Respectable Sins: Self-Control | Part 3

This week, I am focusing on the Respectable Sin of Self-Control. In my last post, I dealt with self-control with our temper. In this post, personal finances will be the main subject.

Personal Finances

Christians, along with the rest of the nation, are in financial debt. One statistic said that on average Americans are in 7,000 dollars worth of credit card debt [1]. That tells us that as a nation, we are not exercising self-control when it comes to our finances. Instead, we are indulging our desires with new clothes, the latest electronic gadgets, expensive vacations, etc. By buying these things, we are going into more debt.

Why are we doing this to ourselves?

Consumers consume hoping it will satisfy, but it doesn’t. Instead it leaves us empty, and wanting more to fill that void, so we buy more. We do so under the false notion that our next purchase will be what we need to fill us up, but it doesn’t either. Instead massive debt piles up as we try and fill a void only Christ can fill.

Why is it important we exercise self-control?

If we do not exercise self-control, then our desires end up controlling us rather than us controlling our desires. As well as Scripture commands us to exercise self-control. Here are a few verses:

  • Proverbs 25:28
  • Galatians 5:22-23
  • 2 Timothy 3:3
  • Titus 2:2,5,6
  • Titus 2:11-12
  • 1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8
  • 2 Peter 1:5

For those reasons, it is important we exercise self-control.

Is debt the only sign that a person lacks self-control? 

No, those who are affluent also fall into this category. A lack of self-control does not necessarily correlate with our bank accounts.

How do we know that we lack self-control in our finances?

We know we lack self-control in our finances when we indulge ourselves in whatever our hearts desire.

How do we rid ourselves of this sin?

The writer of Ecclesiastes helps when he says,

“I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ec 2:1–11)

The writer of Ecclesiastes teaches us that indulging ourselves is vanity. It will not provide us with the joy we are seeking. The only thing that will provide us with true joy and satisfaction is Christ.

How can we exercise self-control?

Jerry Bridges wisely says,

“Biblical self-control is not a product of one’s own natural will power”[2].

That is because it requires us to exercise self-control in all areas of life. While we may be able to exercise self-control in certain areas in order to gain something, it is impossible for us to do so in our own power in every area of our lives. For example, an athlete exercises self-control with their diet in order to perform better, but they may not exercise self-control in their spending habits.

So then, how do we exercise self-control in every area of our lives? Only through the power of the Holy Spirit and a continual exposure to the Word of God are we able to exercise self-control in every area of our lives. You see, self-control “requires an unceasing conflict with the passions of the flesh that wage war against our souls (see 1 Peter 2:11)”[3]. The only way we can consistently exercise that level of self-control is by the influence and enablement of the Holy Spirit. This lead Jerry Bridges to say,

“Continual exposure of our mind to the Word of God and continual prayer for the Holy Spirit to give us both the desire and power to exercise self-control [is required]. We might say that self-control is not control by oneself through one’s own willpower but rather control of oneself through the power of the Holy Spirit”[4].

Questions for Reflection

  1. What do you believe Americans buy that get themselves into such massive debt? Why do they buy these things?
  2. Does your shopping habits reveal a lack of self-control when it comes to your finances?
  3. What do you hope excessive spending will provide for you?

Resources

[1] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 113.
[2] Ibid., 110.
[3] Ibid., 111.
[4] Ibid.

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Respectable Sins: Self-Control | Part 2

This week, I am focusing on the Respectable Sin of Self-Control. In my last post, I dealt with self-control with our eating and drinking. In this post, temper will be the main subject.

Temper

Let’s start by painting a quick picture of a person with a hot temper:

A person with a hot temper tends to be one who has quick but intense bursts of anger often followed by a calm disposition. They tend to become easily angry or irritable, and they exercise little or no control over their emotions.

What is often the cause of these outbursts of anger and who are they directed towards? 

Outbursts of anger are usually directed against anyone who displeases us. A driver on the highway who cuts us off. An umpire who makes a bad call. A family member who challenges us. A dog who constantly play bites when play time is over. These all can cause outbursts of anger, as well as they are the ones’ the anger is typically directed towards.

