Chapter 5 Self-Control

Sin is unavoidable and is the root of our troubles. No one can dance around this unpalatable truth. It’s unpleasant and places us at odds with God. But God provides everything we need to turn away from sin and live at peace with Him and those around us. And one of the essential Christian principles leading to spiritual maturity is self-control.

The biggest stumbling block in drawing closer to God is our lack of self-discipline. Reacting to life’s terms in impulsive ways creates troubles and causes spiritual conflicts. Most of our mistreatment of others stem from an inability to restrain from acting out on sinful thoughts and actions. We can’t prevent ourselves from causing harm to others but Christ can and once He is involved everything changes.

Christ explained it this way. “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man,” (Mark 7:21-23). Jesus didn’t hold back and try to avoid or soften the truth of sin. He made it known the origin of sin comes fromthe heart.

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When I stop and think over those verses, it helps me understand the seriousness of my eternal resting place. Christ leaves no doubt the evilness sin created in the Garden of Eden. Here, I’m faced with the reality of sin and the way it destroys my relationship with God.

It’s troublesome to know I can act in sinful ways. But when God saved me, He showed me a way out of sin and into a life full of His grace. I know God wants to do the same for you (2 Peter 3:9).

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How can we prevent ourselves from self-destruction? Well, the answer is simple. First, we need to accept Christ as God’s final plan of salvation. Next, we need to examine ourselves and look at our Christian walk. Then the last piece of the equation is using Christ’s courage to turn away from sin and live a righteous life. Each of those action takes Christian discipline.

 

Accepting Christ as God’s Savior

God included Christ in everything; even at creation. In the Gospel of John, God showed him the plans He had for Christ.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines into darkness, and the darkness didn’t comprehend it,” (John 1:1-5).

Those verses are from God’s Spirit and are the essence of salvation. As believers, we must accept Christ or face eternal damnation. Our Father leaves us no excuses not to understand the way out of spiritual darkness is the Light of Christ. God gave us the Holy Spirit to know the truth of Christ.

When Christ was in the flesh spreading God’s truth many refused to accept Him as the Messiah. They knew He was from God, but couldn’t believe He was God’s Son. Their blindness rejected Christ and sealed their spiritual death. Jesus understood their disbelief and often hid the explanation to His parables.

They did the same to God’s Prophets, and Christ knew their harden hearts. Their fatal mistake of rejecting Christ is a warning for us not to follow in their footsteps (Matthew 23:3). God made sure future generations had written accounts of the eternal consequences of disobedience and His promise of heaven. The Bible has those truths and living the scriptures enhances our knowledge of Christ.

Once we follow this truth, then self-control becomes a necessity to stand firm on God’s word because temptation is an active adversary. God’s enemy is cunning, and we know this from Eve’s experience. The devil convinced her she could not die from disobeying God (Genesis 3:4) and promised her to become God’s equal (Genesis 3:5). But Satan’s deception was short lived and Adam and Eve had to face the consequences of God’s wrath.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites lack of spiritual discipline caused them to chase after false gods. It was easier for them to live apart from God and be disobedient. God performed many miracles and used Prophets to bring them into His kingdom but to no avail. Their constant defiance set in motion God’s final plan for bringing them Christ as their redeemer.

The main reason for self-discipline of accepting Christ is guarding against false doctrine and teachings. After Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension many incorrect accounts of His ministry arose. Apostle Peter in his second Epistle warns believers not to fall for unfruitful beliefs (2 Peter 2) and today false teachings are still available.

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In the 1970s, Jim Jones created and led the Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ. He is a prime example of Peter’s warning. Mr. Jones misled people in the name of Christ and caused over 900 deaths. Jim was deceptive, preying on unstable souls and holding them hostage from leaving. His wickedness caused his victims to commit suicide. This is an extreme case, but it supports Peter’s message (2 Peter 2:12-17).

