Developing Christian Self-Control
Developing Christian Self-Control is the final sermon in the sermon series on Developing Christian character.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.” (Galatians 5:22–23, CSB)
Developing Christian Self-Control brings victory
John Maxwell, in his book Developing The Leader Within You, says that “The first victory that successful people ever achieve or win, is the victory over themselves.” The moment we begin to have victory over our own flesh and our own desires and become self-controlled, then all of a sudden we can become victorious over other things in life.
“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit Is like a city broken down, without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28, NKJV)
The Greek root for the word self-control means “to get a hold of ” or “to get a grip on”.
It literally means to get your hands on something until you are in control of it. Today, we’re going to talk about getting our hands-on and getting control of ourselves. Proverbs 25 states, “A man without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls.” Cities in the ancient world were safe only because of their walls. And the proverb writer says that the moment that we lose self-control and self-discipline, we are a city without any kind of protection.
The reason is that anything in my life that is uncontrolled can harm my relationships. Let me share with you five examples of appetites that can harm my relationships if I let them get me out of control. You will notice something. These are worldly. These are selfish. They are not Godly. These are appetites that when they go in the wrong direction, they cause harm. The world teaches me to fulfill these appetites in the ways that they encourage me. You will notice that none of these appetites have a positive result. They end in harm. These appetites also have a way of controlling you. So instead of the Holy Spirit leading you, you let your uncontrolled appetites lead you. So, as Christians, we have to control these appetites and re-direct them. There are five uncontrolled spiritual appetites that can harm the ability in developing Christian self-control.
5 UNCONTROLLED SPIRITUAL APPETITES THAT CAN HARM MY RELATIONSHIPS
Anger (Proverbs 29:11)
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise person holds it in check.” (Proverbs 29:11, CSB)
“Lord, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3, CSB)
“My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” (James 1:19, CSB)
The first spiritual uncontrolled appetite is anger. This is an emotional appetite of release. You just want to vent because you dislike something or someone. The Holy Spirit is telling you to be calm but you are wanting to vent. That’s the appetite of anger and you need to quit feeding it and allowing it to control you.
Drinking (Proverbs 23:29-35)
“Who has woe?… Those who linger over wine; those who go looking for mixed wine. Don’t gaze at wine because it is red, because it gleams in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a snake and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and you will say absurd things. You’ll be like someone sleeping out at sea or lying down on the top of a ship’s mast.” (Proverbs 23:29–34, CSB)
The second spiritual uncontrolled appetite is alcohol. When I am not seeing fulfillment in my life, I may look to alcohol as a way to fill that hunger or thirst. The problem is that drinking can get out of control real quick. The writer of Proverbs observes that fulfilling your spiritual appetites with alcohol leads to a dangerous path.
Lust (Proverbs 6:26)
“For a prostitute’s fee is only a loaf of bread, but the wife of another man goes after a precious life.” (Proverbs 6:26, CSB)
The third spiritual appetite that can get me into trouble. In this same chapter, we see that the young man who lets his appetite for lust get fulfilled will regret it.
“Can a man embrace fire and his clothes not be burned? Can a man walk on burning coals without scorching his feet? So it is with the one who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.” (Proverbs 6:27–29, CSB)
Ambition (Proverbs 23:4)
“Don’t wear yourself out to get rich; because you know better, stop!” (Proverbs 23:4, CSB)
A fourth spiritual uncontrolled appetite is ambition. When I decide to let ambition rule me, then it can cause problems later. Here, the proverbs warn that my ambitions can wear me out. The reason is that they don’t actually provide fulfillment. Fulfilling selfish ambitions can be dangerous.
“The righteousness of the upright rescues them, but the treacherous are trapped by their own desires.” (Proverbs 11:6, CSB)
You can even proclaim Jesus Christ for the wrong reasons.
“the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, thinking that they will cause me trouble in my imprisonment.” (Philippians 1:17, CSB)
This is the reason why so many pastors and preachers, and other leaders in the church can seem like great men of God. However, they have misplaced Godliness with ambition. Their ambition leads them to preach Jesus, but they also try to tear other people down. So ambition, when uncontrolled, can cause problems, even with other people in the church.
Spending (Proverbs 21:20)
“Precious treasure and oil are in the dwelling of a wise person, but a fool consumes them.” (Proverbs 21:20, CSB)
The fifth spiritual uncontrolled appetite is my spending. We live in a spending, not a saving culture. The American economy is primarily run by the spending of its consumers. As Christians, if we are not careful, we can easily let ourselves spend too much and get ourselves into debt.
H. B. London once said: “What we do upon some great occasion will probably depend upon what we already are. And what we are will be the result of previous years of self-discipline.”
So if there areas in my life that can get out of control. How do I exert the self-control I need to help me? Developing Christian self-control may seem hard to do. Let me give you 5 very simple starters of living a self-controlled, self-disciplined life. I think many times we take a character trait such as self-discipline and make it more difficult than it is. It’s very simple.
5 SIMPLE STARTERS OF DEVELOPING A CHRISTIAN SELF-CONTROLLED LIFE1
Here are some “starters” of self-discipline that can help me in developing Christian self-control.
1. Start with yourself
“Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27, CSB)
Paul looked to himself and said that He had to bring himself under control. He’s not just talking about physical exercise and discipline. He is talking about controlling his appetites.
