We pick back up on the topic of self-control today.
Last podcast we dealt with three reasons why self-control is necessary for every Christian. We did this by making three observations.
First observation: Lack of self-control is simply slavery–not freedom.
Second observation: Lack of self-control is evidence of an apostate spirit.
Third observation: The lack of self-control is worthy of God's judgment.
As you can tell, these are not little points about how to improve your life and get that figure you have always wanted. True self-control is a Spirit-empowered work that transforms you into the image of your Lord and Savior.
It is a work that prepares you for eternity.
It is a work that makes you live and walk in a manner worthy of your calling and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is what enables you to finish your earthly race well.
We want to finish up with three more observations on the necessity of self-control:
Fourth, Self-control was part of the gospel by way of a call to repent.
“But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, "Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you." At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him.” (Acts 24:24-26)
This term for self-control means, “restraint of one’s emotions, impulses, or desires, or self-control.” Here is an incredibly sad story and it is very revealing about what happens when the gospel is told to someone.
Felix was the governor and Paul was brought before him for Tertullius to make accusations. Paul showed the lies for what they were.
Felix knows something of the Christian faith (vs 22 speaks of him having a more exact knowledge about the Way) and puts the whole thing off, imprisons Paul for another day.
Vss 24ff is the key. He summons Paul again, and the goal? To hear more of faith in Christ Jesus.
What we find so fascinating in this discussion though is the content. What was it? Righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come.
His response is what is sad (25ff).
But for our purposes we want to understand that Paul called this man to repent and this involved doing righteousness and showing self-control
We must be wary of not hiding the call to FOLLOW Jesus, if we are going to believe in Jesus. They are one and the same. This is the error of what is known as the “free grace” movement like Tchvijian pushes. A lot of grace but no call to obediently follow.
People struggle with what they are to say if they have an opportunity to share the gospel with someone.
Do you have only a little time?
You speak about the need for One who can reconcile you with your Creator. You speak of how sin has separated us from God. You speak of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, of his resurrection.
Do you have more time?
You develop what sin is. You speak of the judgment to come. You speak of what it means to follow Jesus. You speak of bringing all that is your life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In fact, the more time you have to speak of Christ to a person the greater you press the reality of true repentance. You stop pursuing one thing and you pursue Christ.
Another passage is 1 Corinthians 9:23ff.
“I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. 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. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9:23-27)
We have taught on this in the past episodes so we will merely make a couple of observations.
Many try to make the term “disqualified” to speak of a loss of reward. But the word speaks of failing the test, shown to be not true, or simply rejected.
It is salvific in its view. Paul understands that you don’t live a life of sin and think that because you asked Jesus to save you at some point, that everything is fine.
For him, this life of faith in Christ was a serious work and it had eternity as the goal. Eternity with Christ.
Fifth, Self-control operates among other spiritual “fruit.”
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Gal. 5:22-23)
Probably the most common passage people think of when considering self-control.
There is a tendency to see that this is a passive event that just occurs. We just mysteriously develop this self-control by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Note how the various "fruits" are in parallel and contrast to the "deeds of the flesh" of vs 19. Each of the fruit, really a combination of them, resist the deeds mentioned, plus all others that the flesh might produce.
This is so important to understand because if you are not careful you can think of the fruit of the Spirit and "walking" by the Spirit as some ecstatic, or super spiritual event.
Often this is seen as some sort of "higher plane" that is often taught in the holiness/pentecostal/charismatic circles.
We see this in the Keswick view of sanctification. It is also known as “let go and let God.”
In reality the answer is found in 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
To walk by the Spirit is simply a statement of conduct that is consistent with the expectations and instruction of the Holy Spirit.
This is nothing less that a life of obedience and conformity to what the Word of God commands Christians to do and be.
This walking by the Spirit is described in Romans 8:4, and there it is described as a setting your mind on the things of the Spirit [that is helpful for me as it tells me to be immersed in biblical thinking] (5), and then a bit later he continues to unpack that even more, that is described as subjecting yourself to the law of God (7), and then later on that is explained as putting to death sin (13).
“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness…”
(2 Pet. 1:5-6)
Again, we have dealt with this section in previous episodes, so we will only deal lightly with it here. Self-control, like so many other things listed here, is evidence and assurance of one's election.
"Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;"
(2 Pet. 1:10)
To not be growing in these should be a concern to one's soul.
What is interesting is how self-control is one of the first on the list. It is one of those foundational qualities that is so necessary to growth as a Christian.
First we determine to make no more excuses, we will begin to add to our faith.
This drives us to know (a knowledge that is more than facts, there is the idea of comprehension, understanding).
As we know and understand, we begin to learn self-control.
Why? Because it is not done in a vacuum.
Self-control doesn't just happen, it must have boundaries that are drawn and defined. We don’t get to define those boundaries, God does.
As you begin to learn and understand what God desires of you as a Christian, then you will begin to walk in a manner worthy of what He has called you to.
Sixth, Self-control requires effort and diligence.
"But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;" (1 Tim. 4:7)
Self-control requires discipline, but biblical discipline means being trained in the right things for the right reason.
Notice in vs 3 that there are false teachers who are advocating a false self-control; rules without grace, and rules not borne from the freedom of the gospel.
“men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Tim. 4:3)
Their rules are ones that bind and enslave. They see the physical world as something evil, rather than all things created as good and worthy of being accepted.
Paul says to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.
He goes on to say in verse 8, “for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” The idea of physical exercise and discipline has some value, but spiritual exercise and discipline is valuable for all things and all time.
This is where leadership is to come into play.
Exodus 32:25, “Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control [golden calf]– for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies.”
This verb has three basic meanings. The second is of interest to us, "to let loose" in the sense of "to let run wild."
2 Chronicles 28:19 “For the LORD humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had brought about a lack of restraint in Judah and was very unfaithful to the LORD.”
The leadership will determine the atmosphere in which those who follow operate.
This is true of a nation, a church, a business or a home.
A husband who will not set the standard of self-control with regard to food or money is of no help to a struggling wife or kid.
"But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." (Heb. 5:14)
When you are trained and disciplined you can readily and properly take on solid doctrine. Here again we see a need to move beyond a basic grasp of the gospel and begin to plumb its depths and consider its effects in our lives.
It cannot stick if there not a training/self-discipline that takes place to discern what is good and what is evil.
The terms in that passage describes them in very sad ways:
Unable to discern good and evil.
What are the characteristics of the “mature,” using vss 11-14?
Sharp of hearing (not dull)
Compare with Ephesians 4:13-14, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;”
Note the vulnerability of these people in Hebrews:
They cannot discern good and evil.
Why? Lack of diligence (practice), lack of training/effort (word is where we get gymnasium).
Therefore we can make a few conclusions here:
First, maturity is more than knowing solid doctrine. It is practicing it. But you cannot practice what you do not know.
Second, there is no easy way to become mature, it requires practice and effort
(cf Psalm 1:1-3). Until that happens, a person is incredibly vulnerable and in a dangerous place.
As pastors there are many reasons to have concern with some who we care for.
What are they investing time and energy in? Movies, books, time management, money investments, relationships. They can quote you the latest stock price or line from some movie, but they can’t control their tongue.
How many times have we heard those young in faith tell us it will be alright? And how many no longer walk in the faith.
The path of life is littered with broken bodies of the immature.
This series is not a fun series. It is not necessarily happy to hear these things.
But this series is an important one because it speaks to what it really looks like to run the race that God has set before each of us.
We do not enter the Kingdom of God on the coattails of another person. We must be like Paul, running the race so as to win and not find ourselves disqualified.