“NOT EXERCISING SELF-CONTROL IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE VAST MAJORITY
OF OUR PROBLEMS AND FAILURES
“NOT EXERCISING SELF-CONTROL GREATLY STRENGTHENS THE DEVIL,
WHILE EXERCISING SELF-CONTROL GREATLY
WEAKENS THE DEVIL
“IN 1776 AMERICA CONQUERED HER FATHERS. IN 1862 AMERICA CONQUERED
HER BROTHERS. IN 2009, AMERICANS HAVE NOT
YET CONQUERED THEMSELVES
Tom comes home from work Friday night. Praise God, the weekend has arrived. TGI
F! Paradise regained! He is so happy and at peace with the world. He is on “Cloud 9.” The problem is, and I don’t mean to be a wet blanket, but every cloud has a top and bottom, and it doesn’t take long to get from the upper side to the lower. Nonetheless, Tom is topside, and has a very relaxing weekend planned. Good for him!
When Tom gets home some dismal realities hit him in the face. His TOOLS have been scattered all over the garage floor by his son. His wife greets him with the news that the living room DRAPES have been pulled down by the dog. Also, she informs him that one of the kids put a HOLE in the plaster wall in the family room.
TENSION immediately fills the air, and dinner turns into a nightmare. He leaves the table in a huff, goes out to straighten up the garage, throws his tools in the tool box, and sits out there and tries to cool down. His wife shouts at him for working on the car again.
om LOSES CONTROL
. He shouts back at his wife some blistering uncomplementaries and the weekend paradise gained is paradise lost. His wife goes off in verbal tirade in response as well. The weekend is begun in defeat, as he first throws his scattered tools, and then throws his cutting words at his now shattered wife, and she reciprocates in kind. A domestic war ensued. Tom and his wife illustrate the last and most important frontier that must be conquered – SELF
I JUST COULDN’T HELP MYSELF
Does any of this sound at all familiar? And oh yes, does this sound familiar too? Tom says to his wife:
“I’M SORRY HONEY, BUT I JUST COULDN’T HELP IT!”
And Tom’s wife responds:
“DON’T HONEY ME!”
Tom’s “Honey Bun” has become a very sticky bun at best, and the weekend has become like like “The Nightmare On Elm Street.” I wonder how many of these nightmares or on your street. I know of several on my street that have already ended in divorce.
How often we hear phrases like the following:
a. I’m sorry, but I lost control.
b. I don’t know what came over me, its so unlike me.
c. I apologize, but I just couldn’t help myself.
d. The devil got a hold of me.
I am reminded of the words of a chain smoker, “I’d love to quit smoking, but I don’t have self-control. I’ll probably die of lung cancer and my dying words will be, ‘Got a light?’ I’ve tried quitting and once I lasted three months without taking a single drag on a cigarette. But here I am again. Some people in the church have self-control, but others like me just don’t.”
Back to Tom! We might say to Tom something like:
“DON’T EVER PLAN PERFECT WEEKENDS IN AN IMPERFECT WORLD.”
True enough I suppose, but not really all that helpful. The weekend is not the problem, rather, it is the OUT-OF-CONTROL-WEEKENDERS who end the weekend before it even gets started.
As for the chain smoker, I remember years ago the story of the smoker and the old cigarette machines. The smoker said, “I wish they would take those mirrors off the front of cigarette machines. I hate looking at such a weak man.”
And USA TODAY tells the story of the women’s group that tried to ban candy displays at the check-out counters. They argued that it was unfair business practice. It didn’t work! Nothing changed. The candy man still can, and they still can’t resist him.
THE CHRISTIAN’S VICTORY CRY – YES WE CAN
Dwight L. Moody once stated that half of the people in the Christian churches are bound by life- controlling sinful behavioral patterns that constantly repeat themselves. Yes, people who are in the church. Alcoholism, prescription drug addiction, perversion, gambling, anorexia, bulemia, gluttony, wife-abuse, child-abuse, pornography, anger etc., etc., etc.
It is not uncommon for the grass-roots pastor in the realm of the marital and the familial to receive telephone calls which begin with the words, “Things are totally out of control around here,” or, “Would you please get over here ASAP, for my husband/wife/son/daughter is totally out-of-control and we can’t do a thing with him or her.” That has happened to me in the pastorate far too often. Going to church does not make you a Christian anymore than going into a a pasture makes you a cow.
