Most of us would agree that self-control is an important virtue. Without self-control, good things can take a turn for the worse.
For instance, sex is a good thing. It’s a gift in our lives, and people of faith would say it’s from God. It’ a way we can find intimacy with another person that also gives us pleasure. But when we cross a line, when we use it in a certain way, it becomes a destructive thing. What begins as a gift, without the presence of self-control, becomes a force that breaks us down.
Working out, keeping in shape. A healthy body is a gift from God, a good thing, except if you work out 12 hours a day. Except when bigger is never big enough. When it becomes an obsession, and you never have time to talk to your kids, what begins as good ends as something else.
What about eating and the enjoyment of food? A beautiful gift in our lives. But in our culture, with so much food around, we all know how that can become a big problem when there is no self-control. The abuse of food.
Money is a good thing, of course it is. When money is used the way God asks us to use money, communities are changed, people have access to what they need to be happy, and miracles surround us. But, let’s be honest, we know how seductive money is. We are seduced by what money can do. How much do you need for yourself? When is it too much?
There’s a verse from the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. “But, if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you”. That’s a picture, isn’t it? “Sin is crouching at the door”.
You ever see the show “When Animals Attack?” What a ridiculous show. I’ve seen some clips of it. It’s a show where you might have a scene from a petting zoo, where a large animal that’s supposedly tamed all of a sudden just goes on a rampage.
There’s one clip that just stuck in my mind, where there’s a video of a family having the family cookout at the home. And there’s the family pet lion laying there that they have raised from when he was a cub. See, right away, you know how the story is going to end.
And, uncle Harry’s there at the BBQ, having a good time, enjoying a few pops, and uncle Harry says something, and the lion snaps and attacks him. And later, the family is interviewed, and they’re all like “well, we’re shocked, yeah, I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it, Mango has never acted like that before.
“Well, what do you think happened?” the interviewer says. “Well, we just don’t know.”
I’m on my couch thinking “I’ll tell you what happened. Mango is a lion, alright? That’s what he does for a living. So, all he is doing is doing what lions do. That’s his nature. So, don’t be surprised if Mango attacks you at the home cook-out.”
So, here is the picture that the Bible gives. There is this danger, of our own nature, what the Bible calls “sin”, crouching at the door. It needs to be controlled.
Greg Massey wrote “Two natures meet within my breast. One is foul, one is blessed. One I love, and one I hate. The one I feed will dominate.” It’s a warning, spoken out of love.
A while ago, there was an Ann Landers piece. Do you remember Ann Landers, the advice column? Did you know she was Dear Abby’s sister? They’ve both retired, the whole western world’s been going to pot ever since.
Anne Landers did have some good advice. She received this letter: “Dear Ann, I have a problem. I’m happily married to a wonderful wife, we have two children, but, I have also been seeing another young lady, for the past six months. My problem is that I love both of them, what should I do? Signed: confused. And PS, don’t give me any of that morality stuff.”
Here’s the response. Ann Landers wrote back “Dear confused: the only difference between animals and humans is morality. I suggest you consult your local veterinarian”. Not bad.
If you throw out self-control, if you live a life without boundaries, then someday your lack of self-control will result in some serious consequences. If you say “I don’t know what came over me, I couldn’t help myself, I’m sorry, but I lost it”, what you’re saying is “I lack self- control in this area” So, heed the warning. Ask for help.
We need something to control our nature, and often, we try, but we fail. We just can’t seem to find the resolve. And the Bible teaches that we can’t do it on our own, we can’t find the self-control on our own, that we need the power of the Holy Spirit with us to help us.
It’s the same power that created heaven. It’s the power that raises the dead. This same awesome power can help you and change you.
To the point where people notice. They notice that you’re different. In the way that you live, and in the words you speak. Because the fruit of the Spirit, which is love and joy and peace and patience and gentleness and self-control have grown in you, and have made a difference in your life.
Jesus invites everyone to take that into their lives. “I’m right here. I’m standing outside your door. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”. (Revelation 3:20)