Most people don’t fall for extreme deception. Christ’s enemy uses unusual doctrines. Gnosticism is a doctrine the devil uses to cause confusion to God’s truth. In their gospels, they believe Christ chose Judas Iscariot as the sole recipient of His true teachings. They think creation became flawed from its start. Another one of the Gnostic belief is suggesting Christ had a wife. In the devil’s toolbox, he uses false truths to deceive, and Gnosticism is an example of the way he twists God’s word. This is why we have to be careful and not give into wrongful deities because our eternal resting place is at risk.

It takes self-control to avoid corrupting the mind with false facts. Christ leads by God’s Living Spirit, and once you receive this gift, then your salvation is finish. Your acceptance of Christ will be the greatest awakening to God’s truth since it’s the holiest experience a human can have with Him.

Self-Examination

One of the toughest parts of faith is examining the way we live our lives. It’s easy to avoid looking at our Christian walk (2 Corinthians 13:5). The world’s influences make it a challenge to set aside time and review at our hearts.

Examine-yourselves-as-toJobs, family, and friends are necessities of life. God knows we need to be attentive to them. Sometimes we become too involved in our personal lives and become distant from Christ. This happens, and often it’s unintentional.

In our busy lives, how can we give God our undivided attention?

The answer is applying the same discipline we exert in our daily affairs for survival to our commitment to God. Every day we make efforts to follow a personal schedule to meet the daily demands of life. It takes time management to keep a job.

Mothers met the needs of their children and take the proper steps necessary in providing maternal care. Our families need affection, and we adjust our lives to fulfill their needs. In our social lives, we make ourselves available to meet up with friends and enjoy having fun.

We are familiar with discipline, yet our tendency is to slight our personal time with God. Christ isn’t a bail bondsman to be called upon in times of emergencies. We need to embrace God with the same energy we use in meeting our personal responsibilities.

Remember we are no longer living life for ourselves since our calling is to glorify God through Christ (1 Peter 4:11). Jesus warns us not be lukewarm Christians (Revelation 3:15-16).

Our conscious contact with God has to be active and our efforts a constant personal exertion of devotion. God is watching the way we use our faith. And the results from adjusting our individual plans to meet God’s requests is receiving His blessings (Deuteronomy 28:1-2).

The way this works for me is starting my day with prayer and meditation. This means applying self-discipline the moment I crawl out of bed. God first called me in the spring of 1985. Alcoholism and agnosticism had ruined my life. I use to wake up in the mornings placing the focus on myself. This led me to make irrational decisions causing me immense troubles. And relying on myself kept me on a path of self-destruction.

Today I have learned to get out of bed and place my thoughts on God. It’s imperative for me to start my day with Christ because walking out the door unprotected against temptation is dangerous. My past is my greatest asset because being away from Christ I was powerless over sin.

In the mornings and starting them with God is something I love and enjoy. But to stop relying on Christ the moment I walk out the door isn’t wise since hidden problems arise throughout each day. I have to continue my reliance on Christ and take spiritual action in resolving each day’s trials.

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It has become essential for me to find a private place during work and take a few minutes asking Christ for guidance. Sometimes it’s difficult dealing with co-workers and by consulting God in those times it clears away wrongful reactions. And Christ’s peace has a calming effect and prevents me from becoming ineffective. God never stops caring because every time I turn to Him my spirit is comforted.

Another action of self-examination is looking at sin. Christ preached on looking at our personal sins. In John’s Gospel Jesus shared this with us. “So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). Their experience with Christ’s truth on sin made them realize theirs, and they removed themselves from His presence (John 8:9).

Christ reminds us not to judge others.  “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First, remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye,” (Matthew 7:3-5). Judging others is condemning someone for sinning and forgetting to tend to one’s own.

I have found it essential to write my sins in a journal. When I first analyzed my sins, it appeared to be a pointless exercise. I had a frame of mind since God has forgiven me why should I look at my behavior? But I found out this was a superficial approach in growing my faith and needed to gain a better perspective on the ways sin manifest itself in my life.

Writing my sins on paper gives me tangible evidence to the patterns they create to my disobedience, treatment of others and the condition of my heart. By listing them in a journal it exposes them to Christ’s light and prevents them from staying hidden. It’s a way I prevent myself from living in unconfessed sin and sweeps away the obstacles in the way of my obedience to Christ.

