Greater: Self Control

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human – I’m one of the pastors here and this morning it’s my pleasure to wrap up a series we are in called the Greater Life.   A Greater life awaits those who think highly enough of Jesus to trust Him with their life.  It is a life stamped with such beautiful attributes as Love and joy and peace and patience.

The more we get to know God and the closer we walk with Him the more He rubs off on us through the Holy Spirit and we begin to naturally and easily become people who are kind and good to others.  Who are faithful and gentle and people who exhibit self control.  The last on the list of what is known as the fruit of the spirit.

And you might say – “I know why self-control is the last on the list!  It’s the hardest!”

When I was a kid there was a show in Saturday afternoons – and it was called Creature Feature.  And it always was an old show – normally black and white – and it always featured a monster.  Frankenstein, Dracula, You had your giant ants, and the occasional blob.  The creature from the Black Lagoon was particularly awesome!

There was one thing that I personally found to be the scariest thing ever – and it wasn’t a monster.  In fact – it made appearances in many films – the scariest thing to me was quicksand.  One wrong move and you’re in trouble!

This is a picture fro the 1982 movie Beastmaster and it was a classic terrible B-list movie that you shouldn’t waste your time watching.  But I remember seeing this movie – and – don’t worry kids – he escapes – and I’ll tell you how at the end of the sermon – it is pretty unbelievable!

To me there was something terrifying about seeing a person swallowed up in quicksand.  Slowly sinking deeper and deeper – I don’t know why – but quicksand scares me.

Do you ever feel like – because of a lack of self control – you’ve gotten yourself stuck in a pit – some sin has ensnared you – and it was one decision at a time, but you are now stuck in this quagmire and you aren’t sure how to escape it?

The Bible calls these things sins that easily entangle us.  And the good news for us is that, it is possible for us to Avoid and escape the muck and the mire by becoming people who are self-controlled.  The last characteristic of a person who follows Jesus – is self control.  Galatians 5

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Let’s start with a definition.  What is self control? 

Let me start by saying that the opposite of self-control is not out-of-control.  The opposite of self-control is not a person who is out of control.  Someone who’s life is off the rails so to speak and they seem to have no control over their decisions.

Sometimes people get that way and it’s an awful thing to see.  The good news of course is that the bible shows us that even people out of control can and are brought under control through faith in Jesus.  But Self-control is not limited to people who were once out of control.

Here’s why.  Self-control is not the same as self discipline.  Here’s why.  the most self-disciplined people on the face of the earth during Jesus’ day were the same people who huddled up one day and said, let’s kill Jesus.

I don’t care how self-disciplined you are – The religious leaders of Jesus’ day would eat your lunch.  Their entire life was self-discipline.  And they also plotted murder.

See – you can discipline yourself – there are people out there and you know who they are because they are sure to tell you – who can eat a 1/4 cup of rice each day and they never eat fast food and they want you to know how better they are than you, you donut-eater!  Well okay – you are very self controlled and also an unlikable idiot.  I don’t even know what quinua is but I hope you choke on it!

Self-discipline is not the same as self-control.   Because many people use discipline as a way to showboat their ego.  As a way of ensuring that their self is IN control.

So here’s the definition of self-control.  It’s not self IN control – it’s self under control of the Holy Spirit.

It’s self under control – specifically – of the Holy Spirit, rather than self in control.

See the Bible says that really, there are only two options when it comes to who is guiding your life.  It’s either God or it’s the self.  The bible also uses word like “the Flesh” – the flesh is in control.  It also uses words like Selfish desires – and so biblically, what we’ve been studying all summer is the contrast between a life that is under control of the Spirit of God versus a life that is being controlled by the self.

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

I life that is under control of the Holy Spirit is a life that produces fruit.  It’s the greater life.   And a life that allows the Self – by the sinful nature to control it?  Well – it’s thistles and thorns for you baby.  It’s the lesser life. Because when we allow the self – our selfish desires to direct our lives it always finds the quicksand.

When our sinful selfish nature is in control – it makes one selfish decision after another and it always leads to the pits.  It always gets us stuck.  And unless we do something, we’ll be in trouble.

