July 6th

The Lost Art of Self-Control

1You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. 2Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
6Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Titus 2:1-8,11-14 NIV

Paul’s letter to Titus featured a major area of trouble for sex addicts:  self-control.  Having read thousands of people’s stories on email concerning addiction over the years, I’ve become convinced that many sex addicts have a serious deficit of self-control (duh!).  This in turn affects people’s ability to live for God and damages their capacity to be used by him.  Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 NIV).

God’s will is that we learn how to control our bodies in ways that are holy and honorable.  Paul wrote, “It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 NIV).  This mission will put us at odds with the world, as self-control and sexual purity are foreign topics these days.  Self-indulgence is often exalted as a virtue, while self-control is ridiculed or simply forgotten.

What is self control? 

If we hope to gain freedom from a sexual addiction or some other bondage of sin, we will need to grow self-control.  Without it, we will be like fresh meat to a very hungry predator.  Paul wrote, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).  To use another metaphor, self-control is part of the “wall of protection” we need in order to withstand the temptations of the enemy.  Consider what Solomon, who was familiar with the need for sexual self-control wrote: “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28 NIV).

There are a few ways that we can foster growth of self-control in our lives.  As we see in the Titus passage, our Christian leaders are supposed to teach and model self-control to us.  This is one of the prime reasons that we need to be in fellowship with a good church.  We also need to be engaged in relationships with godly people who will mentor us and encourage us in our relationship with God.  The Holy Spirit is another important source of training in self-control for us.  As our Counselor, the Holy Spirit guides us in all truth and will teach us how to say “NO!” to temptations.  The Spirit will even help us recognize the ways out of temptations that God provides us (1 Cor.10:13).  As self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, we need to be daily plugged into God for prayer, Bible study and worship (i.e. a Quiet Time).  Forcing ourselves into this habit alone will help develop self-control.  More importantly, as we learn about God, converse with him in prayer and apply his word to our lives, the fruit of self-control will grow!   

As with any discipline, practice makes perfect.  Consider that pursuing and practicing self-control is akin to exercising godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8), which is profitable for all things both in this present life and in the life to come.  Exercise takes effort and time.  It involves some temporary pain for our flesh, but in the long run we grow stronger in response. 

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

“Lord God in Heaven, Creator of the Universe, I praise your name today.  Thank you for extending grace to me and forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ.  I recognize my own need for self-control in the following areas:_____________ (list).  I confess all sins associated with those areas (e.g. Lust, idolatry, selfishness, gluttony, greed, sexual immorality, etc.).  Please forgive me and cleanse me from these sins by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Father, I desire to now cultivate the growth of self-control in my life with your help.  I ask that you would guide me by the Holy Spirit, teaching me how to say “NO!” to the temptations I face today and the future.  Teach me how to resist temptations even to the point of death, just as you modeled while on earth.  Please also help me to connect with godly teachers who will help me and mentor me in this area.  Thank you, Father!  To you be all the glory.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”