WHO DOES THE CONTROLLING?
A young preacher was being checked out by the pulpit committee of a church that was entertaining him as their next pastor. He was asked, “How did you become a Christian?” He answered, “I done my part, and God done His part.” A committee member responded, “What do you mean?” He responded, “I ran away from God as fast as I could, and God ran after me and caught me.” What he was saying in his own crude but sincere way was:
“CHRIST DID EVERYTHING, I DID THE REST.”
So it is in the Christian’s life from rebirth to rapture,
“THE HOLY SPIRIT DOES EVERYTHING, THE CHRISTIAN DOES THE REST.“
Galatians 5:23 tells us that,
“The fruit of the SPIRIT is SELF-CONTROL.“
That means self-control in the Christian’s life is not a product or fruit of self, even though it is self-control. Rather in the first instance here we are talking about Divine, omnipotent self-control, and not human, impotent self-control. When the believer is strengthened in the inner man by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16), we are talking here about super-strength. He has within his finite self an infinite strength to exercise self-control. If you will:
“THE CHRISTIAN HAS THE POTENTIAL FOR SUPER SELF-CONTROL IN HIS LIFE WHICH
TAKES AWAY ALL EXCUSES FOR EVER LOSING CONTROL OF HIMSELF.”
Very good news, as all of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is! Also a Gospel of very high expectations.
The Christian is completely dependent upon the power of the Holy Spirit to live a self-controlled life in an out-of-control world. Americans celebrate independence! Political, economic, and religious independence! We throw our shoulders back on the 4th of July each year as we celebrate “National Independence Day” in the USA. It makes us feel really proud, and it increases our sense of self-worth just to be independent.
However, in the Kingdom of God, Christians celebrate their independence rooted in total dependence. Every time they participate in the Lord’s Supper, they take the bread and eat it and the juice and drink it, thereby declaring there complete dependence upon the crucified and living Christ for their spiritual life and cleansing from sin. In so doing, they also celebrate independence from the world, the flesh and the devil. But mostly, the Lord’s Supper is their “Declaration of Dependence.”
That is what makes the Kingdom of God for most people so hard to stomach. I mean, mention dependence and that is enough to bring any July 4th picnic to a screeching halt. Imagine, if you can, a typical unbelieving American celebrating “Dependence Day
For that matter the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God have completely different values across the entire spectrum. Here are just a few:
“EARTH’S KINGDOMS ARE INDEPENDENT FROM GOD, WHILE HEAVENS KINGDOM IS
DEPENDENT UPON GOD.
“EARTH’S KINGDOMS DEPEND UPON MAN, WHILE HEAVEN’S KINGDOM DEPENDS
“HUMAN KINGDOMS EXIST FOR MAN TO ENJOY HIMSELF, WHILE GOD’S KINGDOM
EXISTS FOR MAN TO ENJOY GOD.
“HUMAN KINGDOMS PRIORITIZE SELF-INDULGENCE, WHILE GOD‘S KINGDOM
On and no it goes, but one thing is certain, there is no such thing as an “Independent Christian.” There is no such person as an independent believer in Christ who can go around saying, “I am on my own.” Independence is a dirty word in the Kingdom of God for a mighty good reason. It was man’s declaring his independence from God that was at the heart of his sinfulness to begin with. Isaiah 53:6 tells us about that spirit with the words:
“ALL OF US LIKE SHEEP HAVE GONE ASTRAY, EACH OF US HAS TURNED TO HIS OWN WAY….”
No one can bow at the cross of Christ and be independent from Christ. No one can be born of the Spirit and be independent from the Holy Spirit of. Hear me:
“WITHOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT’S FRUIT OF SELF-CONTROL GROWING IN US, NOTHING BUT THE
ROTTEN FRUIT OF SIN WOULD GROW OUT OF US
The best description of the dynamic of the Christian life I have ever read is found in Philippians 2:13 where we read:
“For it is God who is at work in you….”
Christians are a Divine work in progress. God is not at work on us, for we are not His project. He by His Spirit is at work in us, for we are His temple. This we know from the Word of God:
“THE HOLY SPIRIT ONLY EMPOWERS THOSE IN WHOM HE ALREADY DWELLS.”