Now – it’s interesting if you were to do a search of the bible – you’d discover that the encouragement to become self-controlled people shows up in many places – Want to be a leader in the church?  Better be self-controlled – that is self under control.  In Titus Paul says – teach the older guys in the church to be self-controlled.  And the older women too and also the young people.  Teach everyone to become Self controlled.

What does this tell us?  That it isn’t easy to live your life under the control of the Spirit.  It wouldn’t show up so many places if it were easy.  The truth is that what’s easy is living a life where the self is in control, rather than the Spirit of God.

We’ve mentioned a few times the past few weeks that biblically, there’s two great fights that all of us must endure. The two great spiritual battles.  The first battle is the war with God.  It’s a fight over who will be the God in our life.  Him or me?  Because we are broken and sinful people, we fight against a God who demands that we fully surrender our life to him.

God wants complete surrender.  And so we are at war with him until we do.  And this might be news to you – maybe this is your first time in church and you’re like, I didn’t even know I was at odds with God.  But yes, you are, he wants to govern your life.

And when you come to the place where you think highly enough of God you will gladly, joyfully kneel before him and lay down your crown.  You’ll glad ly do it – it’ll be the happiest day of your life to know you are under the protection and provision of a supremely good God.

But the moment that war ends, a new war begins.  And it’s a war with your old self – your sinful nature- the part of you who used to run the show – the part of you who still wants to run it.  this fight is against the selfish desires within.  Back to Galatians again…  Paul puts it this way.

17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, 

So when we read in multiple places in the bible the writers charging us to become the kind of people who have self-control?  It shows us that the fight is real.  There is something inside all of us that needs to be bridled.   But it ain’t easy.  It’s a fight!

Why is it difficult to live a self-controlled life?  Here’s three reasons why it’s difficult to become the kind of person who’s self is under the control of the Holy Spirit.

First – Satan.  And maybe there’s someone here and you are like, really?  In this day and age you expect me to believe in some kind of evil spiritual being out there trying to tear me down?

Yup.  And in most places in the world the hilarious thing would be to try to convince people there isn’t evil spiritual beings.  Most of the world has a better grasp on the reality of the spiritual world.

It’s Jesus who speaks about the reality of the devil – and in John 8:44, he says this of him, He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.

All talk about temptation comes back to an enemy of God who is trying to lure us away from Him.  And how does Satan work?  How does temptation work?

All temptation strategies come down to one thing.  Trying to get us to believe a lie.

And what’s the greatest lie ever?  Sin will fulfill you.   That somehow, it’s SIN that will satisfy that craving you have on the inside of you.  That somehow God is holding out on you.

What was Satan’s first sin?  It was an insinuation that God was holding out on them.  Did God really say you shouldn’t eat from that tree? The insinuation is that God is a drag, man.   A killjoy, and he is holding out on you.

Then what happened?  Adam and Eve fantasized about the sin.  What if I did have it?  What would it be like?

Temptation is an invitation to believe a lie that God is holding back the good stuff from you.   But what’s the truth?  God is good and loving and with him we lack nothing.  He gives good gifts to his children.  If he would die for us how muh more would he provide us what we need in order to live a significant and meaningful life in this kind of world?

The first reason self control is difficult is Satan.  Who constantly whispers – take what you want.  Take and eat.  Become the Lord of your own life.  Take a dip in the quicksand of sin and see for yourself how fun it can be.

Now – if we are honest – the idea of doing whatever you want to do?  Being your own God? Deciding what’s right and wrong all for yourself?  There’s something that sounds appealing to us about that.  The bible says Sin can be fun for a season.  But how long will that season last?

There is an entire book of the Old Testament written – it’s called the book of Ecclesiastes – and it’s a search for the meaning of life.  And it’s twelve chapters of Solomon, the writer, saying, I searched for meaning in life in riches and wealth.  relationships, sex, fame, power, you name it I tried it!  And what does he say?  How does he summarize his experience?

Ecclesiastes 12:8 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.”

Wow – thanks for the pep talk Solomon.  But see, the book is twelve chapters long.  And it builds up to this line.  Honor God and keep his commands.  And do it when your young, not old.

See sometimes people want to say, I want to follow God but let me get out there and live a little!  I’ll come back!  Let me have some fun for a while!

