Friday, October 28, 2011


     Paul in our text is breaking down Christian and ethical behaviour in 3 categories.  He's breaking it down for Men, Women & Children.  There is variation in what he writes to all 3, but one common virtue Paul brings up in all 3 scenarios, the "only" virtue he brings up to all 3 parties is that of "Self Control".  I think it is easier to understand that word if you say it backwards...Control Self, or even more specifically, Control yourself!  Is this such a big issue with us?  Do we not control ourselves? I know I control my bladder, it would be severely embarrassing to me to be with friends and have an "accident". I don't think they would look at me with much empathy but they probably would look at me with much sympathy, sympathy for what a sorry sucker I am that I cannot control my own bladder at my age.  There are other areas that I am not so flawless at exercising self control. I have never, not once had a bladder accident, not once! I am quite "powerful" in this area of self control and so are you!!!  Why is it then that in other areas we do not have such a perfect track record, we are not so strong? Have you ever lacked self control in the area of purity? Have you ever lacked self control in the area of temper?  Have you ever lacked self-control in the area of your tongue, your eyes, your mind, your hands/fists? I will not pee on myself in front of others but for some reason I will lash out with my mouth in front of others.  Do I somehow think that I have made less of a fool of myself because it was only my mouth I let loose?  Well in some ways we may be correct in thinking that.  And why is that?  The reason is because it's a cultural norm to lack self control of the tongue/mouth, but it is not a cultural norm to lack self control over your bladder.  Imagine how different we would be if people frowned at the lack of self-control over your mouth as much as they would the lack of self-control over your bladder.  Do you think we would refrain more often from temper tantrums, do you think we would refrain more often from mouthing off, of course we would.  And why would we?  Because, truth be known, we do have the power to exercise self-control if we truly want to.  This is why Paul doesn't say, "if you can, please do your best to excercise self-control", but rather Paul simply says, "just do it".
     We are truly a mess when it comes to this word, this virtue, this fruit of the Spirit, called "Self-Control".   Even Preachers do not have a grasp on this, as they should, how much more so the congregation members and your average day to day Christian. We fail miserably in the area of self-control, don't we!  At the end of the day, all we have to say is, "I shouldn't have said that, I shouldn't have ate that, I shouldn't have hit him, I shouldn't have looked at that, I shouldn't have lost my temper, I shouldn't have gone through that light, I shouldn't have drank so much, I shouldn't have had that second helping, I shouldn't have .......I shouldn't have.....
     Self-Control is tied to our will.  It is "our will" that determines our self control.  And "our will" is motivated by "self", so this is a combination destined to fail, unless someone or something, ie: The Holy Spirit, gets involved. If it will make us look bad (by cultural norms) we will go to great lengths to exercise self-control, but if we are not concerned about how we may look or appear, self-control goes out the window.  Self-Control is like a muscle, the more it is exercised the stronger it gets.  Every time we make a stand and say "no, I will not" our self-control is reinforced, re-calibrated with a greater strength.  The same is also true that every time "we give in" we weaken our will to overcome and in so doing we weaken our self-control.  Christians who have more self-control than others are not simply Christians who prayed, "God I want more self-control" (don't we all) they are Christians who one decision at a time, one day at a time, began saying "no, I will not" and actually did not cave in. They are Christians that do not function by "cultural norms" but by "Kingdom norms ".
      I wish I had self-control like you" is the greatest cop-out any Christian can ever utter, as if some are more gifted with it than others (I hope you didn't think that). THE LIE is that true happiness will come from gratification, that true happiness comes from not restraining yourself, but it is a HUGE LIE  and we are not dumb for falling for it once or twice, but we are dumb as dirt for falling for it over and over again through out the course of our lives.  Has "self gratification" ever turned out to be good, when you instinctively sensed it was wrong but refused to exercise self-control.  Did you ever eat to the point that you were bloated and felt sick and then thought... "gee, that was good, I feel great about that".  There was a time when gluttony was frowned upon and thought to be a sin (according to the bible, it still is).  "And why was that?" you may ask...well simply said, because it showed a lack of self-control, which was expected by the Christian who claimed to be indwelt, by the Holy Spirit. 
     The classic case of a man that lacks self-control, is the man that is out of work (because he can't keep his mouth shut), he is grossly overweight (because he cannot say no or enough), he is divorced because he refuses to deny his eyes and he is bound in pornography because he refuses to control his mind (all areas where we can exercise self-control, if we choose to). Perhaps what we need to do is change our mindset, don't think "is this culturally acceptable" but rather think, "is this acceptable in the sight of God"  "Would I be embarrassed to behave or do this in front of God?  Would I be embarrassed to do this in front of a host of Angels? Than that is the "cultural norm & acceptable behaviour" that we need be concerned about.  In some areas of the middle east, rape is a cultural norm (clearly a lack of self-control on the man's part, sinfully so) but yet there is no shame because it is a cultural norm.  So if we allow our deteriorating culture to dictate to us what is "normal" we will get to a place where self-control is a lost virtue.  "Where do I need to begin exercising self-control?"  Look in your bible, it is clearly outlined and best of all, it is timeless.  Once you know which areas to exercise self-control in, you don't have to look back, no matter where you move, what country you live in, how much time  passes, it remains the same.
     Self-Control is not a dirty word, it is a fantastic word and a great virtue to have. It is not bought, nor does it come by prayer (although that would be a starting place) but it is available to all and it starts the moment you are done reading this blog. It can be attained and you will have an opportunity to begin attaining it in just a moment or two and it is a virtue that Paul writes, is a virtue that the man, the woman and the child must possess if he or she is going to walk the Christian walk and not profane the name of Christ.