Successful Christian Living, Pt 3 – Self-Discipline & Sacrifice

(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)

Sermon Study Sheets

 Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

September 30, 2001

Successful Christian Living, Pt 3

Self-Discipline and Sacrifice

Americans have become used to being able to accomplish things with the minimum of effort. This is in great part due to our prosperity. Our time is more valuable to us than the cost of a machine that will enable us to do the job more efficiently. For example, I purchased a small electric sander this past week so that I could prepare the front porch of the parsonage for painting. The electric sander makes the job much easier for me physically, and it also makes better use of my time. Simply put, my time is too valuable to spend trying to hand sand the porch. I think we would all agree with that.

However, there is also a negative aspect to the mentality of trying to accomplish something with a minimum of effort. Our prosperity can lead us into thinking that there is an easy way to do everything, and there are thousands of salesmen that are out there to convince you that their product is the easy way to accomplish what you want. Again, there are easier ways to accomplish a lot of things, but many things cannot be accomplished without a lot of effort.

For example, many people want to have their bodies in prime condition, but the requirement of dietary restrictions and physical exercise are not very appealing. Time is valuable. Physical exercise is hard work, and healthy diets are not fun. The result, a host of products that promise that you can look like Mr. or Miss America by using their product for only 15 minutes a day, and the person they show using it does not look like they are even breaking a sweat. Diets products are offered that promise that you will lose weight even though you can eat as much as you want on their plan, or you can even eat all sorts of deserts on their plan. The products and plans sell well because people want the results offered with little effort on their part.

Although it is a shame that this mentality leads people to waste their money on such things, the greater tragedy is that they carry it over into their spiritual lives. Many Christians fail to live the Christian life successfully simply because they have accepted the lie that there is little to no work involved on their part. This is a consequence of the holiness movement of the mid-1800’s that taught that after salvation God would bring upon you a “second blessing,” also sometimes called the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” after which you would be a changed person who would live a righteous life. The emphasis was placed on God changing you by, if you will, a spiritual “zap,” so you should “let go and let God.” The many verses dealing with the believer’s responsibilities to pursue holiness by setting aside sin are ignored or reinterpreted. The result is a spiritual roller coaster ride in which God is ultimately blamed for not keeping the person from sin.

This is the great tragedy of the concept of an easy spirituality. The responsibility an individual has in abstaining from sin and pursuing holiness is removed and God is blamed for not changing them. Frankly, that is blasphemy, yet many professing Christians live with that mentality. They pray fervently that God would change them, yet they will not obey what God has commanded that will change them. They live as the world lives and then wonder why they lack success in the Christian life.

A successful Christian is a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and, as an adopted child of God, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand.

The Necessity of Self-Discipline

To be successful in the Christian life, it is necessary to be self-disciplined. Webster defines self discipline as “the process of training one’s emotions and impulses so that they conform to a certain standard of behavior in all circumstances.” Outside influences are helpful in this process, but eventually the individual must decide how they want to live and what goals they want to accomplish in life and then choose those activities that will enable them to live according to those standards and reach those goals.

Self-discipline is necessary for success in any aspect of life. You cannot be successful in academics unless you are self-disciplined to study. That is one of the main reasons that Diane and I homeschool. It gives us much more time and interaction with the boys in teaching them underlying discipline and moral character which is foundational to any future success in academics, business and life.

Most of you are familiar with the discipline necessary to be successful in any sport. You must practice, practice and then practice some more, and all the time you put into practice keeps you from doing something else. The same is true in music. Mary did not learn to play the piano in a day, month or year. Her abilities are the results of many years of practice. The same is true for our other musicians.

Success in business requires self discipline. A lack of discipline results in poverty. Proverbs 6:6-11 warns, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, 7 Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, 8 Prepares her food in the summer, [And] gathers her provision in the harvest. 9 How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10 “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest”– 11 And your poverty will come in like a vagabond, And your need like an armed man”.

Discipline underlies all success. How foolish it is for people to think they can some how be successful in the Christian life without self-discipline.

