive planet called Dagoba, a young Jedi hopeful named Luke Skywalker sought out the tutelage of the great Jedi Master Yoda. During his training, Yoda challenged Luke’s notions of what the Force was and how it worked, and whether or not Luke could hope to understand its power. His time on the planet with Yoda was decidedly marked with failure. Just as he would start to see the effects of the Force, he would sink into doubt, and failure quickly followed. One of the many quotable Yoda-isms that we love from the movies was, “You must unlearn what you have learned.”
In essence, Yoda was telling him, ‘You are not being transformed by the power I’m showing you because you are still relying on your old understanding.’ Yet no matter how much Yoda spoke into his doubt and encouraged him to reach out beyond his limitations, Luke continued to falter. And before we judge Luke too harshly, he is really like most of us. How often do we say, “God, I’m ready for things to be better,” and then look around say, “Okay… so why aren’t things better yet?” Luke took the right first step in seeking out Yoda, to learn from the master, but then he failed to submit himself to the teaching. In the same way, we can be great at recognizing when we are in need of a Savior, but not as great at letting ourselves be saved.
Failure is part of the deal. We can’t hope to be perfect, but we can still strive to be more like Jesus. He loved well, taught well, worked hard, rested well, was quick to listen and slow to anger, had bottomless compassion, and wanted what the Father wanted. It’s why He taught us to pray in Matthew 6, “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When we need an example, we need look no further than the Son. We see Jesus exercise self-control in the face of temptation because He was acutely aware of God’s heart in all things… by knowing the heart of the Father, He knew what needed to be pursued and what needed to be resisted. Through the gift of His Spirit, we have that same benefit and can rely on Him in that way.
The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray. - Proverbs 12:26 (NLT)
My wife loves sweets. Her sweet tooth is truly remarkable to me because I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. Where my wife could tank an entire carton of Oreos, I could binge chips and salsa until my head turned into a jalapeno. One day, I remember my wife making an admission of sorts, a declaration that, “If there are sweets in the house, I will eat them all.” This started a new behavior for us because now, unless we’re providing dessert for a party, we don’t purchase sweets just to have in the house. When I’m wanting to give my wife something special, I may come home with Oreos (or if it’s Christmas time, those Little Debbie Christmas cakes). It’s not that our life can’t have sweet treat moments, but what we didn’t want was to let the sweet tooth call the shots and live in a constant state of tension with sweets.
Companionship is God’s gift to us. “It is not good for man to be alone,” he said. I love my wife, and it’s easy enough for me to show that love by taking action against unhealthy impulses so that she can thrive and not carry the weight of self-control alone. If her goal is to avoid sweets so that she can make healthier choices, then she ought to be able to count on me to support her in that goal. Marriage especially requires those kinds of automatic sacrifices. My wife holds me accountable, too, by the way. She knows I have trouble getting up early in the morning and that my desire is to cultivate healthy exercise habits and spiritual disciplines. So she pushes me in those areas and more.
The Church is this big, beautiful community of people who are resolved to pursue Christlikeness together. And within this big, beautiful community, absolutely everyone is on some kind of journey toward discipline and self-control. Therefore, the question becomes: Who can I invite into my journey to help me develop the kind of character that Christ calls me to? Don’t look too far, either. Reach an arm’s length, because those in close proximity to you will best be able to help hold you to a higher standard. In the same way that we are learning to lean on Christ for wisdom, lean on others for strength and accountability, because in your combined strength, you will find it much easier to bear the weight of change.
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. - Psalms 37:23 (NLT)
Dave Ramsey has been going strong for a long time, helping families across America achieve financial freedom by holding [very] firmly to core principles and behaviors. These behaviors cultivate healthy financial habits and shun conventional wisdom regarding credit and lending practices. People who are strict followers of Ramsey’s financial program find themselves part of a large and enthusiastic community that continually engages in the conversation and has a process for inviting more people into financial freedom. They long to be able to go on his radio show and give their “debt-free scream” on air.
You find the same enthusiasm within group fitness gyms like Jazzercise, Crossfit, and Everybody Fights. These gyms are incredibly popular because they are centered around community. People see you when you’re there and miss you when you aren’t. They celebrate your successes and encourage you when you feel stuck. On the same token, you also have the opportunity to encourage others, to celebrate their successes and help them fight through the growing pains. In this way, everyone becomes an active part of the solution.
Gone are the days of self-reliance, friends. We’ve seen what happens when we insist on “going it alone.” It’s all good to be a person blessed with willpower, but there is no virtue in stubborn pride. We have hopefully learned this week why it’s so important to let our lives be led by the Spirit, to let Him convict our hearts when we need a course correction and let Him speak truth into our circumstances. We also need to invite key people into our lives, people close to us who can tell us the truth in love and hold us to a higher standard. Lastly, there is an open invitation into larger communities that support our goals and celebrate our successes. Living a life of invitation means not only asking others to be part of our journey, but also being willing to share in the journeys of others and walk that path with a community that is striving for greater things.
With Fall Southland Groups kicking off the first week of September, now is a great time to consider how you can build a community around your goals. Want to form an exercise group? A Bible study? A meal planning group? A Financial Peace class? The possibilities are endless, and all you have to do is extend the invitation. Let’s grow in discipline and self-control together!Share Tweet