Over the last few episodes we have seen and considered much in relationship to self-control. Our first point is that eternity...your soul....hangs on self-discipline.
You can find the previous episodes here:
Not that salvation is through works but that the whole idea of perseverance of the saints is premised on enduring by faith to the end of your life. It is not the one who starts following Jesus Christ who is saved, but the one who endures to the end.
We learned that the Christian life is a serious work and silliness is not an option; rather, we are to be sober-minded, fixing our hope on the return of Jesus.
This led to a couple of episodes on procrastination, which is one of the great enemies of self-control. Matt and I sought to show the vastness of this sin, how it impacts all aspects of our lives to our detriment.
In the end, it was a call to us all to not be arrogant and boast in a tomorrow that is not promised to us.
In many ways it is a description of the 5 foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1 who were not diligent and when the return of Christ came they were not allowed into the wedding feast. Rather they were turned away by Christ Himself for as He said it, “I do not know you.” How many will be in this group on the day of the Lord’s return?
Today we want to make several observations about the value and necessity of self-control in the life of a Christian.
The goal is relatively simple. Perhaps some of you felt beat up in the last two episodes, as we tore away the lies that we tend to wrap ourselves in related to procrastination and self-control.
Now we want to build up a sincere desire that will drive you through the Spirit’s power to grow with regard to self-control.
Unfortunately, even now as we develop the idea of self-control it is necessary to do it via negative ideas rather than positive ones. The bible is replete with warnings, all of which are designed to motivate each of us to do what is good and right before our Lord.
This section is going to be two episodes that are relatively short because we want you to hear it, think about what you hear and then act on it before God.
First observation: Lack of self-control is simply slavery–not freedom.
"Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied."
The imagery used here is very powerful if you have lived long enough to see death a lot. Death and the grave always has room for more. Neither of them ever says no. They are always ready to swallow up one more.
Then it becomes very personal because in the same way, the "eyes" (the heart, the desires and will of man) simply cannot find satisfaction.
There is always something more that you don’t possess, and it becomes your new goal.
This is the cause of idolatry and its folly. It is what makes the task of the tempter so easy because our sin is not outside of us, but within. The devil merely needs to put it before our eyes and then we can’t take our eyes off of it.
We keep thinking something or someone shall bring ultimate peace and satisfaction, we keep filling ourselves with things that never deal with the heart.
Many a testimony of those who grew up in a Christian home, rejected it, seeing it as a set of rules restricting their joy and pleasure, only to later find out the opposite was true.
We are made in the image of God. We are made to be worshipers of God.
The call of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not just to go to heaven, but rather, to declare that He is altogether glorious and satisfying.
To love Jesus means that we bring our passions and desires to bear on Him. We no longer are lord of our lives; we are now slaves to Christ. Willing slaves, but we are slaves nonetheless.
Jeremiah 2:12-13 “Be appalled, O heavens, at this, And shudder, be very desolate,” declares the LORD. “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns, That can hold no water.”
The path to hell and the chains of sin is a well-marked and well-worn path.
When we do not practice self-control then we cannot say to our eyes, “it is enough.”
It is enslavement of our own making with only ourselves to blame.
This is the sin of the garden. We abandon God’s way, because we think he is holding on us. So what we do is create our own way, thinking it is far better.
Again, this is not freedom, but enslavement- enslavement to the deception of self.
The bible tells us that this lack of self-control becomes a key weapon in the arsenal of false teachers.
"For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved." (2 Pet. 2:18-19) [Makes me wonder how many will find out they were false teachers in the end.]
Listen now to how Peter counsels us in our freedom, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.” (1 Pet. 2:16)
Paul says similar things:
"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." (Gal. 5:1)
"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Gal. 5:13)
We lie to ourselves that we are merely exercising our “Christian freedom.” In our interactions with others we love to give the protest, “But what is wrong with it?” But the whole time our eyes are merely looking off into the distance to see what else it might obtain.
Instead, true freedom comes when we subsume our desires under the yoke of a slave to Christ; where we serve one another out of love.
Second observation: Lack of self-control is evidence of an apostate spirit.
"But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these." (2 Tim. 3:1-5)
2 Timothy 3:3 - Key word is ἀκρατής which simple means without self-control, dissolute, scandalous, disgraceful.
What stands out in this passage is that the description is not of unbelievers, but of those within the visible church. Which begs the question of how does the church end up looking like this?