Hebrews 11 is often called the “hall of faith” for it gives many examples of people who exhibited their faith in God by how they lived. The list includes Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, many of the Judges, king David and refers to many of the prophets. In chapter 12 the reader is encouraged to follow their example by living is a similar manner. Verses 1-4 state: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. 4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.”

Notice that inherent within this passage is the need to be self-disciplined and sacrificial in order to reach the goal. Living the Christian life successfully is going to cost you something. To be self disciplined you have to be able to discern between what is evil, what is good, what is better and what is best. Notice at the end of verse one that you have to lay aside both “every encumbrance” and the “sin which so easily entangles” you.

That you must abstain from sin should be an easy concept for any Christian to understand for the Bible is full of verses commanding us to do so. We are to “consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Col. 1:5). We are to put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech from our mouths, and we are not to lie to one another since we are to have laid aside the old self with its evil practices (Col. 1:8,9). Sin is no longer to be our master, so we are to no longer let sin reign in our mortal bodies that we should obey its lusts (Rom. 6:12-14).

But it is not just sin that must be laid aside, but also “every encumbrance.” These include things that may be good, but they keep you from reaching your goal. The analogy given explains this. If you are going to run a race, you do not wear an overcoat and combat boots while carrying around a sack of groceries. None of these things are bad and you could run the race with them, but you could not run the race well. To be self-disciplined you have to discern between not only what is good and evil, but also between what is good, better and best.

But discerning that is not enough either. You must then exercise your volition, your ability to make choices, and set aside even the good and better things so that you can pursue the best. There is no legalism involved in a good runner setting for themselves standards for their diet, physical training and even sleep. They willingly set aside what others might enjoy so that they can achieve what is most important to them. The same is true in successfully living the Christian life. We set standards for ourselves and willingly set aside what others may enjoy so that we can achieve what is most important to us. The question then becomes, what is important to you?

Jesus is the example for us. He is the perfecter of our faith. What should be important to us is to become like Him, since that is a purpose of our salvation (Rom. 8:29). There is hard work involved in the pursuit of holiness, and there must be active resistance to the forces that would seek to corrupt you. As verse 4 points out, that our resistance may even require severe measures. As the rest of the passage points out, God will do His part, even bringing discipline and chastisement upon His people who stray, but we must do our part too.

That is the paradox of godliness. It cannot be achieved by your own effort regardless of how hard you work at it. Your best efforts do not measure up to God’s standard of holiness. That is why we seek His mercy and grace. At the same time, holiness cannot be achieved without it your hard work toward it. God is not going to spiritually “zap” you so that you no longer sin. You will, like all other Christians, continue to struggle against sin until either you die or Jesus comes. This paradox is, however, simple to understand in its outworking. God gives us commands that He expects us to obey, but which we cannot obey in our sinful state. As we step out in faith to obey Him, He extends His grace, mercy and power to enable us to obey. That is the life of faith. I step out to obey what God says trusting that He will enable me to do what I cannot do on my own.

The reason that people do not like to be self-disciplined in the Christian life is two-fold. First, basic laziness desires that the goal be achieved with minimal effort. Add to this the false theological concept from the holiness movement I have already discussed. Many people believe that they do not have to work hard to become godly. Second, the goal of personal holiness is not really that important to many professing Christians. They have a view of salvation that is in error. They consider themselves to be saved from Hell, not saved from sin to righteousness. They have their eternal fire insurance policy, so why bother with anything else? They also have a self-centered view of God. God does not exist for our benefit. We exist for His. My life is not about me. It is about God. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

In order to be successful in the Christian life, there are several areas in which we must become self-disciplined. I will be expanding on some of these areas in the future, but I want to at least give a brief introduction to them this morning.

Self-Discipline in Appetites

The first area is self-discipline in our appetites. 1 John 2:15,16 commands, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” We must be self-disciplined in our bodily appetites, our desire for things and our quest for fame and power.

