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4. Self-Control : What Does It Mean to be a Mature Christian Disciple?-Titus 2:1-1)

What Does It Mean to be a Mature Christian Disciple? 4. Self-Control (Titus 2:1-15)

By Ted Schroder
www.tedschroder.com
July 16, 2017

We need self-control if we want to become a mature Christian disciple. Self-control or temperance was one of the four cardinal virtues. It includes restraint, prudence, chastity, sobriety -- to be of a sound mind, or a sober mind. It was deemed a higher virtue than many others. "Better... a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city" (Prov. 16:32). The absence of self-control leads to defeat and ruin: "Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control" (Prov.25:28).

St. Paul describes the reasons for lack of self-control in terms of throwing off the authority of God and wanting to live for the satisfaction of one's own selfish urges. "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts... they worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator...Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts...he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done" (Rom 1:24-26,28).

In what areas of your life do you struggle with self-control? What addictions and habits prevent us from being mature Christian disciples? Self-control is often most difficult in the area of one's gifts or strengths. We tend to indulge ourselves in the area where we think we are the strongest. For me it is the area of speech. As a young preacher I felt the need to inject some energy and youthful insight into what I considered a complacent and reserved congregation. One Sunday, when I was scheduled to preach, John Stott and I were preparing to enter the sanctuary. I said to him, "I am praying for liberty." He replied, "I am praying for restraint." At the time I thought I was right and he was too cautious. Now I realize that he was right and I was too impudent and presumptuous. Restraint is an aspect of self-control.

St. James wrote about the problem of controlling the tongue. "The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.... No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison" (Jas 3:5-8).

What can you do about taming the tongue, exercising self-control over what you say? Early on in my life I memorized and prayed Psalm 141:3, "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips." I also reminded myself that I needed to listen more than to speak. God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we might listen twice as much as we talked. When criticized we have the tendency to get defensive and to say things which we later regret. The mature Christian listens humbly and learns from what is said and ponders it in his heart. It is better to say nothing than to be speak in anger, intemperately. St. Paul urges Titus to teach his congregation to be temperate, worthy of respect, and self-controlled (Titus 2:1-15).

In what areas of your life do you struggle with self-control? Is it consumer driven? Is it in areas where you seek comfort? Is it in areas where you seek to escape from your worries and problems? Is it an inherited addiction?

Randy Frazee writes about a conversation he had with George Gallup Jr. (who served with me on the Board of Trinity School for Ministry for many years). Randy writes, "I was pontificating proudly on how Christians just need to get their act together and be self-controlled. In George's always kind and gentle demeanor he stopped me and said, 'Randy, you're not an alcoholic, are you?' Startled by the question, I said, 'No, I'm not.' He went on to say, 'Well, I am. My father was also an alcoholic. When I took my first drink, something happened to me that likely didn't happen to you or many others. I was hooked and couldn't stop. Even as a Christian, I tried and tried and tried. I felt so defeated, and it was ruining my life. Then in a moment of quiet desperation, I heard Jesus whisper to me, 'George, if you never lick this, that is okay. I died for this struggle in your life, and I still love you deeply.' He paused for a moment, reflecting on that tender encounter with the Savior, and then said, 'From that very moment I haven't had a drink. It has been over thirty years." (Randy Frazee, Think Act Be Like Jesus, p.184f.)

Self-control is only possible when a greater power takes over your life. Deliverance from defeat requires surrendering to the power of the indwelling Christ, the authority of God, through the gift of the Spirit. "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7).

St. Paul knows all about this from his struggles. "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do -- this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it....What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom 7:18-25).

It is living in Christ, and Christ living in us, dying to sin and rising to new life as we abide in him, stay connected to him, let his life flow through us, that we will produce the fruit of the Spirit.... self-control. This is a daily struggle with our sinful nature. One day at a time is the motto of recovery from addiction. One day at a time we let Christ control us through his Spirit. Merle Haggard wrote the lyrics for "One Day At A Time"
I'm only human I'm just a man
Help me to believe in what I could be and all that I am
Show me the stairway that I have to climb
Lord for my sake teach me to take one day at a time.

One day at a time sweet Jesus that's all I'm asking from you
Give me the strength to do every day what I have to do
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus and tomorrow may never be mine
So for my sake teach me to take one day at a time.

Do you remember when you walked among men
Well Jesus you know if you're looking below it's worse now than then
Pushing and shoving crowding my mind
So for my sake teach me to take one day at a time.

One day at a time sweet Jesus that's all I'm asking from you
Give me the strength to do every day what I have to do
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus and tomorrow may never be mine
So for my sake teach me to take one day at a time.

Yes, just for my sake teach me to take one day at a time...

END

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