We would argue that part of the answer lies in how we treat things such as self-control. How we wink and chuckle at the latest little faux pax committed.
So, you like to joke about your lack of self-control? Paul would be unimpressed and not humored in any way. He would warn you to look to your soul and to take care.
This is a brutal passage as it describes so much of modern, American Christanity.
We plot and move to make more money. We live for social media and the gaining of followers and likes.
We spread everything we can think of throughout the internet for all to hear and know. We love pleasure in ways our forefathers never dreamed would exist.
Much of it moves through the vehicle of a lack of self-control.
The end result? A form of godliness but not a real one. An evangelical or Reformed or Lutheran church that goes through the motions but never gets around to calling the flock of God to live soberly and wisely in a godless age.
A lack of self-control makes things rather easy for you in this life. Whatever you want, you do. Your decision-making is simple, I want it, so I will take it. And all around you people give hearty approval as they practice the same.
But God looks at it differently. It is serious and it has serious ramifications attached to it. It is an ever brightening signpost shining forth that here stands an apostate-in-waiting.
Third observation: The lack of self-control is worthy of God's judgment.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.” (Matt. 23:25)
The term, “self-indulgence” speaks of the lack of self-control.
The lack of self-control was part of the great condemnation against the religious leaders of the time. What stands out to us is the heart of self-control rather than merely the appearance.
Though externally they showed so much promise and godliness, the heart was filled with robbery and self-indulgence. Doesn’t this speak to our day and age?
Over and over we see Christian leaders whose gross sins finally come to light. Where once stood the external picture of a godly man walking in the grace of God we now see the ugly, rotten reality of the hidden life.
Ted Haggard, in 2006 while serving as President of the National Association of Evangelicals and senior pastor of a mega-church, is discovered to use crystal-meth and engage in the services of a homosexual escort service.
Bob Coy, pastor of a massive church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Huge radio ministry and exceedingly influential. Until 2014 it is found that he is also a serial adulterer, hooked on porn and all that goes with that.
Doug Phillips, who headed up a patriarchal para-church ministry known as Vision Forum was a force to be reckoned with. A strong push on godly homes and proper marital roles, as defined by him, and a growing group of followers all came to an end when in 2013 it is discovered he is unfaithful to his wife, abusive, and involved in some rather twisted sexual activities.
Rob Bell shot to the top of the new trend in how to worship and “do Christianity.” All of this began to unravel as we watched him enter into to a form of universalism, an advocate for homosexuality and has gone on to become one more liberal, cross-denying religious man who says nothing that will really matter.
Tullian Tchividjian was another great man of God until it came out that he also was a great, serial adulterer. Eventually he married one of the women he had affairs with and started a new church. And of course many people are coming to it. Because, you know, Christianity is for those who are broken.
We could go on. Frankly we could go on and on and on. But we won’t. Because just around the corner is another religious leader shooting up higher and higher in the eyes of the people all the while, because of no true heart of self-control, will turn out to be a white-washed grave.
Jesus is not impressed by those who are driven by their desires. No matter how holy they claim those desires to be.
We must guard against the cheap imitation of true self-control that is merely external rules, while the heart continues to run after all sorts of evil.
We can see this in various movements that arise up in the church.
Early church developed monasticism.
Evangelicals today have their own forms of monasticism, withdrawing from the world, creating up artificial barriers and standards.
“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ (which all refer to things destined to perish with the using)-- in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
They have the appearance of wisdom, but the bible says that they lack the power to deal with the core of the problem, our flesh.
We have three more points to make on the necessity of self-control but we believe this is more than enough for each of us to consider over the next week.
Paul’s point in Colossians 2 cannot be missed. Self-control is not something pulled out of our own power. When that happens it always just turns into rules and self-deprivation that feeds our pride.
It is strange, but true, that often true godliness and false godliness look very similar. The difference is the motivation and the heart attitude.
One comes from the motivation to be noticed or to just fix something in our life. It is very self-centered.
The other is motivated from a heart of humility that seeks to follow our Lord. It is one that submits to the Spirit through the Word of God.
One works for a while while the other tends to be rather unexciting and slow, but it endures and grows into something God-honoring.