The Lust of Flesh includes food and physical pleasure. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with food or physical pleasure. Throughout the Old Testament we find that the worship of God often included a feast. Even in the sacrifices, the one offering the sacrifice would often also eat part of the sacrifice. In the New Testament, Paul states clearly in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 that God has given us foods for which we should give thanks and receive with gratitude, and that the idea of abstaining from foods as means to greater spirituality is a doctrine from demons. There is nothing wrong with sore muscles receiving a warm bath and a rub. Song of Solomon, Proverbs 5 & Hebrews 13:5 all tell us that pleasure in marriage is good.

The problem John points out here is not the food or physical pleasure, but the strong desire, properly translated “lust” here, for such that is not according to godliness. Hedonism, the view that pleasure is the highest good, is opposed to godliness. The desires of our flesh must be in complete submission to our quest for holiness.

We need to eat, but gluttony is evil because it substitutes satisfaction with food for satisfaction in living for God. Marital intimacy is good and commanded by God, but fornication and adultery are evil and prohibited by God.

To what degree have you fallen into the hedonistic mindset of our society? How do you demonstrate self-discipline in your relationship to your bodily appetites? How is your quest for satisfying the desires of your flesh hindering you from walking with God as you ought? If you are lacking the self-discipline you know you need, perhaps it is time to share your struggle with someone else and ask them to hold you accountable so that you can develop the necessary discipline. That is a proper function of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:14-16).

The Lust of Eyes is similar. The problem does not exist in the beauty of what exists or the things themselves, but rather in the quest to find satisfaction in them rather than in God. There is a lot to enjoy in being in a beautiful setting, but as Solomon discovered after making gardens and parks for himself, these were also vanity as were all the other things he collected for himself (Eccl. 2). Again, we should be thankful for all the beauty we can see and for the things we have, but they are not to be the focus of our lives.

The lust of the eyes is the basis for coveting. I see something and I want it. God wants us to be content with what we have. Paul states in Philippians 4:11-13 that he learned to be content in all circumstances whether being filled or going hungry or having abundance or suffering need. All Christians must learn this lesson so that we will not be anxious for things like the non-Christians, but instead seek first the Lord’s kingdom and righteousness and trust Him to supply our needs.

How are you doing in this area? If you struggle with coveting, sometime it is best to reduce the amount of temptation. Stay out of the malls and don’t look at the advertisements in the paper, magazines and on television. Pornography fits in this area too. Have someone hold you accountable. If you use the internet, use a filter for protection. Keep your computer in a place where anyone can walk in and see what you are doing at anytime. That is a great protection, not only from pornography, but from wasting your time doing other things not in keeping with your goals in life.

The Pride of Life is that desire to gain fame or power or both. There is nothing inherently wrong with being well known or in being in a position of authority over others. We all rejoice when there is a godly person in charge (Prov. 29:2). Again the problem is the quest to gain those things instead of living in submission to God. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). We are to humble ourselves before Him and let Him exalt us in His own timing as He desires (1 Peter. 5:6).

Self discipline in all of these areas is required. God’s desires must be placed over your own or you will reach the end of your life and find that you have accomplished little or nothing of importance. Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 that the work you do in your life will be tested. Those whose work survives the test will receive a reward, but those whose work is burned up will be saved, but as through fire. I would think any reasonable Christian would desire to have their lives count for eternity and not have their work shown to be worthless.

Self-Discipline in Time

Christians also need to be disciplined with their time. Time is a very precious gift given to everyone to be spent, for none of it can be stored. Each day you receive 86,400 seconds. That may sound like a lot, but we all know they go by quickly. Your success in life will be dependant upon what you do with them. There are 112 hours in a week. The average person spends 56 of those asleep and another 48 hours in working. That leaves 64 hours for meals, clean up, chores and free time. How much of that will you spend in developing your relationship with God and serving Him? The tragedy is that for most professing Christians, it will be very little.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:15,16, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” The idea of “redeeming” or “making the most of your time” in this passage is to take advantage of the opportunities while you can. Colossians 4:5 adds, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.” Galatians 6:10 adds, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

The problem we face is that without discipline the opportunities are lost because we squander the time needed to take advantage of them. A little poem entitled, “All I Meant to Do,” expresses this well.

