What does the Bible mean when it tells us to be sober-minded? Obviously, the first thought to come to mind in terms of the word “sober” is abstaining from alcohol. But is that what the Bible is telling us? Is it telling us not to drink? I personally believe that the biblical definition of being sober-minded goes beyond abstaining from drunkenness. We are called to keep our minds alert and prepared for action. In fact, the Bible speaks of our “sober” mind most often in the case of warfare.
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Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)
We’re called to be alert because we have a very real enemy. And even though Jesus already defeated him on the cross, he is constantly trying to sabotage God’s plans and our call to advance the Kingdom. Keep in mind, the enemy cannot hurt you. He cannot steal your salvation or “pluck you out of the Father’s hand.” But he can try to inhibit your growth. He can try to deceive you and render you useless in the Kingdom. And he can certainly try to keep you from spreading the Good News to the world.
We are told to be sober-minded and alert because when we are constantly on guard, the enemy doesn’t stand a chance.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16 (ESV)
Be sober-minded as you prepare yourself for action… I absolutely love this call to be prepared. In this passage, Peter defines what it means to be sober in our thought life. We set our hope on God’s grace, and we refuse to be conformed by our old way of living.
All actions originate in the mind. I’ve heard it said that when you commit a sin, you actually commit the sin twice – once in your thought life and then again when you act on those thoughts. Remember it was Jesus who said that even looking at another person (who is not your spouse) with lust in your heart is adultery. When it comes to righteous living, your thoughts matter!
What if we seriously took control of our thought life? What if we took every negative thought captive and made them obey Christ? (2 Corinthians 10:5) Our lives would never be the same.
When it comes to battle, we have to be alert. If you were a soldier on the front lines in the middle of intense warfare, would you for one second take your mind off of what you were doing? Of course not! (And if you did, you’d probably be a dead man.)
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. – Ephesians 6:18
Be alert. Pray always. Don’t let anything influence your thinking or distract you from your mission.
This is what it means to be sober-minded.
But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. – 1 Thessalonians 5:8
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*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.