“No conflict is so severe as his who labors to subdue himself; but in this we must be continually engaged, if we would be strengthened in the inner man, and make real progress toward [Christlikeness].” So said Thomas à Kempis in his famous book on the Christian life, The Imitation of Christ. And Kempis is right. Self-control is one of the hardest of fight, one of the most difficult battles all Christian face, because we fight against an enemy that is powerful and has a hold deeply upon us.
However, sin is a defeatable enemy and, for the Christian, self-control is a necessary battle in the fight against our own sin (Prov 25:28; Gal 5:22-23).
I have attempted to expose this through the past three blog posts I have written, in which I have written about
- Self-Control’s Definition = is the power to keep your sin in check or the power to restrain your sin in though, in word, and in deed.
- Self-Control’s Necessity = without self-control the Christian has no defense against Satan, the world, or their own flesh.
- Self-Control’s Action
“Self-Control’s Action” is what I began last time and will finish today. The goal is to give you the “HOW-TO” go about biblical self-control. To help remember them, I made them all “BE’s.”
The first action of self-control was BE ALERT. This is the command of 1 Peter 5:8-9 and the goal here is to keep a sharp eye on your weaknesses. Know them. Ask others where they think you are weak (Heb 10:19ff). And know that your weakness will be where sin attacks dominantly.
The second action was BE KILLING, from both Romans 13:14 & Galatians 5:24. In other words, a Christian must give no living quarters in their life; make no provisions! Don’t even hide it in the darkest, most secret place. Kill it or it will kill you (Jas 1:14-15)!
The third action of self-control is BE BIBLE, which sounds strange to say, but the meaning is simple (and it matches the outline): use God’s word as an offensive weapon in self-control. It is the best weapon you have (look at Jesus, Matt 4:1-11), and is the only weapon that can cause you to walk a blameless, righteous, pure, turning-from-sin life of self-control (Ps 119).
The fourth action is BE DEPENDENT or BE PRAYER-DEPENDENT! The Christian life is a life of total and complete independence upon God’s power, resources, wisdom, and grace. Prayer is the way we access those resources. And it is the was we flee from sin; the way we have self-control. So, pray!
And now, the final 3 actions of biblical self-control:
Simply: don’t give up! Yes, the fight for self-control is a hard one. But, never, ever, ever give up because it is too hard.
1 Cor 9:24-27, “24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
We have a great prize waiting for us in Heaven and that prize is for every Christian who practices self-control. It is not going to be a cute ribbon or a perishable trophy. It is not even going to be the applause of the crowds. It is going to be eternal, unperishable, unfading. In Paul’s context he is speaking about evangelism. So, the prize is souls won for eternal life. Ask yourself, O Christian: if you knew that a life of godly self-control produced even one sinner making it to Heaven, wouldn’t that be enough motivation to pursue self-control. Of course it would. And that is Paul’s point.
We must be full on committed to self-control in our Christian walks for the simple purpose that God can use it to save others. So, pursue self-control and never let up!
Oh, and by the way, when you get tired, remember that it is not your batteries/strength that keeps you “in the game;” it is the Holy Spirit (Gal 5; Rom 8). Rely upon Him who strengthens you!
You and I were not created to fight all our battles on our own, but to have a team, a band of brothers and sisters of the same precious faith come alongside us and fight with us. You probably know this, but it takes great humility to fully act in reliance upon your church family.
The apostle Paul points this out in his letter to Titus that older women are to teach the younger women and older men are to help the younger men. Each are to be examples to each other of godliness because we all share in the same faith and in the same aim to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12).
You see, a sport’s team does much better when everyone recognizes that though everyone has a different role, all are headed for the same goal: the championship. The only way they will get there is if they rely upon one another, if they help one another, if they point out weaknesses, if they encourage the good, if they lift up the downtrodden, if they obey their coach, etc.
In his book on self-control (A Man’s Greatest Challenge), Dai Hankey says it this way: “Self-control is going to be a huge undertaking, but how reassuring it is to recognize that you don’t have to do this alone. And how humbling it is to realize that you are unable to do this alone. You are surrounded by a church family and friends, men and women, young and old, who are fighting the same battles, craving the same transformation, clinging to the same grace and on the same team as you. Don’t be a maverick. You need them. They need you. Build together.”
1 Peter 1:13-15, “13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
The ultimate prize is eternal life with Christ. It has already been won if you are His child through faith. Therefore, focus on the prize to come. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. It is yours in Christ. So, now that you have it, you can run with joy and peace, knowing that your striving is not in vain, but brings glory and honor to God in Christ.
Let me finish this study of self-control with a quote from Donald Whitney (from his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life): “Our bodies are inclined to ease, pleasure, gluttony, and sloth. Unless we practice self-control, our bodies will tend to serve evil more than God. We must carefully discipline ourselves in how we ‘walk’ in this world, else we will conform more to its ways rather than to the ways of Christ.”
I couldn’t say it any better.