What does Scripture have to say?

Scripture has a number of warnings about those who are quick tempered. Let’s look at some of those:

“A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.” (Pr 14:17)

“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Pr 16:32)

“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.” (Pr 17:27)

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas 1:19-21)

So we see that a quick tempered person is quick to speak. His words are not carefully consider. Rather he speaks foolishly. He is not wise. And he does not produce the righteousness of God. Not a great list of qualities.

How do we rid ourselves of our temper?

We have to put away all filthiness (moral uncleanliness) and rampant (something spreading unchecked) wickedness. We do that by allowing the word of the gospel implanted in us to convict and teach us. After which we must exercise self-control with our temper, which we can only do through the power of the gospel.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Can you think of a time when you spoke too quickly because of your quick temper? What was the result?
  2. Can you think of any Scripture you would point others to who are dealing with a lack of self-control in regard to temper?
  3. When do you notice your temper flaring?

Resources

[1] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 112

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Respectable Sins: Self-Control | Part 1

This week, we will focus on three areas in which Christians fail to exercise self-control. This list is not meant to be exhaustive; rather it is meant to get us thinking about self-control and the areas in which we might not exhibit it. The three areas we will focus on are:

Before we deal with each area, let’s start by defining self-control.

Self-Control Defined

“It is a [governing] or prudently controlling of one’s desires, cravings, impulses, emotions, and passions. It is saying no when we should say no. It is moderation in legitimate desires and activities, and absolute restraint in areas that are clearly sinful. It would, for example, involve moderation in watching television and absolute restrain in viewing Internet pornography”[1].

Why is self-control so important?

A lack of self-control opens the door to other sins.

For example:

  • “A lack of control of our tongue…opens the door to all manner of defiling speech such as sarcasm, gossip, slander, and ridicule”[2].
  • A lack of control of our eyes opens the door to watching pornography, or adultery.

Now that we have the definition and know why it is important, let’s turn to the first area where we commonly do not restrain ourselves, and that is in our:

Eating and Drinking

I have to admit, I personally struggle with self-control in this area, especially when it comes to sweets. I have a major sweet tooth, making it hard for me to turn down a counter full of amazing desserts. Even though it is difficult, I must practice self-control.

Why would it be important that I, and we, practice self-control when it comes to eating and drinking?

If we do not practice self-control with our eating and drinking, we may be doing a number of things:

(1) We may open ourselves up to health problems

  • These could range from a heartache to a stroke or even to diabetes. All of which can either take our lives, or severely hinder our ability to function, which means our work and impact for God’s kingdom is then hindered.

(2) We may be weakening ourselves when it comes to other critical areas where exercising self-control is necessary 

  • We cannot pick and choose in what areas we exercise self-control. Instead, we must exercise self-control in all areas of life. For if we don’t, then we may be opening ourselves up to a lack of control in other more critical areas.

How do we exercise self-control in our eating and drinking?

(1) Remove the Temptation – The best way to exercise self-control in this area is by removing the temptation. For me, this means not keeping sweets on hand at our house. Or when I go to Starbucks, it means that I walk past the case of delicious looking pastries quickly, while telling myself they are too expensive and the calories are not worth it.

(2) Prayer – Beyond exercising sheer will, thinking about the calories, and the cost, we need to pray. Pray that the Lord would strengthen us in this area.

(3) Accountability – Along with prayer we need to develop an accountability system. Tell someone your struggles and your plan, then have them hold you accountable.

(4) Think on Christ – Lastly, we must realize our joy and comfort is found in Christ. It is not found in the food we eat or the drinks we drink. While we can enjoy food and drink, we need not run to them for our joy and comfort. Christ is our perfect comforter, who will never leave us, nor forsake us.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you struggle with self-control when it comes to eating and drinking? How do you handle it?
  2. Do you find more comfort in food and drink than in Christ?
  3. Have you thought of setting up an accountability relationship? If you have, what does it look like?

Resources

[1] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 110
[2] Ibid.

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