If we were to be perfectly honest, I would guess that 75% of Christians struggle the most with self-control – especially men. Whether it be lusts of the flesh, our tongues, covetousness, whatever the issue, we struggle with self-control. For many of us, we try to get to a level of temperance without first building our faith, integrity, and Biblical wisdom. And it’s not a destination either; we have to maintain those if we are to achieve and sustain self-control.
At times I like to pat myself on the pat if I have “a good week” of walking the straight and narrow, but I really shouldn’t:
“Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.” (Proverbs 17:28)
One of my greatest struggles is holding my peace, be it spoken or written, and if I succeed, again I think I’ve actually accomplished something. However, that is the least that is expected of me because it is through my tongue that I venture off course:
“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.” (James 3:2-5)
Satan loves it when we lose self-control. It is one of his best accusations against us. How can you call yourself a Christian when you act the way you do? He is partially right in that our bad behavior can disqualify us from being good witnesses for Christ. That is why Paul says were are to discipline ourselves and always strive for perfection:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Too often we give into sin too easily, we convince ourselves that we can’t really overcome it and that it is just the struggles of the flesh. I’ve used this excuse in the past and I’m quite sure it would be unacceptable to Christ should I dare use that excuse before Him. Paul gives a clear reason why:
“For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:10-14)
This is an important point if we are to live temperate lives. We must understand that we are under the umbrella of grace and when we sin, it is because we allow the sin within us to have its way. This may seem confusing, but we need to understand that one, we cannot save ourselves from sin, and two, we must be aware of the struggle of sin within ourselves. Paul describes it thusly:
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (Romans 7:14-20)
We are dual-natured beings. Spiritually and mentally we desire to serve God. Physically, and sometimes emotionally, we often choose our fleshly desires over spiritual ones. Left to ourselves we are pathetic souls. That’s why when you hide in your sin you feel so defeated. But it does not have to be that way…
“I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21-25)
This is a deep subject that is impossible to cover in one devotion, perhaps we’ll do a study on Romans 7 sometime. Suffice it to say that our spiritual growth will be at best stunted and at worse deformed if we do not attain self-control. And without self-control, we will never be able to persevere.
More on that next time…
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Copyright © 2013 David Jeffers