Into all of this chaos and calamity comes the victory cry of God’s Word in Galatians 5:23,
“The fruit of the Spirit is self-control
Of course, that means He is talking here about Christians who have been made new creatures in Christ. (II Corinthians 5:17) They have been given new hearts, and have been turned into lovely fruit trees, when before they were nothing more than miserable pricker bushes.
Hear me, no one just grows out of bad habits and bad behavior. The notion that people will find it easier to become virtuous and more self-controlled as they grow old is a myth. The fact is,
“THE LONGER A CONTROLLING HABIT EXISTS, THE STRONGER ITS GRIP BECOMES.
Tom will not grow out of it. He needs to be born again, and without that, you might just as well expect an old man to grow young again, and a old seasoned curser and swearer to stop his verbal blasphemy. If you will,
“SINNERS GROW WEAK WITH AGE, BUT NOT THEIR SINNING.“
But for those who have new hearts in Christ, and become fruitful in the Holy Spirit, they can live a self-controlled life and look forward to some really fruitful, sweet weekends. And we can say upon the authority of the Word of God,
“HOLY SPIRIT-EMPOWERED SELF-CONTROL IS THE HALLMARK OF CHRISTIANITY.”
It is said of our Lord in I Peter2:28,
“And while being reviled, he did not revile in return.“
Astounding, considering the reviling He was subjected to. This means that all Christians should not only be a learners from His teachings, but imitators of His conduct through his presence within them. Listen,
“CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED NOT ONLY TO BE WITNESSES FOR CHRIST, BUT ALSO
ILLUSTRATIONS OF CHRIST.
Sure it is hard, but the best things in life always are. If we measure the significance of the fruit by the difficulty in growing it, self-control takes precedence, which is why I believe Galatians 5:23 keeps it until last.
Through the Spirit of Christ, Tom and his wife can get control of their short-fused tempers. All those years that this temperamental horse put the saddle on Tom, now by the power of the Holy Spirit Tom will be able to put the saddle on his temperamental mustang-self, break him and control him.
I love what history records about Socrates that,
“WHEN HE WAS KICKED BY AN ASS, HE DID NOT THINK IT PROPER TO
KICK THE ASS BACK.“
God assures and encourages us in His Word, and surely this is great good news, that by the power of the Holy Spirit:
“IN THE INNER MAN, IN OUR SOULS, WHERE OUR THOUGHTS TOSS AND TUMBLE,
CREATING OUR FEELINGS AND OUR ACTIONS (OUTER MAN), WE CAN
The Apostle Paul believed this with all his heart. He wrote in Philippians 4:13,
“I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me.”
Paul is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as well as from his own experience. This is no theory, this is existential fact. Paul again and again for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ voluntarily went without all the comforts of life. He embraced suffering and deprivation in ways that are hard to imagine. Five times his back was ripped apart by the thirty-nine Roman lashes. Three times he was nearly beaten to death. Once he was stoned and left for dead. Three times he was shipwrecked. His flesh could have gotten the best of him and his mind could have easily justified him in not staying the course for Christ.
So that when Paul declares for all the ages,
“I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST,”
it means something huge including,
“SO CAN WE.”
Say it with me,
“YES WE CAN!”
This is not President Barack Obama’s “YES WE CAN.” The Christian’s “YES WE CAN” prioritizes God as his sole source of strength and direction. President Obama’s “YES WE CAN” is election politics, mob psychology-psyching, and includes many objectives that God is totally set against.
President Obama sounds so cock sure of himself. The fact is:
“PRESIDENT OBAMA IS TRYING TO BUILD A SOLID, MIGHTY CONFIDENCE IN THE AMERICAN
CITIZENRY BASED UPON A VERY PARTIAL AND SELECTIVE
OBEDIENCE TO ALMIGHTY GOD
Partial obedience is disobedience. It will not be blessed by God. God cannot be in his “YES WE CAN
” because God cannot be in his agenda. We are praying against his pro-abortion, pro-perversion, pro same-sex marriage and don’t ask – don’t tell removal from the military. We are fervently asking God to stop him and his liberal congressional power block and thereby say to him, “NO YOU WON’T
We are praying that God will touch President Obama’s mind and heart on the partial-birth abortion issue which is no doubt the worst of the murderous savagery in all of the abortion blood-letting. If he can be led to understanding and obedience on one issue, it will lead to a further understanding and obedience to God on other issues as well. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:100.,
“I understand more than the aged (ROBERT BIRD, TED KENNEDY, BARBARA BOXER, DIANNE
FEINSTEIN etc.) because I have observed Thy precepts.
