Monday, March 28, 2011

The Secrets of Self Control

Gal 5.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

In a recent article Daniel Akst bemoans the fact that we are losing the personal battles in self control. He warns, "...Human nature hasn't changed, but the landscape of temptation sure has. Technology is a leading culprit. From refrigeration to credit cards to automobiles to the Internet, technology makes it possible for more and more people to live surrounded by "supernormal" stimuli. Technology goes hand-in-glove with capitalism, which plays a large but complex role as well...In the future, self-control is only going to get harder. People across the world are more affluent, more mobile, and less tradition-bound. Behaviors that were once taboo or outlawed are gaining acceptance, and so can be indulged stigma-free."

This is all bad news to those of us who are charged to "walk by the Spirit" and "not gratify the desires of the flesh". In a world where there is such a lack of personal integrity , where morality is seen as passe and archaic, and where self indugence is celebrated as 'self actualization', it will be increasingly difficult for men and women of God to live out a Biblical morality.

Akst further reminds us that this is a predictor of success."We now know that small children who can refrain from seizing a treat grow up into more successful adults in almost every way. Among students, self-control is a better predictor of academic success than IQ.." I suppose we should not be surprised that God's way ends up blessing those who walk in self-control.

Self-control gives us the ability to manage our anger, our lusts, our appetites, our covetousness, our money, and a thousand other impulses that assail our senses. We are better people for learning the secrets of self-control.

Accountability. Making ourselves accountible to another is a key to self-control. Sometimes we do that after the fact, such as letting your spouse review your calorie intake when you are on a diet. Sometimes we do that before the fact, "Honey, don't let me drink too much at this party we attending." This takes some minor organization and must be set up ahead of time.

Predetermined consequences. We might commit to ourselves that if we have difficulty watching inappropriate movies that we cancel the cable package that allows that channel into our home. Or we might precommit to only go out to eat Saturday night if the garage gets organized. This can be a motivational method but it still requires discipline.

Contagious Discipline. I have discovered that when I am disciplined in one area I find a way to be disciplined in other areas of my life. Exercise, for instance, helps my prayer and Bible reading habits.

Spirituality. But ultimately, walking in self-control is equivalent to walking in the Spirit. When I am submitted to God totally, loving him with my whole heart, and surrendered to his will I don't want to personally grieve Him. By discovering God's opinion of my issues I learn what pleases Him and can adjust my life accordingly. Knowing my life pleases Him is an amazing feeling. It is a powerful motivator to be 'right' with God. And that is likely the greatest secret of all in this world.

Study scriptures Prov 25.28; 2 Tim 1.7; Prov 1.2; Phil 4.13; 1 Thess 5.6-8; 1 Pet 5.8-9; Mt 26.41

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