Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God’s Beautiful Design for Women, Day 27

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth asks, “Do your kids ever drive you crazy?”

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Why did you lash out at your child? “Well, if he hadn’t painted the living room furniture with butter or filled the dryer with water, I would never have done that.”

What are you saying? “My three-year-old made me crazy!”

No. What happened is that your three-year-old acted in such a way that it brought to the surface and revealed the fact that you were not thinking soundly.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

For several weeks, Nancy has been unpacking Titus 2 for us. It’s been a very helpful series on what it means to live as a woman for God’s glory. This series focuses on several practical topics and today we'll look at parenting. At the end of the program, hear a piece of advice Nancy's given to many families with young kids.

But now, let's get back to the series "God’s Beautiful Design for Women: Living Out Titus 2:1–5."

Nancy: You may remember an article that came out, I think it may have been the cover of a Time magazine issue in 1995, about the EQ factor. EQ stands for “emotional quotient.”

This article was suggesting that emotional intelligence might be even more important than IQ. It was based on a research project done by a researcher at Stanford who took four-year-old children one at a time into a room.

He showed these children a marshmallow, and then he said to them, “You can have this marshmallow right now; but if you wait while I run an errand and don’t eat it until I get back, then when I get back, you can have two marshmallows.” Then the researcher put the marshmallow on the table, left the room for about twenty minutes, and watched.

There was a window that you could only see through one way, and they watched what the children did in that twenty minutes while the researcher was gone.

About a third of the children could not wait. They grabbed the marshmallow as soon as the man left the room. Those were called the impulsive children.

Another third lasted a few minutes. They really tried; you could see them struggling, but they finally gave in and ate the marshmallow.

Then there was the final third that waited until the man got back, and they were rewarded with two marshmallows. That group was called the impulse-controlled four year olds. They were able to delay their gratification to have the marshmallow.

I often wonder what I would have done at the age of four. I can tell you at my age what I would do—“Give me that marshmallow!”

Then fourteen years later, at age eighteen, those children were tested again, and the results were astonishing. On the whole, the kids who were able to hold out for the second marshmallow, the impulse-controlled kids, had grown up to be:

. . . better adjusted, more popular, adventurous, confident, and dependable teenagers.

The children who gave into temptation early on [the impulsive ones] were more likely to be lonely, easily frustrated, and stubborn. They buckled under stress and shied away from challenges. And when some of the students in the two groups took the Scholastic Aptitude Test [the SAT], the kids who held out longer scored an average of 210 points higher.1

So whether a four-year-old would eat a marshmallow or wait was a more accurate determinate of how they would do on their SATs fourteen years later than their IQ. It was amazing. This one test . . . the difference between the third of the kids who were impulsive and the third of the kids who were impulse-controlled.

Now, as I read about that, I thought of this whole issue of self-control, which we come to in our study of Titus 2 today. It’s a crucial concept for every believer at every season of life, and it’s repeated more often than any other quality or characteristic in the book of Titus.

Six times in the book of Titus we have reference to this concept of self-control, which we come to now as something older women are to teach younger women. To be self-controlled. But it’s not just women.

In chapter 1 we saw that this quality of self-control, “impulse control,” is to characterize elders, spiritual leaders in the church. Chapter 1:7–9 describes some of the qualities that must be true of elders in the church—pastors and spiritual leaders. It says,

For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, [All those are qualities that describe someone who does not have self-control.] but he must be hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction and sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

You see two different ways of living there. The person who is not self-controlled is not spiritually qualified to lead the flock of God. But it’s not just for spiritual leaders.

We looked at chapter 2 of Titus, verse 2, where it talks about older men, and it says they “are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” They are to be an example of self-control.

Then in chapter 2, verse 6, it speaks to younger men and says, “Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.” In fact, that’s the only characteristic that is mentioned in relation to younger men.