President Obama wants to lift the shame that he says has been brought upon America in the eyes of the world of nations by her recent foreign policies. He will not lift America’s shame, but only increase it. As the psalmist says in Psalm 119:6 (KJV),
“Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments
“PRESIDENT OBAMA IS MORE CONCERNED ABOUT OFFENSES TO THE NATIONS OF THE
WORLD THAN HE IS ABOUT OFFENSES TO THE GOD WHO HOLDS ALL NATIONS
AND THEIR FUTURES IN THE PALM OF HIS HAND.
A CITY WITHOUT WALLS
We read these words in Proverbs 25:28,
“Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.”
In the 14th century B.C., Jericho stood strong, a walled city blocking Israel. Jericho in her fortified state was impregnable. We all know the story how when Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho, the walls came tumbling down. Jericho is used here as a symbol of the “Uncontrolled Life.” With the walls of Jericho down, anyone and anything could go and go out of that now unwalled city.
So too is the person without the “Walls of Self-Control.” Any force can come in and go out of the uncontrolled self. Nothing stands in the way of the outward misbehavior of the inwardly uncontrolled person.
If you will, the man without the walls of self-control becomes what is called by sociologists and psychologists “A SOCIOPATHIC PERSONALITY.” A sociopathic person is an individual without walls of self-control. “Socio” of course refers to “Society,” and “Pathic“(pathos) means “Suffering.” In other words, an uncontrolled self is:
“A SOCIOPATHIC PERSON WHO IS A PAIN IN THE NECK TO SOCIETY.”
Think about this! Not so many years ago, the public schools in America in partnership with community parents exemplified how standards of proper conduct and self-control were instilled within America’s children. The National Education Student Handbook entitled The Code Of The Good American stated,
“I WILL CONTROL MY TOUGUE AND NOT ALLOW IT TO SPEAK VULGAR, PROFANE
WORDS. I WILL CONTROL MY THOUGHTS AND MY ACTIONS. I WILL FIND
OUT MY DUTY AS A GOOD AMERICAN
The Code Of The Good American
was last published in 1968, and since then adolescents are the fastest growing group of sociopaths or Bad Americans
in America – fornicators, murderers, rapists and everyday thugs. The walls of self-control have come down in America’s adolescents. We are raising a nation of youth without moral walls, and everything vile is coming out of them and going into them!
It was not so long ago in our evangelistic crusade travels that we arrived at the city of the host church in Nebraska on a Friday evening. The crusade did not begin until Sunday, so my wife and I decided to go to the local high school game and just mingle with the fans. It was a game between long standing intense rivals, and there was standing room only. We couldn’t believe how many adults and students came out of those sand hills of Nebraska to root their teams on. Three were scores of hundreds when I expected to see a hundred at best.
Standing all around the fence that circled the playing field were students 2 and 3 deep. What I saw was a study that transcended the game. High school boyfriends and girlfriends smoking their young lugs to death, and in many instances with hands on each other’s buns and rubbing them as if it were normal public behavior. I remember thinking that if they do this in public, I don’t have to imagine what they do together in private.
I think of my brother-in-law who was a most gifted algebra and trigonometry high school teacher for years who decided to take early retirement. He could no longer handle the student disrespect to their teachers, their vile mouths as well as their parents protection of them from any school discipline.
It is terribly important in all of this to remind ourselves that,
“IN AMERICA, THE LAWS OF GOD HAVE BEEN DECLARED UNLAWFUL
“SINCE THE EXTERNAL CONSTRAINTS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS WERE TORN DOWN
IN AMERICA’S SCHOOLS, THE INTERNAL RESTRAINTS IN AMERICA’S
YOUTH HAVE ERODED AND CRUMBLED
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SELF-CONTROL-LESS PERSON
Let us look for a moment on a less violent but equally tragic level in the life of one uncontrolled spirit. We may well call him “Sammy the Slug.” It goes something like this:
1. 6:30 AM, He opens one eye, and shuts off the alarm.
2. 10:27 AM, He wakes up having missed two hours of work.
3. 10:30 AM, He calls in sick to his new job, falls back to sleep.