If you will:
“CHRISTIANS ARE TEMPLES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, NOT TARGETS.”
However, so far we have not fully answered the question, “Who in the Christian’s life does the controlling in self-control?” We must hasten to point out that it is after all SELF-CONTROL. To help you think this through, remember:
“FAITH IS A GIFT OF GOD, BUT WE DO THE BELIEVING.”
“SELF-CONTROL IS THE HOLY SPIRIT’S FRUIT IN OUR LIVES, BUT WE DO
That is why it is called:
“SELF, SELF, SELF, SELF-CONTROL.”
Someone might say that this all sounds like a contradiction. I understand. Think of it in this way, namely, that the Christian life is a “God-Believer Partnership,” and through the Holy Spirit in us, we exercise self-control and are responsible for being self-controlled in our lives for God’s glory. Or as Philippians 2:12-13,
“…Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God Who is at work in you, both to
will and to work for His good pleasure
When I taught Pre-Marriage Perspectives to young lovers who were desirous of getting hitched, we shared with these tender and somewhat naïve hearts and minds some shocking truths. I shared with them that when it comes to “Mate Selection” God does indeed “Prescribe” in His Word the kind of mate you must choose. God certainly does set “Limits” in your mate selection. The top three prescriptions and limitations being:
1. Spiritual Unity
2. Vocational Concurrence
3. Personality Blending
We won’t go into those critically important pre-requisites for mate selection, for they are not in the scope of our subject matter. But what seemed to unsettle some of them was this:
“GOD DOES NOT CHOOSE YOUR MATE FOR YOU. IT IS YOUR CHOICE, AND YOU BETTER MAKE
THE CHOICE CAREFULLY, WISELY AND PRAYERFULLY
I have no doubt that God providentially does present and make available to you certain interesting and even confusing possibilities and prospects. I also believe that by His Spirit He can strongly impress you either with His approval or disapproval of this one or that one.
But in the final analysis, the choice is yours, and if you insist on making the wrong choice in spite of the Holy Spirit’s warnings, as well as the collective and unified concerns of family and friends, God will not stop you from making the wrong selection. So you had better get it right the first time, because marriage is until death parts you, if it doesn’t kill you first.
That is exactly why you say in the marriage declarations and promises:
“I TAKE YOU THIS DAY TO BE MY WEDDED WHATEVER, TO HAVE AND TO HOLD FROM
THIS DAY FORWARD
In other words, I choose, I take full responsibility for my choice,
“I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO!!!!!”
You do not say:
That way we can’t blame God for our bad choices.
“SELF-CONTROL IS A HUMAN CHOICE.”
God by His Spirit does give us power over all external stimuli. God by His Spirit does give us power over all internal responses. But we choose to exercise that power or not exercise it! It is our choice. That is why it is called SELF, SELF, SELF CONTROL. Shout it with me once more:
“YES WE CAN!”
We must affirm this again and again:
“THE THUNDERING CHOICE OF SELF-CONTROL IS THE KEY TO THE VICTORIOUS
So much then for the following lies, “Jesus doesn’t answer my prayers,” or, “God won’t change me,” or, “God doesn’t help me.”
Mary Webster’s story is one of great pathos and heartache. Her parents died at an early age, and she was shifted around from the foster home to foster home, and not really being wanted or loved by any of them. Then two drunks took her in, and fought, cursed and abused her as a way of life, or should we say death.
One day as a teenager Mary Webster fell on her knees and cried out to God confessing her suicidal tendencies. Then one day she heard God speak to her the surprising words, “Don’t let it get on the inside of you!” From that day on, that instruction from God proved to be her turning point in life. When she said to God day in day out, for self control is daily choice, “Alright then, I will not let it get inside of me and control me,” she found the power to take control of those bad external stimuli and the equally bad suicidal internal responses. She now was in control of her life, and not the evil around her.
SELF-CONTROL IN A SELF-INDULGENT SOCIETY
Yes I know that the whole world is set against our Holy Spirit empowered choices of self-controlled Christian living. The entire society is against our Holy Spirit sanctified, self-controlled emotions, impulses and actions. Society militates against self-control in the following three ways that we must recognize.
