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. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. 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. 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.
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is quite possibly one of the most relatable passages of scripture I have ever unpacked in all my life. I just imagine Paul, who penned the book we know as Romans, writing himself in circles trying to figure out why our mind, our heart, and the Spirit of God in us can’t seem to dance to the same tune. I don’t know about you, but I have pages on pages in my journal that sound a lot like this passage.
We know what is right, for the most part, yet our thoughts and actions don’t always line up. Like, we don’t need that second slice of cake, but we let our taste buds make the call. Or we see that staying silent could diffuse a tense conversation, but we just have to have the final word. Maybe we know we shouldn’t date that guy, but we find ourselves in a tangled, shady mess. Those are just some examples that I’ve lived first-hand––but how about you?
If you’re anything like me, it’s a classic case of good intentions unable to make up the distance for our innate tendency to fall short. In our humanity, we are wired to sin. And it can feel a lot like madness when we know what we should do, but then we do the exact opposite. The good news? As Paul shares at the end of that passage, Jesus Christ has made a way to get a grip on that madness and show our mind who’s boss.
I recently had the opportunity to walk through a 21 day fast with my leaders and staff team at the church I belong to. This biblical discipline forces our cravings, haphazard living, and our flesh, or self, into total submission by seeking God more than human wants (like food, coffee, etc.). Through that process, I discovered a word picture found in 1 Corinthians 9 that has helped shape the practice of discipline across every area of my life. And as we learn to bring our mind in alignment with God’s standard of living, this same word picture is spot on.
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. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. –1 Corinthians 9:25-27a
All athletes are disciplined in their training…
The first part of this passage contains the Greek word agōnizomai. This word alone conveys a lot. It means to strive, to fight, or to labor fervently. It was often used to describe someone who contended, struggled, and fought to obtain something. Many of you have heard the phrase fight the good fight of faith. Well, it uses that same word! I love how the KJV translates this into “striveth for the mastery”. We can master our bodies, our minds, and our sinful nature when we dedicate ourselves to fighting that good fight.
I discipline my body like an athlete…
In the original Greek, the word used for this discipline is hypōpiazō. Literally meaning to make weary or to keep under, this word was used to describe being beaten black and blue. The picture it paints in the Greek is of a boxer who handles his body roughly, or disciplines it by putting it through hardships. It’s the process of subduing your passions, and it’s not pretty. It’s actually pretty intense! The battle between what we should do and what our natural tendency to do is so real. The Spirit of God in us is at war with our sinful nature, and war can be brutal. Sometimes we need to get rough and tough on our old habits, impure desires, and destructive thoughts. We are given a warrior spirit to fight and content for victory through Jesus.
…training it to do what it should.
The word for this phrase is doulagōgeō. Translated form Greek, this means to bring something into subjection. It’s a word picture of someone or something being led away into slavery, being claimed as a slave, and then to be treated as such. Slaves were treated with severity. They were subject to stern and rigid discipline. This is the picture of how we are to position ourselves in mastery of our body, our nature, and essentially our mind. It’s somewhat of a role reversal. Our minds influence our perceptions, decisions, and behaviors. Naturally, the mind is the master of who we are and what we do. But the Word of God challenges us to flip the script and use the power given to us through Christ to enslave our sinful nature. Rigid discipline and unwavering subjection puts our indulgent nature and sinful cravings where they belong.
So, what steps can we take to get there? Here are 3 solid ways to get our mind in line:
- Read God’s Word
In the pages of scripture we find the truth necessary to combat the lies of the world and the temptation to do what’s wrong in God’s eyes. It allows us to see clearly what’s right, then empowers us with the authority needed to show our mind that Jesus has the final say in what we think, say, and do.
Putting on our armor of God every day (see Ephesians 6), and asking God to align our heart and our path with His will keeps us in step with Him on a daily basis. Pray about everything, simply by conversing with God throughout the day. It helps us develop a fine-tuned ability to hear His voice, which helps guide our mind in everything we do.
This is a practical discipline where we learn to bring our mind into full submission to God. It may be a totally new principle to you––that’s okay! Take some time to pray through what God might have you to do, then commit yourself to that fervently.
Tip: The book “Fasting” by Jentezen Franklin helped me understand the importance, power, and practicality of fasting.
Putting our flesh under submission to the reign of Jesus in our life is what we have to do every day to run with purpose and run to win. Our sinful nature is rebellious, reckless, and without remorse. However, Christ within us is mightier than the madness and grants us the power to show our mind who’s boss. Let’s get out there with some fierce zeal for becoming the godly women we’re made to be. Let’s choose to contend, fight, and strive to master our mind, every single day.