Then in chapter 2, verse 12, this is something that is to characterize all believers. Start with me in verse 11 of chapter 2.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness [that is a lack of self-control] and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

So we’ve seen that elders, older men, younger men, all believers are to have this quality of self-control.

Now we come to the passage in Titus 2:4–5 that we’ve been focusing on in relation to older women and younger women. Verse 4 tells us that the older women are to train the younger women.

We looked at that word "train" a few sessions ago—sophronidzo—these women to be self-controlled, to be sensible, to cause them to be of sound mind, to bring them to their senses. That’s involved in the word training; even though you don’t see the word self-control there, it refers to self-control.

What are they to train them to do? “To love their husbands and children” (v. 4) and then “to be self-controlled” (v. 5). Self-controlled is the word we want to focus on in this session and those that are coming up.

In this passage, the apostle Paul is speaking to older women and to younger women. What’s he saying to older women?

You need to model self-control. You can’t lead others where you’ve not been yourself. You can’t disciple someone past your own spiritual maturity. But not only are you to model this; you are to be intentional about training the younger women to be self-controlled.

What’s he saying to the younger women? You’re supposed to cultivate self-control, and you’re supposed to do it while you’re young. How many of you wish that you had learned more self-control when you were younger? You feel like there are some battles you may not have today if you had gotten more of that when you were younger? I've thought that a number of times as I've wrestled with this concept here in Titus 2.

I would say now as a woman who is getting older to you younger women, "Be serious about cultivating these qualities before habits are so formed in your life—bad habits that are hard to break."

I want to give you a little bit of a Greek lesson in this session. I’m not a Greek scholar. I’ve actually never had a Greek class, but there are some wonderful tools on the Internet, and other resources that are available.

I want to teach you a word and try and give you a concept of this whole issue of self-control. The word here that is translated self-control in the English Standard Version is the Greek word sophron.

In the English Standard Version and the New International Version, it’s translated "self-controlled." If you have a King James or a New King James Bible, that word is translated "discreet"—to be discreet. If you have a New American Standard, it’s translated "sensible." Self-controlled. Discreet. Sensible.

The King James Version translates this same Greek word sophron three different ways just in the book of Titus. In one place it translates it “sober.” In another place it translates it “temperate,” and here it translates it “discreet.”

You say, “Why are there so many different English translations of this same Greek word?”

There are some other translations you will run across with other related words: sober-minded, of sound mind. I've been struggling with this as I've been studying, and I've said, "This is very confusing. Why are there so many different words? What does this word really mean?"

Well, I think the reason there are so many different translations is that sophron is a word that has a lot of meaning that’s hard to capture in one English word. English words give shades of the meaning, but not the whole meaning, so I want us to look at some of the different aspects of the meaning of sophron.

First of all, the word is not the same Greek word that is used for self-control when we talk about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. I plan to do a series on the fruit of the Spirit and that kind of self-control down the road some day. It's a related concept.

But I've been meditating on this whole concept ofo sophron, self-controlled as we see it in Titus 2. I've been thinking a lot about it as I've been preparing for this series. I've been mulling it over and pondering and asking the Lord to give me insight and understanding. Just even over the last couple of days, I feel like the Lord has been opening my eyes and my heart to a new level of understanding. It's been very challenging and convicting as it relates to needs in my own life about sophron.

Sophron, self-control, has to do with a mindset. A sophron state of mind is what will enable us to live a life that is self-controlled in our behavior, but it starts with a mindset, a sound mind. It’s a sophron state of mind that enables us to curb our fleshly desires. A sophron state of mind will result in our practicing self-control in every area of our lives—our tongue, our behavior, our habits, sexual self-control—all of this will flow out of a sophron mind.

I’m going to park here on this word longer than I had intended in this series. I thought we could just do this in one session, but I’m actually going to end up taking a few sessions, because I have come to believe in my study that this is such a crucial subject.