Jack Paar once said: “Looking back, my life seems to be one long obstacle course… with me as the chief obstacle.”
No, that’s a little disgusting, isn’t it? Wouldn’t we rather start with someone else? How many of you know somebody you really wish could hear this message? I’m saying don’t start with your brother, your sister, your husband, your wife, your neighbor, your dad, your mom, your kids; start with yourself.
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.”
There was a sign on an office door that said, “If you could kick the person responsible for most of your troubles, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for weeks.” Start with yourself. I’ve got to start with myself.
An enemy I had, whose face I stoutly strove to know,
For hard he dogged my steps unseen wherever I did go,
My plans he balked, my aims he foiled,
He blocked my onward way.
When for some lofty goal I toiled, he grimly said to me, Nay.
One night I seized him and held him fast,
From him the veil did draw,
I looked upon his face at last and lo … myself I saw.
The whole issue of self-control starts with self.
2. Start early
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping your word. I have sought you with all my heart; don’t let me wander from your commands. I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:9–11, CSB)
Self-discipline is the first lesson that ought to be learned, but usually is the last.
In fact, the earlier the better. I consider self-discipline the most important part of a person’s character. It will give them success and help them reach the highest potential that they can possibly reach. So I would encourage you to start early.
Much to my regret as a child, my father started early on me. I can still remember him giving my brother, my sister, and me our chores for the week. Now some of them I had to do every day, but some were once a week deals and I could pick when I did them. For example, my job every week was to clean the basement.
3. Start small
“Then, even if your beginnings were modest, your final days will be full of prosperity.” (Job 8:7, CSB)
“Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.” (Luke 16:10, CSB)
““His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’” (Matthew 25:21, CSB)
What you are going to be tomorrow, you are becoming today. It is essential to begin developing self-discipline in a small way today in order to be disciplined in a big way tomorrow.
I think so often when we look at life we think we’ve got to do something big. No, don’t do something big. There’s an old joke, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” How do you tackle the big issues in your life? Start small. Do what you can do today. How do you become a great spiritual giant? You don’t by starting out praying for an hour a day. You do it by spending a little time with God every day. Maybe it’s 5 minutes, 3 minutes, 10 minutes.
How do you build a great marriage? You don’t by coming upon great discoveries the first year that you’re married. Good night, you’re lucky to keep your marriage together. But you do the small things and you don’t despise them and you do them well. And you pay the price. And you make those building blocks until someday you’re able to tackle the big things in life. But start small. Don’t try to do everything. Just do some things exceedingly well.
4. Start strategically
“Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3, CSB)
“The plans of the diligent certainly lead to profit, but anyone who is reckless certainly becomes poor.” (Proverbs 21:5, CSB)
Christopher Robin said to Winnie the Pooh: “Organizing is what you do before you do something so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.”
Look at the things that you need to get control over. There are areas that we need to get control over, that we’re not disciplined in all areas. You can’t tackle them all or knock them all out in one day. So what you have to do is just list your three weakest areas. And if you’re not sure what they are, ask your spouse.
And of those areas that are weak, which one hurts you the most? Well, which is really the one that’s defeating you the most, that keeps you from living that triumphant life? Once you decide, then you begin to work daily in that area. Just a step at a time and have someone hold you accountable in that area. Begin to chart your progress. Just get organized and get control of certain things in your life, and then begin to do them a step at a time.
5. Start now
“If the clouds are full, they will pour out rain on the earth; whether a tree falls to the south or the north, the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. One who watches the wind will not sow, and the one who looks at the clouds will not reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11:3–4, CSB)
“Pay careful attention, then, to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15–17, CSB)
John Hancock Field says, “All worthwhile men have good thought, good ideas, and good intentions, but precious few of them ever translate those into action.”
I encourage you that the best time to get self-control of your life is today. Not tomorrow. I’m amazed at people who are always going to do something someday. Most of the time, those people have dreams, but they’re never going to accomplish them. Every one of us knows what it’s like to procrastinate with things that we need to be doing right now. Start now.
How many of you have ever sung in the shower, and have had your spouse yelling from the bedroom telling you to shut up? In the shower, we all get good ideas, don’t we? You start off in the morning just rubbing the body down and you’re starting to smell pretty good. And you’re starting to sing a little bit. You get a good idea. How many of you have ever had a good idea in the shower? For those of you who didn’t raise your hand, how many of you have ever had a good idea?
Now, can I tell you the difference between a person who’s successful and one who’s unsuccessful in this area of self-discipline? It’s very simple. We’ve all had good ideas. The question is when you dry off, do you implement them or do you leave them where the shower is? And the next day you get back under the shower and say, “Oh, that’s a good idea.” Start now.
1 John Maxwell, “Fruit That Is Never Out of Season: Self-Control,” Galatians 5:19-26, 10 August 2006, Internet, Sermon Central, https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/fruit-that-is-never-out-of-season-self-control-john-maxwell-sermon-on-christian-disciplines-93730?page=6&wc=800, accessed on 16 August 2019.
Photo by Hani Bdran on Unsplash
How to Change (and Be Civil) as a Christian
A Christian’s Response to Sexual Morality
5 Ways to Love Others Through Self-Discipline