(9/28) Introduction - Before you and I came to faith in Jesus, we had a tendency to be dominated by our own desires. Even if we submitted to the laws of the land, or our families or communities moreís and standards, we still thought of what we wanted. And it wasnít always, drugs, alcohol, and sex. It may have been our drive to succeed, or our desire
for ice cream, or to make money, or to spend money, or our desire for attention. We may have been fighters, whether physically or mentally, we had to win at all costs. For some of us, because of our pasts, we had a problem with anger or with the inability to trust people.
Then we heard the gospel and life began to change for us. We were born again. We were forgiven and we began to think differently and to act differently. But all change wasnít instant nor automatic, though we wish it was. Everyone who drank, smoked, or used off-color language didnít have it immediately changed. But we were aware of the presence of God
in our lives and we began grow and to morph as God began the process of changing us from being caterpillars to becoming butterflies.
It probably didnít take too long, however, for you to realize that some changes were harder than others to make. We began to realize that we have 3 enemies that wanted to assault and conquer us. They are:
1. The World System. The philosophies of self-centeredness bombard us on TV, the classroom, in books and magazines and they encourages us to do what everyone else in the world is doing.
2. Satan. Satan, himself, will tempt you to go back to what you were and will tell you that you have a right to indulge. He will tell you lies like, "One, or a little, wonít hurt you. No one will know. And, you have a right to be happy or to respond that way, and everyone else does."
3. Your Own Flesh. Paul will write about this in several places. This is the desires of your own mind and body. Letís notice Paulís own struggles with this in Romans 7, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 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. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 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. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not
to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I want you to realize that the word, "Flesh," is not just the body, but is used of the total person; that is, body, mind, and soul that operates apart from God. Paul says, there are things I donít want to do and I purpose not to do them, but then I do them. He
also says, there are things he knows he needs to do, only to not do them. Can you identify? Have there been times when you said to yourself, ĎWhat was I thinking," or "I donít know what came over me?í D. L. Moody, that great evangelist of the last century was asked, "Of all the people you come in contact with, who gives you the most trouble?" He said, "D. L. Moody. I have the
most trouble with myself." Like the old saying, "I am my own worst enemy." There was a sign on an office door that read, "If you could kick the person responsible for most of your troubles, you wouldnít be able to sit down for weeks."
Can you identify? I can! What we need is the discipline of self-control. Ė During the 1980ís, First lady, Nancy Reagan, started a campaign against drugs, violence, and promiscuous sex among teenagers. The slogan that she coined for the campaign was, "Just say, ĎNo.í" Do you remember? You donít have to give in to peer pressure and ruin your lives, you
can just say, "No." Unfortunately, itís not as easy as just saying no. To live a life that is best for you, and glorifying to God you need to exercise this discipline of self-control.
Proverbs 25:28, "Whoever has no rule over his own spirit, Is like a city broken down, without walls." (NKJV), or, "Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control." (NIV) Walls were a cityís main defense. They were designed to keep the enemies out. A city without walls was subject to attack and defeat by enemies. This is
why Nehemiah cried, fasted and prayed when he heard that the city of his dreams, Jerusalem, didnít have walls. He knew that his people had been allowed to return after 70 years of captivity to their homeland, but without walls for their city, they were like sitting ducks, so to speak, for their enemies and were a source of ridicule and laughter by neighbors. So, are you
without self-control! Benjamin Franklin was right when he said, "He is a governor that governs his passions, and he is a servant that serves them."
The wordís self-control, basically means, "To grab hold of, or to get a grip on." Self-control is to get a grip on yourself; to get a grip on your desires, impulses, and temptations. Has anyone ever told you to get a grip or to control yourself? Samson was a mighty man, but his down-fall was that he could not control his desires.
I find it interesting that when Paul had a chance to present his case to the Roman Governor Felix (Acts 24), he spoke of three things (Acts 24:25), Righteousness, Self-Control, and the Judgment to come. Felix put up his hand and said, "Thatís enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you." I donít think he ever asked for
the rest of that sermon.
Listen to 2 Peter 1:2-9, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these
you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these
things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins."
Give all diligence means to make every effort, make this a priority for your life, focus on this. Controlling your desires, impulses, temptations, and sinful nature takes effort, but you are not alone in this effort. You have resources to help you. You have brothers and sisters in Christ, a church. Having a prayer partner, small group and a church
family is so important. We need each other to hold us accountable and to encourage us to, "Just say, No." Secondly, you have the presence of God in your life, The Holy Spirit, whose work is to empower you to know Godís word, to do Godís will, and to conquer your flesh. Letís look at Paulís counsel to the Galatians in Galatians 5:13 ff., 13 For you, brethren, have been called
to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those
who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christís have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one
another, envying one another.