For example, anger often leads me to cause harm to others by responding to others with hurtful words. When I get angry and don’t use self-control, then it’s impossible for me to be spiritual in my reaction. God is watching the way I show mercy and by lashing out with a vicious remark is where I am wrong. The Lord knows I will fall short but wants me to keep trying my best to live holy treating others with love.

Its abiding in Christ I find the strength to pause when angry and be kind in my reaction. I’m not perfect and fall short and have to make amends from my angry remarks. Salvation doesn’t mean I don’t sin. It means I understand my sinful nature and the mercy God gives through Christ.

Here are the questions I write on anger: Am I resentful? How often do I get mad? What makes me angry? When others harm me, do I stay sore? Do I want to get back at others when they hurt me? Do I throw a tantrum when I do not get my way? Does my anger reach the point of rage? Is it easy for me to forgive others? Do I become frustrated over things out of my control?

Answering those question helps me gain a better understanding of how anger causes me trouble. It takes away denial, highlights my wrongful behavior and opens the door to repentance. This works for any sin and makes me see the unfruitfulness of living in sin. But I have to go further since I’m looking but not acting and I will need Christ’s courage to live free from sin. To stop here stunts my spiritual maturity.

 Christ’s Courage

 It’s not by accident we find the strength to stop sinning. God made Christ our Redeemer (Colossians 1:13-14) and the more we rely on Jesus our sins lessen. Our Father understood the great fall of humanity and provided us Christ’s courage to defeat evilness. And by anchoring your life in Christ’s body Satan flees and can’t separate you from God.

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It’s a great relief to understand God never turns His back on the faithful. God has given us a holy privilege and by glorifying God in Christ, we become reborn. God has called us to join Christ and show the world proof of salvation. Our example in reacting to a broken world in a Christian way bears witness to Christ’s undeniable strength and those around us become exposed to God’s incredible existence.

 

Accepting Christ and examining our lives leads to the greatest defense against sin. It’s the courage of Christ that gives us the strength to turn away from sin and live favorable in the eyes of God. The greatest insight to Christ’s perfect courage is visiting the cross.

When they arrested, tortured and executed Christ, it showed the world a spiritual courage never seen. Christ did not resist nor defend Himself. Jesus took on everything they threw His way with grace. And the result from His courage is God’s gives the gift of salvation.

Unbelievers often view reliance on Christ as a weakness. Self-reliance is their code and believe they can do everything by themselves. In their world, they use self-sufficiency as the means of solving problems, yet the results from it don’t have lasting effects. They are blinded to God’s truth and can’t find spiritual relief from their sins. They appear to be confident but the moment problems arise that need God’s help their disbelief is exposed.

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When Christ defeated Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), it showed His mighty strength and gave us the courage to change. Each of us will experience times when we chase after the lusts of the world. Satan’s playground is too tempting for us to overcome alone. This gives us an excellent opportunity to use self-control by leaning on Christ’s strength. And the results from receiving Christ’s power shows up in our Christian walk.

Every day we are given a choice to live in Christ or face sin alone. Making the right choice leads to heaven but choosing the wrong one has eternal consequences. Remember God never forces Himself on us but when we want Christ, He is pleased and embraces us with His grace. And when we live by God’s grace our ability to stop sinning increases.

Christ makes self-control easier because we are no longer operating on our limited strength. Jesus uses the Holy Spirit to guide our actions, and this allows us to walk away from temptations. It’s in Christ we become confident and are not troubled by the problems. Christ provides us with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11) and dresses us in the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14). We can’t go wrong when Christ is leading our path.

Self-examination, accepting Christ as God’s Savior and reliance on Jesus leads to a life full of God’s glory. One way to give God thanks is practicing self-control. God is pleased when we live righteous under every circumstance. We can agree that by living in Christ’s body and applying self-discipline our ability to turn away from sin improves our obedience to God. Remember with Christ everything is possible.

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