First it is an UNRESTRAINED SOCIETY
We cannot exercise self-control
. When restraints are taken down in society, it is only a matter of moments and things will be totally out of control. Any simpleton knows this. It is only the intelligent heathen who don’t get it. Educated idiots!
This is why we are being exposed to totally antithetical messages to self-control and self-restraint day by day on television and in the movies. We are told that self-restraint isn’t necessary. In fact, we are told that self-restraint isn’t even good for us. We are told to free up our emotions. It is the age of liberation from all those ancient and antiquated strictures that have restricted us for too long.
Second it is an ANTINOMIAN SOCIETY
The reason why society doesn’t want the Ten Commandments hanging on their public school walls, any more than wild mustang want bits and a bridles, is stated in Romans 8:7,
“Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for is does not subject itself to
the law of God, for it is not even able to do so
By nature, man is anti-restriction, anti-constraint, and anti-self-control. If you will, we all by birth are ANTI-NOMIANS. “ANTI” means “AGAINST,” and “NOMOS” means “LAW.” That is why,
“GOD’S LAWS IN AMERICA HAVE BEEN DECLARED UNLAWFUL.”
On top of that, man by nature does not believe there is such a thing as “SIN.” And on top of that today we have those goombahs in the modern church who teach that they can and do live without sins in their lives. And when they leave their spouses for another, even as pastors, for them it is okay because God approved it and it is not sin! These are not heathen. They are what I call “GOSPEL REPROBATES.” In either case, as a result of all of this craziness, moral law has become obsolete because who needs self-control and self-restraint when sin has become non-existent.
SELF-CONTROL IN A FEELING-DRIVEN SOCIETY.
The motto of modern man is:
“IF IT FEELS GOOD, IT CAN’T BE BAD.”
In this feelings-enslaved society it is your duty to do what feels good. And if it doesn’t feel good, that is, if there is discomfort or inconvenience involved, then something is wrong and you must resist it. No one should have to endure pain and discomfort. After all, religion should be thrilling, daily work should be entertaining, home life should be exciting, and if they aren’t all of these, then quit the church, change jobs, leave the marriage and go where you are more comfortable. In short,
“FEELINGS ARE THE MODERN GODS.“
Of course, living a feeling-driven and a feeling-controlled life is to exist on the totally uncontrolled animal level. Animals have no self-control over their instincts. They do not control them but are controlled by them. A feeling-controlled world has turned our society into a Jurassic Park
Marriages go down like bowling pins as the comment is made over and over again,
“I JUST DON’T FEEL LOVE ANYMORE
And so the discontented lions and lionesses look for a new sexual rush in the jungle. Oh yes, that is the catch word for this feeling enslaved society,
I hear it all of the time, and if you haven’t, you should listen more attentively, and you will pick up on it in one form or another. Spouse have affairs because “THE RUSH” has gone out of their marriage bed.
I have often said to such orgasmic slaves that if Jesus based His love for His bride the church on “The Rush
,” we would be “The Ruined
.” What rush did Jesus get from coming to earth as a man, dying like a crook, and suffering Hell like a devil? And all of that for a bride who was living in indiscriminate, spiritual fornication! This “Rush Binge
” is repulsive to and the complete antithesis of Christ and Christianity.
The Apostle Paul saw this age when the titillation of the senses would become the modern religion, when in II Peter 2:2,
“And many will follow their sensuality (fleshly feelings), and because of them the way
of truth will be maligned.
SELF-CONTROL IN AN INSTANT GRATIFICATION SOCIETY.
People today want instant gratification. No one should have to wait. I want pleasure and I want it now. So when Christians know that they must change by taking control of their emotions and conduct, they want instant change and instant control. After all, the fact that they must change is painful enough, so they want INSTY CHANGE
and INSTY CONTROL
. The QUICK FIX
Why? So they won’t have to exercise too much self-control. For you see, there is pain, effort, inconvenience in self-control and self-discipline and self-denial! So fix me quickly. Listen:
“SELF-INDULGENCE IS EFFORTLESS, WHILE SELF-CONTROL IS EFFORTFUL.”
Think carefully on what I am about to say. How did the bondage to certain sins in our lives develop in the first place? Very simple! Something sinful attracts us and we know immediately that it is wrong. We struggle with it for a time but we succumb and do it anyway. Then, of course, we are strongly attracted to do it again, because the first time around is always the heightened and the best, and we want it repeated.