4. 12:47 PM, He wants lunch and eats half a pizza and a glass of milk.
5. 1:15 PM, He wonders how to enjoy the afternoon. He eats other pizza half.
6. 2:15 PM, On his way to a movie, he screams at another driver.
7. 5:00 PM, He calls wife and says that he has been at work.
8. 7:15 PM, He is bored with TV when a neighborhood couple drops in.
9. 8:30 PM, He has too much to drink and makes pass at neighbor’s wife.
10. 10:30 PM, He has fight with his wife.
11. 11:30 PM, He drifts off to sleep.
What else contributed to the development of such a sociopathic personality who became such an uncontrolled mess? Here it is as follows:
1. Parents were working people. No time to guide or reprimand him.
2. He slept through classes as a kid. He still graduated.
3. At college he had problems. He got into drugs and sex.
4. He didn’t get into athletics. Too much self-discipline required.
5. His parents always came through with the cash.
6. He had the ability to seduce women.
7. There was a divorce in his marriage.
8. His death will occur long before it should.
It cannot be overstated that:
“SELF-CONTROL IS THE ESSENTIAL KEY TO THE ORDERLY LIFE FOR EVERYONE.”
“SELF-CONTROL IS THE ESSENTIAL KEY TO THE PRODUCTIVE LIFE IN EVERYTHING
This is very applicable in every direction. When it comes to education, we laymen use the terms “Pupil” and “Student” interchangeably. In academic circles they are not synonyms. A “Pupil” is a young person who attends a school. A “Student” is a young person who studies. Another word for student is “Scholar.”
“IS A SCHOOLBOY OR GIRL WHO LACKS SELF-CONTROL AND SELF-DISCIPLINE AND
IS CONSTANTLY UNDER SUPERVISION
“IS SOMEONE WHO HAS SELF-CONTROL AND SELF-DISCIPLINE AND NEEDS A
MINIMUM OF SUPERVISION AND A MAXIMUM OF FREEDOM
TO PURSUE HIS STUDIES
This explains why when a certain president of a theological seminary was asked how many students he had enrolled, he responded firmly, “About one in ten.” This is the same reason why there are the multitudes of the“Religious” today, and then there is the one in ten “Disciple” of Christ who is the real learner under discipline.
RUNNING THE RACE SET BEFORE US
The Christian life is tough. That is why it is likened in the Bible to:
1. A farmer plowing a field. (Luke 9:62)
2. A boxer in a boxing match. (I Corinthians 9:26)
3. A soldier in a war. (Ephesians 6:12)
4. A runner in a race. (I Corinthians 9:24-25)
Allow me to simply deal with one and quote I Corinthians 9:24-25,
“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
“And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.
They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable
ou notice how competitors in the race are described? Yes, those who exercise SELF-CONTROL
in everything! Self-control is not like throwing a switch. It is the life long exercise in self-control in all the basic disciplines of running a race. Self-control in proper eating
! Self-control in proper resting
! Self-control in proper conditioning
! Self-control in proper training
. Self-control in proper pacing
during the race! Self control in everything
. Self control is the key to crossing the finish line. Self control is the key to winning the prize. After all:
“THE BIBLE RARELY TALKS ABOUT BEGINNING THE RACE. IT TALKS ABOUT
FINISHING THE RACE, FOR HE WHO DOES NOT FINISH THE RACE
MIGHT JUST AS WELL HAVE NOT BEGUN IT
The Christian’s race is infinitely more significant, immeasurably so. We are not running the race of the Christian life for an earthly wreath. Physical racers run for fame, renown, applause and praise in the amphitheaters of men. Spiritual racers run for the “Well Done Good And Faithful Servant” from the mouth of God in the winner’s circle of Heaven. Christians are running for Heavenly rewards, not the least of which will be eternally bathing in the face-to-face presence of the God of perfect love.
If we lose, the loser’s share is an eternal swim in the “Lake of Fire.” In a physical race, the loser goes home. In the spiritual race, the loser goes to Hell. Hear this:
“HE WHO WANTS TO AVOID SWIMMING IN FIRE HEREAFTER, MUST SWIM
AGAINST THE TIDE HERE
This is why we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) And quite a work out it is! We must be self-controlled in our prayer life! We must be self-controlled in our Bible meditation. We must be self-controlled in our fasting. We must be self-controlled in our praising God. We must be self-controlled in our moral duties. We must be self-controlled in the midst of life’s temptations.
