Before the holiday season (Thanksgiving and Christmas), I began a series of blogs concerning self-control. Once the holidays hit, I was doing what was necessary to keep my head afloat with ministry (discipleship and shepherding) and family (my father-in-law found out he had cancer in his jaw and we spent much of December with him in the hospital, post-surgery). All of this has now died down to a normal roar and I can now finish this self-control series. Thank you for your patience.
Let me summarize what we have seen: in the first post we looked at self-control’s definition. Without a proper definition, we cannot know if what we are doing or pursuing is God’s design. So, in that post I defined self-control as the power to keep your sin in check, the power to restrain your sin in thought, in word, in deed. I noted that with this definition biblical self-control cannot be accomplished by non-believers (Romans 1-3 and Galatians 5:19-21 makes that crystal clear). Of course, unbelievers may exercise a form of self-control, but it is merely a means to their own selfish gain. They have no desire to put off sin and put on Christ because they do not have Christ, and therefore have an unbroken, habitual character of sin.
In the second post, I looked at the necessity of self-control in the life of a Christ-follower. Why do we need it and why should be focus on it (aside from it being in Scripture)? Proverbs 25:28 is super helpful: “Like a city that is broken into and without walls, is a man who has no control over his spirit.” In other words, if we lack self-control, we are highly and easily vulnerable for any and every sinful attack that comes our way. And the attackers (the world, Satan, and our own flesh) are mighty foes who would love to destroy us. Therefore, we must pursue self-control at every stage of life and always check our defenses to allow no weak point. In doing this, we show ourselves to be maturing Christians, as self-control is one of the marks of a mature, godly believer (Titus 1:8; see also 1 Tim 4:12,16; 1 Pet 5:2-3; Jas 3:1) .
Today, I want to give you the “HOW TO” in biblical self-control. So, how do we practice godly, biblical self-control? I’ll give you 8 “be’s” (4 today and 4 next time):
1 Peter 5:8-9, “8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, ….”
You see, we have an enemy that would love to devour us and knock us out from growing up in Christ. Therefore, we must be alert by resisting Him. And this “resist” is not a “fight” mandate, but is a defensive position. It is a keep-a-sharp-eye-on-your-walls command, because Satan is not going to attack your strong points, but your weak ones. Therefore, check all your defenses. Where are you weakest? Because where you are weakest, that will be where the attack comes from. If you do not know, then get with your pastor or a godly Christian friend and get their input. We all have weaknesses, but it is possible that we may not see them as clearly as others. Therefore, get the help of godly people, so that you will stand firm in your faith. This is what it means to “be alert!”
And, by the way, take caution if you think you have no weak spots: 1 Cor 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed (be on the alert) that he does not fall.”
Romans 13:14, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
Galatians 5:24 (right after mentioning the fruit of the Spirit),”Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
If we don’t actively seek to practice self-control by killing our sin (“killing it dead” as a southern friend used to say), then it will continue to try to kill you — that is, keep you as ineffective in evangelism, immature in Christlikeness, and disqualified in ministry. Therefore, we must give no quarter to sin, make no provisions for it! We cannot just hide it away in a cell below deck, because as long as it is alive in you, it will be killing you. In order for us to be self-controlled as God intends, we must completely kill sin (cf. Matt 5:27-30).
Sounds like a strange “be,” but my point is you and I have been given a weapon that kills sin, and that is God’s Word.
Ephesians 6:17, the sword of the Spirit is the word of God.
Psalm 1 tells us that the one who stands firm is the person whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, [in which] he meditates day and night.”
Psalm 119 is a detailed song/prayer to God about the joys and comforts and treasure of God’s word. But the Bible is also the way that we “walk blameless” (v. 1) and “do no unrighteousness” (v. 3) and live a pure life (v. 9) and helps us turn away from sin (v. 37) and causes us to speak truth (v. 43) and gives godly direction when evil attacks (vv. 61, 69), and on it goes.
Christians need to be about the Bible — understanding its truth, knowing its application, so that we can live a holy life, or (for our purposes) a self-controlled life.
The Christian life is a life of dependency and that dependency is seen most clearly in our prayers. Prayer is the action and language of dependency. Every godly person (including Jesus) was a prayer. They were nothing without prayer and they did very little without prayer. Therefore, we need to be just as dependent as they were by being in prayer habitually and continually.
How do we need to pray? Thankfully, Jesus gives us the model in Luke 11:2-4, commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” In that prayer, Jesus lays outs 5-truths that help us to depend upon God and live a godly, self-controlled life:
- “Father, hollowed be Your name” = God must be a primary focus in life.
- “Your kingdom come” = God must rule over my desires.
- “Give us each day our daily bread” = God is the one who provides for my needs. Therefore, I must depend upon His gifts in my pursuit of self-control. Gifts like the Holy Spirit in me and the church.
- “Forgive us our sins” = God must grant us mercy and grace as we so often fail. And this is part of our self-control pursuit, because as we fail, we can recognize those weak spots and get to firming them up.
- “lead us not into temptation” = God can deliver us and is ready to deliver us from sin’s attacks. Are we ready and reliant on His deliverance when sin attacks?
There are still three more “BE’s” to discuss, but I will leave you with these and a quote from J.B. Phillips as encouragement:
“God will inevitably appear to disappoint the man who is attempting to use Him as a convenience, a prop, or a comfort, for his own plans. God has never been known to disappoint the man who is sincerely wanting to co-operate with [God’s] own purposes.” (Your God is too Small)