The past two weeks I’ve written to you about building a healthier family: First, by SURRENDERING your kingdom to God’s kingdom, and second, by living for a PURPOSE bigger than your own.
If you’re anything like me, those two things won’t come naturally; they’ll prove to be a significant heart struggle. So how do we get better? With DISCIPLINE.
A disciplined person inserts good habits into their schedule, repeating them over and over again even when they don’t feel like it. For the Christian, there are many spiritual disciplines: spending time in prayer, reading the Scriptures, attending church, participating in a small group, giving generously of your time and money, and more.
For Christian families, these same spiritual disciplines need to be prioritized: spending time in prayer (with your spouse) // reading the Scriptures (with your kids) // attending church (as a family) // participating in a small group (with your spouse) // giving generously of your time and money (in a way that involves your children).
But I’m concerned that there’s an essential spiritual discipline—with specific ramifications for families—that often gets neglected: It’s the spiritual discipline of saying no.
Before I continue, read Galatians 5:13-15: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (NIV, emphasis added).
To indulge means to allow oneself to enjoy the pleasure of. The Apostle Paul is warning us: “Don’t allow yourself to enjoy the pleasures of sin.” But take another look at those verses. There are specific relational consequences when we indulge the flesh. We are never just sinning in isolation—our spouse, our children, our siblings and our parents will be impacted by our sins.
Let me phrase what I’m trying to communicate in a different way: A family becomes a healthy family when members of that family say no. When husbands and fathers say no to indulging the flesh, the home becomes a safer place. When wives and mothers say no to the pleasures of sin, the family becomes a healthier unit. When brothers and sisters and children say no to themselves, they won’t bite and devour each other—both literally and spiritually!
Disciplining yourself to say no to sin will be hard, just as surrendering to God’s kingdom and living for his purpose is hard. Indulging the flesh is natural for us all, but Jesus understands our inability. Not only does he forgive us when we stumble, he now lives within us and helps us say no to sin and choose instead to serve our family in humble love.
A family becomes a healthy family when members of that family commit to the discipline of saying no to themselves and refuse to indulge the sinful nature. When you live in the power of the Holy Spirit, a beautiful and wonderful home becomes possible!