Those people who say that have believed the lie that somehow God is holding out on them.  They’ve believed the lie that somehow they are missing out – that sin somehow satisfies.

But it never does.  Sin never satisfies.  It promises you it will.  Just this once.  But it always leads to just one more.

Satan and sin – are a powerful force that deludes the self into thinking that the best option is to allow self to be in control, instead of under the control of the Holy Spirit.  But that choice always leads to the quicksand.  It always leaves you empty and in trouble.

Some of you know how that feels – you’ve chased what you thought would fulfill you.  You have allowed your selfish nature complete freedom to take what it thought and it always promised you – just this one last time.  One more and that’s it.  But it never is.  It’s never enough.  And you might be in the quicksand right now.

Knee deep, waist deep, in trouble?  Some are only ankle deep and you feel in control – no problem you can get out – others are up to your nose and you feel that you are about to go under.  Well, how do you get out?

Remember our friend the Beastmaster?  Anyone know how he got out?  He has two little buddies – they are ferrets.  They are buddies of his.  And one of the ferrets climbs out on a tree branch and eats his way through the branch in order to drop the guy a stick to grab onto.

Feeling stuck in the muck and mire of sinful and selfish decisions?  Guess what?  No branch chewing rodent is going to help you.  You aren’t the beast master.  But the good news – is – God will rescue you!

Psalm 40:2

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.

God will rescue you.  He loves to rescue people.  He lives to rescue people.  He died to rescue you!    He died to pull us out of the muck – and to place our feet on solid ground.  To re-create us as new kinds of human beings living a greater life under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Listen – here’s the deal.  I don’t know if you are like ankle deep in the quicksand -you are only a few bad decisions in – or if you are like up to your nose in trouble – you are a few hundred bad decisions that have led you away from God.  Either way – you can make decision right now to get yourself out of trouble.  And bring yourself back under the control of the Holy Spirit.

So how?  How can we become people who are self-controlled?  Who live with self-under control?  You need two things.  You need a vision and you need a plan.

First, you need a vision – now anyone have any unfinished projects in your house?  Most of us do, it seems – and you have a vision of what it would look like to have all the parts back in place and it’s going to look great and you can envision it.  And you say – today when I get home I’m going to work on it!  But then you walk in the house and you see the couch and you can also envision you laying on the couch watching some golf and taking a little snooze.

Which vision wins?

Now some of you have a vision of what your life would be like without that thing that is controlling you.  But the thing that s controlling you offers this vision that says – just one more time for old times sake- which vision wins?

It will be difficult to become self-controlled if we don’t have a vision that is larger than the false promises that our sinful nature is offering.

So take some time today to envision with God what your life would be like if you got out of the muck and mire that’s been dragging you down.

And then, the next time you are tempted to choose ourselves your selfish nature over God you can draw on the power of the vision that God has for us.  And you remember that you were built for so much more than that quicksand – that sin – it’s beneath the dignity the dignity that God has shown you.

So it begins with a vision of ourselves living within the reality of a loving God who is not holding back on us.  He knows how to live this life and we can trust him.

But it also requires a plan.  It requires boundaries.  Self-control means living within boundaries.  “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” (Prov. 25:28).

In biblical times, a city without walls invited destruction.  Only strong walls could bring a peaceful night’s sleep.

Are you living right now without boundaries?  Without walls?  Without a plan to fight the good fight of faith?

Maybe it means figuring out internet security – or internet accountability.  Maybe it means throwing out something you have in your house – Maybe it means going to see a counselor or joining a recovery group.

Maybe it means setting up a coffee with a friend to ask for help.  Or a pastor to be able to say – I’ve been giving this fight I’m in some thought and here’s my strategy for fighting it?  What do you think?  Am I forgetting something?  Any suggestions or ideas?  I need some help – what do you suggest?

You gotta have a plan that defends your soul from the thing that wants to drag you into the muck.  A plan to defend your heart. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23).

The desire for self control must be accompanied by a plan.  Self-control demands thoughtfulness.   God has not saved you to leave you in the quicksand.  But like the Israelites were promised land, but they had to take it by force, one town at a time.

But keep fighting.  Press on to the goal – press on to the life for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  A greater life awaits.

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