What Does it Mean to be Sober Minded?

Its time to sober up. This call to mental action in Scripture is ignored by most people because they do not believe it applies to them but ironically, this is the very self-deception that the Bible is calling us to wake up from. Most people plow through life in a state of semi consciousness, allowing themselves to be driven by the flow around them or taking the path of least resistance.

This call to be sober minded is much more than simply not being drunk, it’s a call to wake up! Open your eyes and start living in accordance with God’s Word, what you already know, with what you say you believe. A long time ago, my high school football coach had a colorful way of expressing this to us by telling us we had our heads in places they did not belong and he would attempt to jar us back into the present with loud obscenities or a swift smack to the helmet. I am pretty sure I could identify him by his tonsils to this day.

The words translated as sober minded have the same connotation in all 10 verses they are used in the Bible, which is being sober, self-controlled, restrained, and temperate. But what is more important is the context in which you find these words being used. In three of these verses the emphasis is on character qualifications, giving us ways to evaluate the character of a person and decide if they are qualified to have responsibilities such as elders and deacons. The other seven verses give us more insight into what is really means to be sober minded and I am drawn to 1 Peter 1:13-15 but I also find this call to think clearly in 1 Thessalonians 5 to be very relevant for today.

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Do not get stuck here thinking that this is purely a text that teaches about end times and the return of Jesus, while that is true, the emphasis is more on living in reality, understanding what your identity should be as a follower of Christ and living in accordance with it. One of the key phrases here is a call to wake up and see that all is not well. The world is saying there is peace and security and lulling you into a false sense of peace. This misleading security and peace is nothing new, God called out the false prophets in Ezekiel 13 for claiming that there was peace when there was not peace and the same in Jeremiah 6 where the prophets were condemned for “healing the people lightly” by alleviating their immediate concerns while ignoring the fact that the people were no longer following God but instead were worshiping idols and not even ashamed of it. This call to be sober in Thessalonian is a reminder for those who are already saved but there are many who have a false sense of security, thinking they are saved but will one day hear these dreadful words spoken by Jesus…

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Mt 7:21–23

So, the first and most important call to be sober is to give thought to your faith. Do you claim to be a Christian because you grew up in a Christian home or because you regularly go to church? Or because you are a “good person”? There are people who go to church every week and may even serve regularly but they have never realized their need for a savior and have not repented and run to God in desperate thanksgiving for sending Jesus to take their sins to the Cross. Saving faith is not just believing that Jesus died for your sins, even the demons know that is true and they shudder (James 2:19), but they do not repent, nor do they love God. This disconnect could be compared to a man who says he loves his wife yet does nothing to show it. He may serve his wife in a mechanical way, just enough to sustain a status quo for his own good but there is not an overflowing of love that compels him to love his wife sacrificially.

Saving faith is one from which action flows (James 2:14–26) because there has been a heart change and a residing of the Holy Spirit. True repentance is when you are like Job and say to God, I was wrong and you are right, I will shut up and listen to you now. I despise myself and love you…

 “I know that you can do all things,

and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

    ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’

       Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,

things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

    ‘Hear, and I will speak;

I will question you, and you make it known to me.’

    I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,

but now my eye sees you;

    therefore I despise myself,

and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:2–6

Do you love God and His ways? Do you want to be more like Him? Do you trust Him? If the answers are yes, then these are all signs of a heart that has been softened by God and results in a realization that you were at enmity with Him and are turning to Him for rescue and adoption.

Some questions to think about…

What do you believe about God and are you living accordance to your beliefs?

Do you love God and His ways?

Do you hate what God hates?

Do you want to be more like God and less like the world?

Is your faith based on the work you do or on Gods work alone?

Next time we will look at what sober minded living looks like for Christians.

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