Why does the apostle Paul talk about this six times in the book of Titus, which is only three short chapters? It is crucial, and the Lord has been speaking to my own life, as I mentioned.

I’m starting to realize that many of my personal struggles and failures in the Christian life are related to my need to be more sophron, so I want to share with you some out of my own journey in this word and help you try to get an understanding of it.

The word sophron comes from two words. The first word, so, from sozo, which means “to save,” or from soas, which means “sound,” and then phren, which means “mind.” It means having a “saved mind,” or a “sound mind.”

It’s a person who acts like their mind has been saved. They have a sound mind. They’re in their right mind, spiritually speaking.

I mentioned earlier in this series that the last part of sophron, the word phren, is actually the modern Greek word for brakes on your car—the car brakes. Have you ever been in your car when the brakes went out?

I just think about it; it must be very, very scary, especially if you’re going fast on a freeway and a truck pulls in front of you and you have no brakes, or if you’re going down a steep mountain incline and your brakes go out. You want to know that your brakes are working if you’re going to be out there in your car and feel safe; if they’re not, you’re going to be in big trouble.

As I think about that, a lot of women are in trouble today—big trouble—because their brakes don’t work. I mean the brakes on their thoughts, the brakes on their tongues, the brakes on their attitudes and their moods.

A person who is sophron knows how to put on the brakes, knows how to stop, knows how to say no and when to say no. A person who is sophron curbs his desires and impulses.

He’s self-controlled. He’s self-disciplined. It’s that “exercise of self-restraint that governs all passions and desires,” says one Bible study resource (Vine's Dictionary). It governs your passions and desires.

A person who has proper thinking is sophron, and that person has developed the ability to govern and discipline himself—his mind, his passions, his affections, and his behavior. He voluntarily places limitations on his freedom (The Complete Word Study Dictionary).

It’s the ability to have self-government; to apply the brakes to your life, your passions, your instincts, your mind, your behavior, and your affections; therefore there’s the ability to resist temptations, to resist the pull and the allure of the world, by having a sophron, a sound mind.

Other commentators describe this word as being “sensible.” In fact, that’s how the New American Standard Bible translates the word sophron—sensible—somebody who shows good sense or sound judgment. You talk about a sensible young woman, she’s sophron; she’s wise.

Another commentator says it’s “that habitual inner self-government, with its constant rein on all the passions and desires” (Vine's Dictionary). It’s learning how to put the brakes on.

According to William Barclay, sophron describes “someone with the mind which has everything under control . . . that cleansing, saving strength of mind which has learned to govern every instinct and passion until each has its proper place and no more.”

The kids who were able to look at the marshmallow on the table and delay eating it, delay that enjoyment to wait for the guy to get back—the ones who could restrain and control those impulses—had a sophron mind. Not in a redeemed sense, but they were exercising self-government, self-control—able to say no, able to wait, able to get their desires fulfilled later.

There are so many, many women in our culture and in our churches today—and many times it’s true of ourselves—who are making foolish and destructive choices and are justifying those choices. I hear some of the most cockamamie things justified and defended, even by some Christian women. I mean, leaving their husbands, leaving their kids—some really crazy things that women get into today.

I think if you would trace it back, you could say it was because they were not sophron in little things. They didn’t have a sound mind. They weren’t self-governed. They didn’t put the brakes on.

You see, most women don’t just get out of bed one morning and say, “I think I’ll go out and have an affair with a guy at work today.” There was a series of compromises where they were not thinking soundly. They were not acting soundly. They were not putting on the brakes.

In situation after situation they had an opportunity where they could eat the marshmallow or wait—say yes or say no—and they ate the marshmallow. They said, “I’m going to do this. It’s just a marshmallow. It’s not a big deal. It’s just a little thing. It’s just saying hi. It’s just not being careful. It’s not an affair.”

They weren’t sophron, sound-minded in the little things. They made seemingly little compromises, and then they ended up in these disastrous circumstances and situations.