Said yesterday to tomorrow: “When I was young like you,

I , too, was fond of boasting Of all I meant to do.

But while I fell a-dreaming Along the pleasant way,

Before I scarcely knew it, I found I was today!

And as today, so quickly My little course was run,

I had not time to finish One-half the things begun.

Would I could tri it over, But I can ne’er go back;

A yesterday forever, I now must be, alack!

And so, my good tomorrow If you would make a name

That history shall cherish Upon its roll of fame,

Be all prepared and ready Your noblest part to play

In those new fleeting hours When you shall be today.”

It is easy to think of all the great things we will accomplish tomorrow, but unless the reality of each day is progressing you to accomplish those things, it is soon yesterday and the opportunities are gone. Life is brief. It is often described in the Bible as the grass or a flower of the field which springs up and flourishes, but then as quickly withers and is forgotten (Psalm 90:5,6; Isa. 40:6-8, 51:12; James 1:10,11; 1 Peter1: 24). Even if you live to be 70 or 80 years old, life is brief. Ask anyone 20 years older than you and they will tell you life passes quickly. At 10 life seems a slow walk down a garden path. At 20 the pace picks up to a brisk jog. At 30 your on a bike and are energetically wheeling down the highway. At 40 you have traded the bike for a car and wondering if you are on the right road. At 50 the car is a formula one racer. At 65 you’re the passenger in a jet. In your lap is a photo album full of memories of past times. Looking out your window, life whizzing by in a blur. You would like to turn around and go the other direction, but it is a one way ticket.

Life passes quickly. Moses prayed in Psalm 90 that the Lord would teach us to number our days that we might present to Him a heart of wisdom. That needs to be our prayer too.

It is popular to refer to “killing time,” but the truth is that we cannot kill it. We can only either use it or waste it. Wasted time is what is spent doing something other than what is in fulfillment of or in progress towards your goals in life. What are your goals in life? How much time do you waste?

Procrastination is not just a matter of putting off big things, for it is usually the little things that wipe out our time. If you are not progressing as you would like towards what you want to accomplish with your life, then you have to rearrange things in your life so that you are actually working on your priorities, and you have to learn to use even small bits of time wisely. It has been said many times that just 15 minutes per day devoted to one definite study will make you a master of it in a dozen years. Very few people can write full time. Most authors write their books in snatches of time. The Bible contains 1,189 chapters. If you read just 3 1/4 chapters a day, you will compete it in one year. You can memorize Scripture verses while standing in line, doing chores or commuting. Just write out the verses on some cards and review them whenever you have a few seconds. There are thousands of ways to make better use of your time. All it really takes is a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish with your life and then setting your priorities to reach those goals. So again, what are your goals? What do you want to hear God say to you when you stand before Him? What are you doing to make the best use time so that you can take advantage of the opportunities given to you?

Self-Discipline in Finances

A third area of self-discipline is in finances. We are going to talk about this in detail next week, but in brief, finances, like time, must be used wisely if you are going to reach your goals. You must keep your priorities in order or you will be the victim of salesmen that will get you to buy things you don’t need or ultimately even want. Garage sales are proof of that. They play upon your desire for the things of this world.

Please understand that you cannot have two masters. Jesus said it in Matthew 6:24. You will hate the one and love the other or you will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (riches). Which are you serving? Simply examine what you treasure, i.e., what you greatly value, for that will reveal your heart.

You are a steward of what God has entrusted to you. Nothing really belongs to you. God has simply loaned it to you for your use the few brief years you have on this earth. You will eventually give an account to Him of how you used it. I want to hear Him say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” I hope you do too. Again, we will examine this topic in detail next week.


Self-discipline is simply the means by which we accomplish in life what we actually believe is important and not become distracted with the many things, even good things, that would hinder us from reaching our goals. Inherent within the effort to live as a successful Christian is the idea of sacrifice, for the goals that we set for our lives are no longer about us, but about living for Christ.

Paul states in Romans 12:1,2, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

In a sacrifice the animal dies. In the Christian life our old life is to be considered dead. I quoted Galatians 2:20 earlier, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” The living part is Jesus Christ living in us.