If you will learn how to walk in the Spirit, He will enable you to have self-control.
The Island of Crete was described by one author as, "a place filled with saloons and was well known as the first century "party place." It was a party place populated by people whom Paul describes in Titus 1:12 as "liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." Temptations abounded and tripped up some of the new Christians with whom Titus worked in the Cretan
congregation. These new babes in Christ had come out of the raucous world around them. Each of them had friends who were still participating in the drunken love fests for which Crete was famous. This was not an easy place to win converts to Christ nor was it an easy place for believers to maintain their purity and self-control in their lives. Sounds a lot like America."
With that in mind, itís no surprise to find in Paulís brief letter to Titus, numerous admonitions to seize self-control. Instead of acting crazy with no restraint at all, Paul challenges four groups of people to "get a grip" by being controlled by the Spirit of God." In Titus 1:8, elders are to be men who are known for their hospitality, good works,
holiness, discipline and self-control. Listen to (NIV) Titus 2:1-6, "You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to
teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. 6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled."
So here is a rhetorical question, "What is it that you canít seem to control; or, what do you binge on? What is it that you canít seem to get a grip on?" Is it food, sleep, work, the TV, sports, spending, pornography, an addiction, anger, laziness, controlling others, pride? Solomon reminds us of the importance of keeping a watch on how weíre doing in
Proverbs 4:23: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
So, how do we exercise the discipline of Self-Control? How can I walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh? Here is what I suggest to you. BTW, not all desires are sinful. Some definitely are, but others are just not in your best interests. Like wanting to lose weight and then eating a Reeseís candy bar for breakfast. It wasnít or isnít sin, but it was
not the best for me, or rather, for someone. Do you understand this? So here we go.
1. Remember the Grace of God. Titus 2:11-12 says, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age." Listen Jesus died to free us from the penalty of our sins and to give us power over our sinful nature. When
I feel tempted or when I have a desire to do whatever, I need to remember the Grace of God. Therefore, I donít want to do what He died for. I want to live in gratitude of the Grace He had given me.
2. Remember Godís Goal for Your Life; that is, to morph or change you into the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29). He wants you to be just like Jesus. He is working all the details of your life for that purpose.
3. Remember Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3). Jesus was a self-controlled person. He said, "No," to Satan at least 3 times in Matthew 3; "No," to performing miracles on demand, in numerous places like John 6, "No," to trying to defend Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, "No," to getting into a war of words in His unlawful trials; "No," to walking away from the
cross, "No," to coming down off the cross, and "No," to calling 10,000 angels to rescue Him and fight His enemies.
4. Remember Who You Are and Whose You Are. You are an adopted child of Almighty God and your life belongs to Him. You have been bought with a price. He paid dearly for you be in His family. And you should have given your body as a living sacrifice to God. It belongs to Him now. (Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:19-20)
5. Remember His Presence in Your Life (John 14:6; Heb. 13:5). Where ever you go, there He is with you. Whatever you do, He is there with you. God is with you and in you now, to enable you to conquer your desires and impulses and temptations, as well as enabling you to honor God, know God, know His word, and do His will. The first 3 steps of AA says,
a.) We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
b.) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
c.) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. For you and I this may mean that we pray that, knowing He is with us, He will empower us to do what the Word says, have the wisdom to know what is best, and the ability to just say, "No!"
6. Remember Your Enemies. There is a reason why every New Testament writer reminds us of Satan. There is a reason why our Lord taught us to pray in Matt. 6:13 "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Our Lord wants that prayer model to remind us that every day we will face temptation from Satan, and the TV and magazines,
and from your own desires and impulses. This also means that you know your weaknesses. What is it that you are prone to give in to or that you are unable to get a grip on?
7. Make No Provision for the Flesh. Paul says in Romans 13, "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk
properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. This means you know your weaknesses and you take every effort to remove any temptation. You may need to block channels or get a computer program to block certain websites. You
may need to take a different route to or from work, or remove any alcohol, or ice cream and snickers from your home. Whatever it takes to remove any provision for the flesh. You may need to let your spouse control the finances. Take the steps to remove any temptation to your weaknesses.