So that when we are tempted to do it again, it is not the same tough struggle to resist and control ourselves as it was the first time. Each sinful choice weakens the self-control muscle. What was spiritual muscle quickly becomes spiritual flab. So we do it again, and this time we find that it is not much of a struggle at all to engage in that sin. Finally it is much easier to sin than not to sin. That is how slavery to sin takes place and the self-control muscle atrophies.
Now think about this:
“WHILE PEOPLE’S PROBLEMS ARE THE RESULT OF STRENGTHENED HABITUAL
SINNING OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME, YET THEY WANT QUICKIE,
EFFORTLESS, PAIN-FREE CURES.
If you will:
“PEOPLE WANT SPIRITUAL MAGIC, NOT SPIRITUAL MUSCLE.”
“PEOPLE WANT QUICKY CURES, NOT CONSTANT CHOICES.”
Victory in our spiritual warfare will not come by some magic, painless potion. Victory will come by a lifetime of Spirit-empowered choices. Being self-controlled is a daily process, and not like the deworming of a puppy or dog by feeding it a series of pills twice a day for a week.
Each time you choose to speak words like those in I John 4:4,
“GREATER IS THE HOLY SPIRIT WHO IS IN ME THAN HE WHO IS IN THE WORLD. THEREFORE I AM A
SELF-CONTROLLED MAN. THIS SITUATION WILL NO LONGER RULE OVER ME
each time you choose to declare that, little by little, inch by inch ultimate control comes. Your control muscle grows and sin weakens.
However, people today in many religious circles leap at a speaker, jump at a book, look for an experience so that then they will be able to say, “Now I’ve got it! Now I am in complete control!” Self-control however is not like the key on the Price Is Right that opens all the doors at once. It is a day by day series of Holy Spirit empowered choices. If you will, Christianity is not like some magic moment, but rather, it is much more like daily pumping iron.
Think of it this way. A look at the great saints of Scripture sometimes makes us envious. We reflect upon the burning bush experience of Moses (Exodus 3), Isaiah’s vision in the Temple (Isaiah 6), and the confrontation that Paul had with the resurrected and reigning Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9). We are tempted to think and say, “If I could have had an experience like any of those, I’d be spiritually fixed and self-controlled for life.” We think that our spirituality would be enhanced by some dramatic moment that would be indelibly burned into our consciousness. Having then been so impressed by such a spectacular touch from God, we would never be tempted to doubt or to give in to sin again.
But the fact is that the average Christian like you and me is not likely to have a great Biblical confrontation with God stepping on a cloud into our lives in some great celestial display. Even if we did, self-control is not an overnight sensation. Nor would we be satisfied with the dramatic experiences that were Divinely customized for others. If we are to develop a spiritual life marked by self-control, it will be because we approach spiritual living as a discipline, much as an athlete trains his body for competition.
SELF-CONTROL IN A SOCIETY OF MEDIA LIES
If you watch and listen carefully, you will easily discern what people all over the world are taking in subliminally. It is quite a world we live in, a world saturated by the lies of the anti-self-control media.
Like the TV commercial not so many years ago for Orange Crush. An older brother is drinking a bottle of Orange Crush on the sidelines of a friendly neighborhood football game. He is now invited to join in the game, and gives his little brother the ¾ full bottle of orange soda, and tells him to hold on to it while he plays football and emphasizes to his little brother that he is not to drink a drop of his big brother’s pop.
The little brother holds the bottle of temptation and tries to resist it. Finally he goes behind a tree and drinks the bottle of orange drink dry. Big brother is angry of course, so little brother says to his big brother, “I just couldn’t help it.” Big brother then suddenly softens, and says with a smile to the youngster, “That’s alright, I often can’t control myself either.” Hey, I’m okay in my lack of self-control and you are okay in your lack of self-control. That is just part of being human.
The media is powerful. We all are led to sympathize with the top-oranged-lip little guy, because we all lack self-control too. And subliminally the message is, “It’s okay, we are all the same, we all would have done the same thing. No big deal.”