I’ve often said about my own thinking, when it comes to emotions and your state of mind, if you give wrong thinking an inch, it will take a mile. I think there is not one of us, as women, who couldn’t really be insane if we let our minds go off in unhealthy and unsound directions.

That’s why we need to be sophron. Sophron is what keeps you sane and stable and functioning and functional and wise and sensible. It’s having a sound mind.

If you don’t have a sophron mind, a sound mind, a self-controlled mind, then eventually you’ll find yourself acting out and fulfilling things that you thought you would never do, saying things you never thought you would say, acting in ways you thought you would never act. It doesn’t help to just look at the behavior; you have to trace it back to, “What was in my thinking that wasn’t sound? Where did I not put on the brakes in my mind?”

Sophron is crucial to the other characteristics that are in this whole curriculum we’re looking at in Titus 2. Women are to love their husbands and love their children. They are to be pure, working at home, kind, submissive to their own husbands—and right in the middle of that you have self-controlled, sophron.

If you don’t have a sound mind, you won’t be able to do these other things. You won’t be able to love your husband when he’s not being lovable.

Your mind will take you down a road that will say, “I deserve a break. I need to speak a piece of my mind. I deserve to be selfish after the way he treated me.” You see how an unsound mind will keep you from being able to love your husband, when it’s tested?

If you don’t have a sound mind, you will not be able to love those three pre-school kids when you’re going on fumes and very little sleep at night . . . or those three teenagers who are challenging the sanity of your mind.

You’ve got to have that sound mind, that self-controlled thinking. If you don’t, you won’t be able to be pure. Lack of a sound mind and discretion will result in a lack of moral chasteness. You won’t be chaste if you don’t have a sound mind.

If you don’t have a sound mind, it will affect your motivation and your ability to fulfill your basic responsibilities in the home. How many of us have looked around sometimes at the mess and the disorder and the chaos in our homes and thought, I just cannot handle this! and mentally we check out, or emotionally we check out, or physically we check out? Because we didn’t have a sound mind.

If you’ve got kids, when does it ever end? The laundry, the cleaning, the picking up, the cooking, just one after another after another, mess upon mess upon mess, and if you don’t have a sound mind, you’re going to go crazy. You’re not going to have the motivation or the ability to be working at home, to be managing your home well, as Titus says that we must.

If you don't have a sound mind, you're not going to be able to be kind to people who are not kind to you. If you don't have a sound mind, you certainly will not be able to be submissive to your husband if you are not self-controlled and your thinking is not rooted in the Word and the ways of God.

So sophron has primarily to do with a state of mind, a mindset, a mental attitude; but it affects everything about the way we live. It’s a sensible, sound mindset, and it results in sensible, sound behavior.

Do you ever look at somebody who’s doing something really out of character or inappropriate, and you think, Why did so-and-so do that? Or maybe you look at yourself and you think, Why did I do that? Why did I buy that thing impulsively that I don't need and I don't have room for? Why did I say that? Why did those words come out of my mouth? Why did I respond to that initiative to that man at word in a way that was flirtatous? Why did I eat that; I was already stuffed?

The reason we do those things, and the reason that person you’re looking at is doing those things, is because they don’t have a sound mind. They aren’t thinking straight.

Irrational behavior, compulsive behavior, impulsive behavior, unstable behavior, fleshly behavior—all these things that get acted out are evidence of a mind that is not sound, because “as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7 NKJV). That’s why the battle begins in the mind, and that’s why God says you must have a sound mind; you must think straight.

An unstable mind will result in unstable behavior. A sound mind will result in sound behavior. A disciplined mind will result in disciplined, godly behavior.

Remember where we started with this whole series in the matter of sound doctrine? That’s really the starting place for a sound mind, and that’s why Paul says in Titus 1:9 that elders are to teach their congregations to know sound doctrine.

