On Being Sober-Minded
Hello and welcome back to the blog my friend!
Today I wanted to write a bit of a Sunday Series themed post... something more for the faith-based heart. I've been trying to read Scripture from parts of the Bible that I'm less familiar with-- books like Hosea, Philemon, 2nd Chronicles, etc. I highly recommend doing this from time to time, as it can be absolutely startling to realize everything that you're unfamiliar with in Scripture.
So recently, when I was reading in Titus, something caught my eye: a repeated phrase. And if I know ANYTHING from my Christian Reformed sermon upbringing, it's that repeated phrases in sections of the Bible are often meant as an emphasis, and something that we need to zero-in on.
And the repeated phrase from Titus 2? The words, "sober-minded."
Titus 2 New King James Version (NKJV)
Qualities of a Sound Church
2 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: 2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
6 Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.
9 Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
Trained by Saving Grace
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
Sober, sober-minded, and soberly: these words are all hitting on the same idea, and repeated 3 times in this section, whereas other words, like blessed, hope, reverence, and chaste, only appear once. So what are we really being called to here? Why is this emphasized?
Well, I do think firstly, that this Scripture is pointing out that we are called to be sober when it comes to drunkenness, or substances, or any other kind of addiction. But more than that, I believe that being sober-minded is having a mindset of total CLARITY.
Being sober-minded means having a clear head and complete self-control over our words, choices, actions, and life, (things that we do not have control over if we are clouded by substances.)
When we are sober-minded, it means we are in control of our emotions, actions, and words. It means that we use our minds to wisely think before we speak, and to pursue wisdom in all things. We are to be clear-headed, thinking rationally and not given over to intense passions that overwhelm our minds. We are to worship God with a SOBER MIND, and a posture of CLARITY.
I know so many people who find God or "feel the fire" only when they are in emotionally charged or passionate situations like mission's trips, Christian conferences, or dark and smoky worship services. There seems to be an intense draw to the cross, but only when accompanied with the right song, the right worship leader, and the right setting.
But you know what? Feeling the fire is fine: it's not WRONG to feel passionate about Jesus or to feel emotional. It's not wrong to feel intense during a mission's week, or to feel emotional during prayer, worship, or any other kind of connection with God.
HOWEVER, we should not rely solely on passionate experiences to be the basis of our connection to God.
Many become disloyal or unfaithful to God when they stop feeling the intense emotional "fire" they only felt during that Christian Youth Conference. And this is why we cannot build our foundation of faith on these extreme emotional highs! Because they ultimately hinder our faith-lives more than help them.
Being so caught up in the passionate emotions of our faith can sometimes prevent us from worshiping God in a state of clarity... and in a state of sobriety. Because true worship and obedience to God is a life lived for Him regardless of how we ~feel~ in the moment.
Walking faithfully with God throughout our lives means obeying and worshiping Him even when we don't feel His presence. It means lifting Him up in hallelujah, even when we're not in a dark and smokey worship room singing with a drum-beat. It means having faith in Him, despite our emotional lows or distant feelings, and it ultimately means obeying Him, even when things are extremely difficult.
Because, the human heart is fickle: our emotions are fickle! We cannot trust our emotions or our passions to be the compass or barometer of whether or not we're going to follow Jesus today!
God is always present, whether we feel Him or not.
We are called to worship and obey God not out of an emotional and passionate heart, but out of a place of true sobriety and clarity. We are to obey Him, knowing FULL WELL what we are doing and why we are doing it, not just out of a waterfall of emotions, or from following the passionate herd.
I know SOOOOOO many "Christians" who gave their lives to Christ during an emotional evening at a Christian youth weekend camp, only to turn away from God immediately after returning home. And why is this a common story?
Well, it's because those decisions are often not made in a sober state of mind! People in these situations are often primed by emotional songs, passionate testimonies, and intense imagery to stir their emotions immediately before giving their lives to God. And it is often a successful recipe for soul-winning: stir the emotions, send out the passion, and then capture the hearts for Jesus. What could go wrong?
Well... a lot.
It is clear from Scripture that this is not the go-to method for winning hearts and minds to Christ. Jesus didn't bring a smoke-machine and a few interpretive dancers with Him to guarantee that Peter and John would follow Him when He asked them to! No! He called out to them and allowed them to make their decision with a SOBER MIND.
And I believe this is what we should strive for as Christian women: to worship God and to choose Him out of a completely rational state of mind.
And no, this does not mean that all emotional moments of giving our lives to Christ are wrong. I felt quite emotional when I gave my life over completely to Christ! You should! You are asking the One True God to forgive you: repentance is hardly EVER unemotional.
But the true rubric of whether that commitment is genuine is what happens when the emotion dissipates, leaving a sober-mind in its stead. What happens after the commitment is what really shows whether or not you made a clear-headed decision to follow and obey Jesus.
And this doesn't mean we will never sin again, fall away, or turn away from God. Peter denied knowing Jesus THREE TIMES despite having seen and known Him in the flesh! No. We will all sin. But living a life in active obedience with constant repentance is much different than giving our lives to Christ and then never thinking about it again.
It is not wrong to show emotional love for God, but if that is the only way you can access your faith, then you are building your house on the sand. For it is when we turn to Him with a sober mind and clear head that we are most faithful.
I believe that we are to follow Christ, working towards discipline and taking up our crosses every day while walking in step with His teachings. The goal should be to live with a mindset founded on rational clarity: controlled and peaceful, and in control of our emotions. It is to be able to think and act with clarity and to have a full understanding of our choices.
I kind of think of it like being in a relationship with someone who can only stand to be around you when they're drunk or high: that's not a real relationship! Likewise, we should not only reach out or follow Christ when we are drunk on emotions or high in the Spirit. It should be a faithful walk taken one step at a time, day-by-day.