Self Control

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Godliness must extend beyond our behavior.  Godliness is the outward expression on the inward reflection of Christ.  But Godliness is not a trait that we can have on our own.  We must first have the Holy Spirit and second be responsible to depend on the Holy Spirit.  We immediately receive the Holy Spirit when we trust  Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.  To be dependant on the Holy Spirit is a responsibility bestowed on every Christian.  God has called us to live a life of Holiness as He is Holy.  Though we will never be sinless in this life, it must be the goal that we press toward.    Let's look at Philippians 3: 12 thru 16 - "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.  And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already attained." 

Now let's study the Godly trait of "Self-Control".  Jerry Bridges has stated in his book entitled 'The Pursuit of Holiness' that "Self-control consists of sound judgment and inner strength."  He also stated that "Self-control was necessary because we are at war with our own sinful desires."  Now let's look at what Peter said in I Peter 2:11 - "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul."  Paul stated in Romans 7: 22 thru 25 - "For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
 
bulletQuestion:  Are you serving God with your mind, your thoughts and emotions?

Now look at what the Pharisees asked Jesus and how Jesus responded in Mathew 22: 36 thru 38 - '"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"  Jesus replied:  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment."'  You should love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind!

bullet Question:  Are you loving God with all your mind?

As was mentioned previously, self-control consists of 1) inner strength and 2) sound judgment.  The translators of the NIV version of the Holy Bible have used the expression "self control" to translate two (2) different words from the original language.  The first word in Galatians chapter 5 refers to moderation or temperance in the gratification of our desires and appetites.  Self-control has the literal meaning of inner strength and refers to that strength of character that enables one to control his passions and desires.  The second word rendered self control by the NIV translators denotes soundness of mind or sound judgment.  The word conveys the idea of allowing sound judgment to control our desires and appetites, our thoughts, emotions and actions.  Sound judgment enables us to determine what we should do and how we should respond.  Inner strength provides the will to do it.  Both are necessary for Spirit directed self-control. 

Ultimately:  Self-control is the exercise of inner strength and sound judgment under the  direction of the Holy Spirit that enables us to do, think and say the things that are pleasing to God.

 

THOUGHTS

Self control of your thoughts means entertaining in our minds only those thoughts that are acceptable to God.  We allow in our minds what we do not allow in our actions.  Psalm 139: 1 thru 4 - "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down;  you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD."  How do we know if our thoughts are acceptable?  Let's look at what Paul said in Philippians 4: 8 - "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."   If you find your mind on anything other than the above, what do you do?  For that answer we look to II Corinthians 10: 3 thru 5 - "For though we live in this world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  Notice the process, it consists of three distinct steps that we as Christians are instructed to do:  

  1. Measure (Philippians 4: 8)
  2. Demolish (II Corinthians 10: 5)
  3. Replace (Philippians 4: 8)

Jesus said in Mathew 15: 18 thru 19 - "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander."  Jeremiah 17: 9 thru 10 - "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?  I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."  Psalm 139: 23 thru 24 - "Search me, O God, and know my heart;  test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  The bottom line is that God knows our heart, our mind and our thoughts.  Left to go its own way, the heart of man can commit some terrible acts as Jesus described in Mathew 15: 18 thru 19.   The Psalmist asked God to search his heart and examine his mind to reveal whatever was found to be offensive.  We Christians have God the Holy Spirit living within us to reveal to us whatever is offensive.  Jesus said in John chapter 14, verse 26 - "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."  Our responsibility is to not only listen to the Holy Spirit, but then to act upon His revealing to us what is offensive and against God.  What should our action be?  It's the three step process listed above:  (Measure, demolish and replace.)

 

EMOTIONS

Emotions that need to be controlled include anger, rage (hot temper), resentment, self-pity and bitterness.  Some may experience explosive feelings like anger while others may tend to withdraw and simmer as in the case with self-pity.  But in either case, these emotions are displeasing to God and self-control must be exercised with emotions just as it is with the body and mind.  

Let's look first at "uncontrolled temper".  Proverbs 16: 32 - "Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city."   To have a temper that requires control is not a mark of ungodliness;  to fail to control it is.  Uncontrollable temper damages the self-respect of others, creates bitterness and destroys relationships.  

In addition, we should be slow to anger when we are wronged or when we perceive that acts of wrongness are being committed by others.  Take note of what the psalmist had to say about God in Psalm 86: 15 -  "But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness."  This verse emphasizes that God is abounding in love and faithfulness.  God can be provoked to anger but it doesn't happen immediately.  We should strive to be more like God, slow to anger, compassionate and gracious to others.  The next time you feel your anger is being kindled against someone, try praying for that person rather than becoming angry with them.  Is there a time when it is acceptable to be angry?  For the answer to this question, let's look at Mark 3: 1 thru 5 - '"Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there.  Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.  Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone."  Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?"  But they remained silent.  He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand."  He stretched it out , and his hand was completely restored."  Jesus (God the Son) went to the synagogue on the Sabbath.  There were those there (probably Pharisees) that were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus.  But Jesus asked them a question that demanded them to confront their own heart.  It was a chance for them to do a self evaluation, maybe even question their legalistic views of false worship and then see their need for a Savior.  Unfortunately, their stubborn hearts prevented them from doing this and they remained silent.  Jesus (God the Son) was trying to communicate with mortal men and they refused to listen to Him.  Jesus became angry and distressed at their stubborn hearts.  There is a time for anger but only after we have exhausted all other avenues that God has given us to restore the relationship - compassion, grace, love, faithfulness, prayer, understanding, kindness, gentleness, etc.  Be careful when getting angry and remember what is said in the following verses:

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Psalm 30: 4 thru 5 - "Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only  a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."

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Ephesians 4: 26 thru 27 - "In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."  

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James 1: 19 thru 20 - "My dear brothers, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."


Other un-controlled emotions like resentment, bitterness and self-pity aren't as harmful to others as they are destructive to ourselves and our relationship with God.  Resentment, bitterness and self-pity build up inside our hearts and eat away at our spiritual lives like a slow cancer.  All of these sinful emotions have one thing in common - a focus on self.  We put our disappointments, wounded pride and shattered dreams on thrones in our hearts which then become idols.  We nurture resentment and bitterness and then wallow in self-pity.  We do all this though God has recorded the following assurances of His faithfulness for us in the Book of Romans:

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Romans 8: 28   "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

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Romans 8: 35  "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?"

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Romans 8: 37-39  "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

God will not fail us nor forsake us.  But we choose to be defiant and think on those things which do not come in line with Philippians 4: 8  "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."  By failing to adhere to the principles outlined in Philippians 4: 8, it is not only destructive to ourselves but it is also destructive to our faith and dishonors God. 

Self-control is key.  We must strive to grow in our faith and Godliness.  Sound judgment is the beginning  of self-control and sound judgment must be based on the knowledge of God's Word and His standard for our bodies, thoughts and emotions.  Sound judgment enables us to make an accurate estimate of our needs in the area of self-control.  Romans 12: 3 -  "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."  The battle of our thoughts and emotions begins in our hearts and minds.  We must learn to take thoughts captive and destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the Knowledge of God - to the obedience of Jesus Christ. 

Conclusion - We must persevere in our battle to choose what is right, not only in actions but in thoughts and emotions.  We must call upon the Spirit of God to help us in our time of need realizing that we cannot accomplish this without His help and leadership. 

 

Bible verses referenced in this presentation
are from the following translation:
New International Version