Then he says in chapter 2, verse 1, now you are to “teach [things that accord] with sound doctrine.” You are to teach things that fit with sound doctrine. If you have sound doctrine, that will produce sound thinking, a sound mind; and if you have a sound mind, that will produce sound, wise, godly living.

As I’ve been studying this, I’ve found myself wondering how much of our behavior is irrational or erratic or out-of-control or inappropriate? Things we say and do that are compulsive or impulsive? Or we look and say, “Why did I do that? Why do other people do that?”

I think sometimes we focus too much on trying to change or stop the behavior, when the apostle Paul is saying here, no, you need to go back and find out what kind of thinking produced that kind of behavior.

Why did you lash out at your husband? “Well, it’s because he did _________.” No, it’s not because he did whatever. It’s because you didn’t have a sound mind.

Why did you lash out at your child? “Well, if he hadn’t painted the living room furniture with butter or filled the dryer with water, I never would have done that.”

What are you saying? “My three-year-old made me crazy?”

No. What happened is that your three-year-old acted in such a way that it brought to the surface and revealed the fact that you were not thinking soundly. You didn’t have a sound mind.

So, if we want to change the behavior, if we want to deal with these addictions, if we want to deal with these out-of-control impulses and urges and drives and desires and lusts of the flesh, we’ve got to go back and check our thinking and make sure it is sound and rooted in sound doctrine, in the ways and the Words of God.

That’s why it’s so important that you fill your mind and your heart with the Word of God, the Scripture; that you meditate on it day and night; that you’re getting indoctrinated with the Word of God, which will then shape and mold and transform and renew your mind, and out of that will come behavior and speech and habits and patterns in your life that will be wise and sound and godly.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will be right back to pray. All of us need to pray for the type of sound mind she’s been talking about.

That message is part of the series "God’s Beautiful Design for Women: Living out Titus 2:1–5." This passage and this series has touched on a lot of practical issues, like alcohol use and abuse; loving our husbands; and today,  how to be a parent through God’s power. Now, Nancy, I know one piece of advice you’ve often given young moms is get your kids into God’s Word while they’re still young.

Nancy: I do often give that advice. One time I gave that suggestion to a young family back when we were recording Revive Our Hearts in Little Rock, Arkansas, and this mom took that advice to heart. At the time she had very young children—mostly toddler. But she started reading the Bible each day with those children, beginning in Genesis 1:1 and continuing day by day through the entire Word of God. 

Well now those kids are right on the verge of launching into adulthood, and this mom is still reading the Bible to them every day. They’ve gone through the entire Bible several times.

This mom—Carrie Ward—has written a book about her story. It’s full of practical suggestions on how you can make Bible reading a priority in your family, regardless of the ages of your children. The book is called Together: Growing Appetites for God. It’s part of the True Woman line of books from Revive Our Hearts. And we’d like to send you a copy today, for yourself or for a young mom you may know, when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount.

Ask for Carrie’s book when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks Nancy. How well do you think under pressure? Well, God can help you learn to think fast. Find out how tomorrow. Now, let’s pray with Nancy.

Nancy: Lord, we want to be women who have sound minds. There are so many women in this world today who are not thinking straight, who are thinking foolishly, and the results of that are being seen in the fact that they are living foolishly.

How many marriages and homes are being devastated and torn apart because of women who are not thinking and living straight? I’m not saying that men don’t have any part of that, but, Lord, we as women have to take a lot of responsibility and say that a lot of the uproar and chaos in our home is often because we’re not thinking soundly.

So I pray that over these next few sessions You will help us to grasp what it is to have a sound mind and then show us how to get it, and that You really would transform our minds. Thank You that we have the mind of Christ.

You have given us a spirit not of fear but of love and a sound mind. So, Lord, I pray that You would renew us inside and out, and may our lives and our thinking be rooted in sound doctrine, and may our families and those around us see the results. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is cheering on moms everywhere. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1 http://www.time.com/time/classroom/psych/unit5_article1.html

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