8. Establish Your Own Goals. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him (2 Cor. 5:9). If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. What goals have you set for your life?
a. Goals for God- It may be to be more like Jesus which is Godís goal for you. It may be to memorize scripture. It may be to share Jesus with someone every day. It may be to touch someoneís life with grace every day. Or, like Paul, perhaps your goal is that you want God to be pleased with whatever you do.
b. Goals for Yourself Ė It may be to get back into a certain size clothing. It may be to leave a positive legacy for your family and friends. It may be to give more to charity or to missions. It may be to be in better physical shape, or to save for a dream vacation. It may be to be free from an addiction. Paul was a huge sports fan. He had a lifetime
subscription to ESPN magazine. He reminds us in 1 Cor. 9 that athletes who compete in the Isthmus and Olympic games focus on winning their competition. That is their goal and so they organize their lives to accomplish that goal. They knew the rewards that await winners. So they avoided certain foods, and drink. They trained to try to be the best in their sport, believing that
the rewards were worth the effort. We will come back to that.
9. Remember Your Sphere of Influence. You need to remember that nothing you do is just about you. Your life and habits and actions will affect your spouse, your parents, your children, your friends, and for Christians, your church, and your testimony as a Christ follower in your community. Thatís why all church officers are to have a good reputation
not only in their church, but in their family, and in their community (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Tim. 3; Titus 1). Even when it comes to Christian liberty, we should be careful. In 1 Cor. 9, Rom. 14, Gal. 6 and other places, Paul reminds us that Christian liberties may not be sinful but they can have a negative influence on others. Donít use them selfishly. If I donít control my desires,
my children wonít either. It can affect my marriage, my job, and my testimony as a Christ -follower. My giving in to my desires or temptations affects how people think about Jesus or His Church. "No man is an island," so said 16th century poet and preacher John Donne. Be careful not only in how you handle temptation but in how you use your Liberty.
10. Exercise daily. We have considered our spiritual calisthenics. We have focused on worship, meditation, prayer, confession, humility, and next week we will look at service. These must not be optional. Like good personal hygiene, you need to exercise daily. Make it part of your routine that even if you donít feel like it, you do it because you have
to. In the near future I will do a funeral for a 93 year old woman who is dying from cancer. She probably could have lived longer but she refused medication and hospitalization. She told me years ago, and confirmed a few months ago, that she exercises daily. When she goes to the store, she always parks far away from the store entrance so she will have to walk. And, every day,
until just recently, she did 10 push-ups and 10 sit Ėups. And, she is 93. Like Jack Palance, she asked me one day if I wanted to see a demonstration. She did them even when she didnít feel like it.
I ministered to young man in jail who was in and out repeatedly. He prayed to receive Jesus and did great in His spiritual life when he was in jail, but not when he was released. He asked me why he could do so well in jail, but would give in to his addictions when he was free. This was in a class setting with other inmates, and I asked him these three
a. When you were out last time, did you take the time to read your Bible every day? He said, "No."
b. When you were out last time, did you take the time to pray every dayí praying through the Lordís Prayer as I taught you? He said, "No."
c. When you were out last time did you go to church when the doors were open, so you could hear Godís word and worship and be encouraged by other Christians? He said, "No." And I said, "Dah!"
In a fallen world, with 3 great enemies hounding you, you need to exercise daily to be victorious. In 1 Cor. 9 Paul reminds us that athletes, will train, and avoid even normal desires like Reeseís cups, and ice cream, in order to be in the best shape to win the prize. Paul says, "If I donít control my flesh, it will control me." And, I want to
accomplish my goals.
11. Have an Accountability Partner or Group. So, many of us are proud and think we donít need help, but the value of a friend, and it may be your spouse, or the value of a small group, is that you have people who will encourage and pray for you. People with whom you can share your goals, your fears, your failures, your impulses, and will help you to be
victorious. Recovery and Support groups know the value of group support and accountability. It is one of the reasons that Jesus established the church. It is the reason for the more than 30 different one another commands in the New Testament. Heb. 10 says; 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves
together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Can it be risky? Sure it can. The risk of betrayal and gossip is always there, but the rewards are worth the risk.
12. Focus on the Rewards. These may be the temporal rewards of making your desired weight, getting in your desired clothes, gaining trust, saving money, staying on budget, helping people, or overcoming an addiction. It may be honoring God and desiring to hear Him say, "Well done," and the crown He wants to bestow on you. The old hymn says, "It will be
worth it all, when we see Jesus." Focus on the Finish Line and what awaits you there.
There you have the best advice I can give you on getting a grip on your life and being able to just say "No!" to your desires, impulses, and temptations, and "Yes," to what it takes for your to achieve Godís goal for you and your goals for Him and yourself.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman