The most important change that will help you obey God

self-control

We all struggle with sin.  It’s hard to obey God.  We begin our lives as fallen people plagued by the sin nature and even when we trust Jesus to redeem us, the battle continues.  That often frustrates me.  New life in Christ doesn’t eliminate the conflict.  We are called to obey.  We are given new resources with which to fight.  We are assured of ultimate victory, but today…the struggle is real.

I believe that if we want to see some change in our life, we should attack a problem from as many different angles as possible.  We should bring every resource possible to bare on the issue at hand.  Sometimes, we look at things one way…we try one thing and if it doesn’t work, we are tempted to give up.

Do you really want to grow?

Do you really want to obey?

Then continue the fight.

Here is what I just learned in the battle to obey.

I was reading in Proverbs and a familiar verse took on new importance.  I love it when that happens.  This is pivotal, if we want to obey God, enjoy deeper intimacy with him and bring God glory.

“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” -Proverbs 25:28

One way that I often teach about ridding our lives of sin so that we can obey God is by identifying the specific sin and attacking that problem with fierce tenacity.  The free download on how to defeat temptation is such instruction and is powerful help.  If you haven’t gotten it yet, go to the home page and sign up.  It’s free.  It could change your life.

This is another strategy from a different perspective.

Ancient cities were protected by walls.  They surrounded the perimeter of a city to keep the bad guys out and protect the city’s people.  A city whose wall had a breach was vulnerable.  An enemy could attack the weak point and destroy the city.  A city whose walls were broken down was completely defenseless.  The people could be killed or plundered by anyone at anytime.  No one could be vetted.  Anyone could wreak havoc.

The bible says that this is the state of our lives when we lack self-control.  If you lack self-control you are exposed like a city with no walls.  Temptation is free to walk into your life and bring destruction.  Without self-control you are defenseless against a myriad of spiritual enemies.  You cannot obey God without it.

The exciting part is that the inverse is also true.  If you have self-control, you are like a city with a great wall that can resist all comers.  Obedience with all it’s benefits will result.  Therefore, while I still think we need to attack the specific sources of temptation of our life one by one, here is one thing that can help you defeat every source of temptation.

Build a wall.

Develop self-control.

Well…there you go…problem solved.  Just control yourself.  Not so easy is it?  The problem is that we usually think about controlling ourselves in relation to a singular temptation.  I want ice cream…control yourself.  I want to punch that idiot…control yourself.  I want….whatever…control yourself.  This is different.  This is about developing the the discipline of self-control.

Remember, God compared it to the wall that keeps all the bad guys out of your life.  It is one thing that holds the keys to many things.  It is worth the work to achieve it.  So…how do we do that?  How do we develop self-control?

The bible doesn’t give extensive instruction on the subject, but I think it gives us what we need to get started.  Here is a brief of what I’ve found.  I encourage you to dig deeper because this really matters.

1.  Develop your dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Self-Control is listed by the Apostle Paul as a fruit of the Spirit.  See Galatians 5:22,23.   That means that as you depend upon the Spirit and let Him lead your life, self-control will be an ever increasing result.  This is one of those spiritual paradoxes.  You gain self-control as you lean upon the Spirits control.  Even as we exercise our part in this spiritual journey, we are dependent on God.

2.  Don’t put yourself in situations where you stretch the capacity of your self-control.

In I Corinthians 7:4-6, Paul instructs married couples to not deny one another sexually except for mutually agreed upon periods of time.  He cautions them, however, to not do so for too long or their self-control will wain.  The point is that self-control has it’s limits and we should not test them.  Avoid situations that will make it difficult to obey.

3.  Let God’s grace teach and motivate your self-control.

In Titus 2:11-13, Paul tells us that God’s grace teaches us to say “no” to sin and live self-controlled lives.  This happens in a number of ways.  First, we learn that there is a new way to live.  God calls us by his grace to not just be saved but to live a godly life.  Second, this incredible gift of grace ought to motivate us to obey out of thankfulness.  Third, the word “teach” in this passage literally means “discipline.”  So, grace not only involves the free gift of salvation, but an ongoing work of God in our life to grow us up that can include development through adversity.  This is also a gift of grace.  Lean into God’s grace and all the ways he might want to teach you.

4.  Set out on a course of learning self-control.

In 2 Peter 1:5-7, the Apostle Peter strings together a list of virtues that build upon one another and leads to a powerful spiritual life.  I don’t believe the list is random, but an ordered series of virtues that build upon one another.  Self-control is added to the previous quality of knowledge.  As you embark on a journey toward self-control, be a disciple…be a learner…be a student.  Seek to learn all that you can from your experiences, from others and from any source that helps shed light on this vital trait.  Don’t stop here.  Begin here.

I hope you see the value of self-control.  It is related to everything you want to do in your life and walk with God.  It’s one thing that will help in everything.

Build that Wall!

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