Wrong! It’s all a lie! Every bit of it! Think about the verb “To Drink.” It refers to “Actions.” Actions of the muscles of the arm, the hand, the mouth and the throat! The ORANGE CRUSH–DRINKING–LITTLE RASCAL said, “I couldn’t help it.” Lie! How so? All of these drinking muscles are controlled by the human brain, and the human brain is controlled by the human will. “I couldn’t help it” is a big fat falsehood, while “I thought it“ and “I willed it” are the bigger truths.
Why? Because drinking Orange Crush is not an “Involuntary Action.” It is not like the twitching of an eyelid. Sinning never is! Using the muscles of the hand, the arm, the mouth and the throat are “Voluntary Actions.” Therefore to say, “I couldn’t help it” just isn’t so. It is an untruth that is rampant in our out-of-control society and judicial system. It has even found a place in the corrupted modern church as regards homosexuality, divorce and pre-marital sex.
To be brutally honest we live in world of lies and untruths all of which militate against self-control. We shall deal in Self-Control – Yes We Can Pt.3 with 7 specific lies all of which seek to stop people from living the Holy Spirit empowered, self-controlled life. But suffice it to say that mankind according to Romans 1:25,
“Has exchanged the truth of god for a lie.”
The world has two main forces in it, namely TRUTH and FALSEHOOD. Either we believe truth or we believe untruth. Truth is a Divine person, and his name is Jesus Christ (John 14:6), and untruth is a fallen angel, and his name is Satan. (John 8:44) The whole world is rooted in lies, that is, in Satan. The people of God are rooted in truth, that is, in Jesus Christ. It is natural for the world to believe in lies, for it has the nature of the father of lies. It is supernatural for Christians to believe in truth, for they have the nature of their Heavenly Father.
It is estimated that the average person in the world tells himself or herself and others 200 lies a day. How is that possible? Because it is his very mindset! It is the way he thinks! It is his distorted and deceived point of view on all of life. Think about it, they roll off the earthling’s tongue like water off a duck’s back. Christians are so accustomed to hearing him talk that they don’t even notice it. In fact, they often talk just like him.
You know like, “I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps.” Or, “He is a self-made man.” Or, “It is money that makes the world go round.” Or, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and life is nothing more or less than the survival of the fittest.” Or, “When you die, that’s it, for you only go around once.” And the infamous, “I simply could not help myself.“ You hear lies wherever you go. Small wonder that we read in Isaiah 59:14-15,
“Truth has stumbled in the street…truth is lacking….”
How then can we be free of untruth? John 8:32 says:
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
So, we must identify and take control over untruth in our thoughts and words, and the only way to do that is to get truth into our thoughts and words. (Psalm 119:11)Then,
“WITH PRAYER AND BIBLE MEMORIZATION WE MUST REFUSE UNTRUTH IN OUR
THOUGHTS AND WORDS BY THINKING AND CONFESSING THE TRUTH.”
If you will:
“SELF-CONTROL BEGINS WITH TRUTH THINKING AND TRUTH SPEAKING
The little guy with the huge ORANGE CRUSH THIRST said, “I couldn’t help myself.” In other words, “I couldn’t control my urges.” What we must confess is Philippians 4:13,
“I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me.”
THROUGH CHRIST, YES WE CAN
CONCLUSION TO Pt.2
You know the truth about what is really going on here, don’t you? Sure you do! It is difficult to admit, but that little fella loved ORANGE CRUSH far more than he loved his brother. The Bible tells us in Psalm 97:10,
“Hate evil, you who love the Lord….”
They always go together, for if you love the Lord, you will hate evil, and if you love evil, you will hate the Lord. If you love your brother, you will despise drinking his Orange Crush. But if you love your brother’s Orange Crush, your actions will show that in comparison you hate your brother. Love and hate are not words, they are feelings and desires displayed by actions.
“WHY WOULD SOMEONE WHO LOVES BEING CONTROLLED BY SIN FOR SELF-
SATISFACTION MAKE A STRONG ATTEMPT TO INSTEAD CONTROL
IT FOR GOD’S GLORY
“THE SINNER WILL NEVER CONTROL SIN IF HE IS NOT CONTROLLED BY A
STRONGER LOVE FOR GOD.”
(Please Go On To “TAKING CONTROL – YES WE CAN” Pt. 3)