Why? Because our opponents are formidable! We must triumph over the flesh, the world, and the devil. They will constantly try to knock us off the narrow path which takes us through the narrow passes and steep precipices of obedience to God in this dangerous and alluring world.
This is illustrated in the Bible by the life of Joseph as in no other person. Dear Lord, Joseph was confronted with as powerful a temptation as any that all of the scheming of Hell could contrive throughout the history of this world. Forced out of his own country, carried as a slave into Egypt, and bought and sold until he was finally placed in a family where Satan set a trap for him as seductive and sensuous as any in the lives of any or all of God’s children.
In fact, it was more seductive than most temptations. Here was a Hellish attack extra strong and contrived with Satanic art. It was presented with the immediate and constant availability of Mrs. Potiphar as she pressed against him with sensuous persistence again and again. Nothing but the hand of omnipotence could have kept her off from lonely Joseph and Joseph off from equally lonely her. Mrs. Potiphar was the original “Desperate Housewife.”
Yet, Joseph stood strong for God, ran from her, and triumphed over her. If Joseph in God’s power could come out of that unspotted, so can we in anything that the devil has planned for us. In short:
“YES, WE CAN”
WHAT THEN IS EXACTLY SELF-CONTROL?
“SELF-CONTROL IS THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN OUR LIVES.”
“SELF-CONTROL IS HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERED SELF-RESTRAINT OVER ONE’S
EMOTIONS, IMPULSES AND DESIRES
What is an emotion?
“EMOTIONS ARE INTERNAL RESPONSES TO EXTERNAL STIMULI.”
“BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WE ARE NOT CONTROLLED BY
“BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WE ARE NOT CONTROLLED BY INTERNAL
“BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WE RULE OVER THE EXTERNAL STIMULI
AND THE INTERNAL EMOTIONAL RESPONSES
I think the following true story illustrates it best. He said, “I am 50 years old, and I was an alcoholic for over 30 years. I was simply another town drunk and in the end I became just another skid row bum. I was arrested for alcohol-related incidents scores of times in cities and towns all over Florida and Georgia.”
He continued, “I was considered by the courts as incorrigible and was sentenced to treatment for alcohol and drug addiction on more than one occasion. The jails, institutions and treatment centers did absolutely no good whatsoever. Loves ones threatened me, pleaded with me, begged me and all to no avail. No human intervention accomplished anything for very long.”
With tears in his eyes he said, “Then toward what was the inevitable end of my miserable life, when the alcohol and the drugs stopped working and no longer gave the desired results, I wanted to die. However, I was afraid of death and equally afraid of life. I then turned to God and in utter desperation cried out to Him for help and hope in a totally hopeless state.”
Now listen to what he said:
“THERE WAS NO POWER ON EARTH THAT COULD HAVE CONQUERED MY ALCOHOLISM.
NO HUMAN LAW OR LOVE THAT COULD COMPEL ME NOT TO DRINK.”
Then these awesome words,
“GOD HEARD MY CRY AND I AM NO LONGER AN ALCOHOLIC. I NO LONGER DRINK,
AND I AM IN CONTROL.
I have met and counseled drunkards who have been set free by Christ, and there are no two stories or deliverances the same. There is the fella who was an out and out alcoholic, who was wonderfully born again, and every time he saw or smelled booze (external stimuli) he was still tempted to drink (internal response). But he never took another drink and by the power of the Holy Spirit exercised self-control over the external stimulus and the internal response.
I have also met those who were drunkards, were set free by Jesus Christ and were never tempted by or had the taste for alcohol ever again in their lives. That of course is our prayer, so that when through Christ they are no longer drunks without, neither do they remain drinkers within. Jesus can so work in a man or woman, that not only do they not allow themselves a taste, but they have only a distaste for it as well. We are praying right now for a female alcoholic that God will free her within and without.
In either case, the Apostle Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-16 must be our prayer for ourselves and for the congregations that we pastor. Paul prayed,
“For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father
, from whom every family in Heaven
and on earth derives it name
that he would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to strengthened with
power through His Spirit in the inner man
It is not by human might, nor by human power, but by the Spirit of God! Without the fullness of the Holy Spirit:
“NO WE CAN’T”
But by the power of the Holy Spirit:
“YES WE CAN”
(Please go on to “TAKING CONTROL – YES WE CAN” Pt.2)