In view of all that Jesus Christ has done for us in redeeming us from our sins, this should be normal for Christians. Having died to our own life, we should not be conformed to the desires of the world, but instead, we are to be transformed into the image of Christ. This is accomplished through the renewing of our minds and that takes place through coming to know and understand the Bible and living according to it (Eph. 5:26).

Do you want to successfully live the Christian life? Then you must set your goals in life according to God’s will. You need to be seeking to bring glory to God’s name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting yourself to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand.

You then need to set your daily activities according to these priorities so that you can fulfill the purpose of your life. That will require discipline of your appetites, time and finances. Your life is to be a living sacrifice for Christ, so none of this is unreasonable.

If you recognize areas of your life that need to change, then start on it today. Do not put it off. You break a bad habit by substituting it with a good habit. You create a good habit by doing the right thing and then repeating it over and over again over a long period of time. If you would like help to get started or simply to be held accountable, then please ask for it. A purpose of the body of Christ is to help one another with these things. If you do not know who to ask, talk with me or one of our church leaders. Let’s help each other be living sacrifices for Christ and gain the needed discipline to be successful in the Christian life.

Sermon Study Sheets


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) How many times is the word “self-discipline” or “sacrifice” mentioned? 2) Talk with your parents about the importance of being disciplined in pursuing godliness.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Give examples of people trying to accomplish tasks with the minimum of effort. Which of these resulted in them becoming the victim of a salesman? How have you seen the same mentality exhibited in Christians in their spiritual lives? What effect has the holiness movement of the mid-1800’s had on Christians today? What is self-discipline? Why is self-discipline necessary for success in academics? Sports? Music? Business? According to Heb. 12:1, what must the Christian set aside in order to live successfully? What does “every encumbrance” refer to? What must you be able to discern in order to be self-disciplined? What must you also do once you have made those discernments? What is the paradox of godliness? What part does God play? What part do you play? Why don’t people like to be self-disciplined? What is the “lust of the flesh”? Are food or physical pleasure the problem? How do they hinder your walk with God? How do you discipline your bodily appetites? What is the “lust of the eyes?” How do you discipline your eyes? What is the “pride of life?” What can help you overcome it? Why do we need to be disciplined in our time? What are your goals in life? How much time do you waste? How can you make better use of your time? What do you treasure? Are you serving God or riches? How can you be a better steward of what God has entrusted to you? What does it mean to be a “living sacrifice?” Are you one? What will you change today?

Sermon Notes – 9/30/2001 A.M.

Successful Christian Living: Self-Discipline & Sacrifice – Selected Scripture


The desire for an easy life

Consequences of the Holiness movement

A successful Christian is a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and, as an adopted child of God, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand.

The Necessity of Self-Discipline

Definition “the process of training one’s emotions and impulses so that they conform to a certain standard of behavior in all circumstances.”

Necessity for success in life

Necessity for success in the Christian Life (Hebrews 12:1-4)

Abstaining from sin (Colossians 1:5,8,9; Romans 6:12-14)

Laying aside every encumbrance

Self discipline requires discernment between what is ________, what is ________, what is _________ and what is __________.

You must then exercise your volition

The Paradox of Godliness

Self-Discipline in Appetites (1 John 2:15,16)

Lust of the Flesh

Good food and physical pleasure (1 Timothy 4:1-5; Proverbs 5:15-19; Hebrews 13:5)

Evil Desires

Lust of the Eyes

Vanity (Eccl. 2)

Basis of Coveting (Phil. 4:11-13)

Boastful Pride of Life – Prov. 29:2; 1 Peter 5:5,6

Self-Discipline in Time (Ephesians 5:15,16; Colossians 4:5; Galatians 6:10)


Brevity of Life (Psalm 90:5,6; Isa. 40:6-8, 51:12; James 1:10,11; 1 Peter1:24)


Self-Discipline in Finances (Matthew 6:24)

Sacrifice (Romans 12:1,2)

You break a bad habit by substituting it with a good habit. You create a good habit by doing the right thing and then repeating it over and over again for a long period of time.

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