Sunday, July 3rd. An Addict Writing About Self-Control. This Should Be Good…
…To be self-controlled. Titus 2:6
Let go and let God… You are trying to hard… All you need is prayer… Just believe it and it will come true… I’ve heard all these things from well meaning Christians, trying to teach self-control. I find this all to be nonsense.
We are in a daily battle with our own nature. Our flesh has an appetite for destruction. Anxiety, bitterness, self-hatred, gluttony, self-image, pride, anger, and lust are addictions as sure and deadly to our spirit life as drugs and alcohol. At any given moment, we either master our flesh defects or they master us. We either have self-control over our defects or we are enslaved/addicted to them.
Everyone has some flesh defect, which they lack control over. Not everyone knows this. Many take pride in their self-control, as they are slender and do not smoke. They cannot see that they are utterly addicted to their pride, the deadliest of defects.
So how do we gain self-control? How do we live the life that God wants? Self-control is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). As such, we do not get self-control by pursuing self-control. We get it by pursuing the spirit life in us. Then the fruit grows in us as a result. We cannot cheat, buying the fruit at the store. We have to participate in the farming and God will do his growing. So how do we do this?
Here it is, radically simple in concept but profoundly difficult in execution.
Jesus instructed that we are to daily deny self and follow him (Luke 9:23). He said we are to cut off whatever causes us to stumble (Mark 9:43-45). Paul said we are to put our old nature to death (Colossians 3:5). We are to stop sowing seeds of the flesh and to start sowing the seeds of the spirit (Galatians 6:7,8). Though they used different terms, I believe it boils down to this basic instruction:
First: Deny Self (crucify, put off, leave behind)
Second: Follow God (walk/live in the spirit/light, sow the seeds of the spirit)
First, this means we daily have to do whatever it takes to stop feeding the fire of our own flesh. If I am addicted to drugs, I need to go to treatment. If I am obsessed with worry and addicted to anxiety, I may need counseling and/or medications. If I can’t stop looking at pornography on my computer, my computer access needs to go and I may need to get professional help. We do not achieve the crucifixion of our old nature by the power of positive thinking. We absolutely need to pray, but we then have to be obedient and act. God works in our obedience. If we are not willing to do anything, God does not magically take away our struggle. I am not saying everyone needs professional treatment for every defect. I am saying that we need to do whatever it takes to cut loose that which is dragging us down.
Second, we daily need do whatever it takes to follow Christ/pursue God. We often go to God for self-improvement but that is still focusing on self. Self is the veil that blinds us from God. The purpose of leaving behind self is so that we can have the relationship with God that we were meant to have. So daily, we read, pray, meditate and commune with God. We need to spend time and effort on the most important relationship of our lives. We do not pursue God desperately when we give him 5 minutes in the morning and an hour on Sunday. We need to be obedient and to do whatever it takes to sow the seeds of his spirit in our lives.
When we deny self and pursue God, He performs his profound work in us, shaping us into that which we were meant to be. So, I obviously have it all figured out and am free from struggle, right? I have found in my life, that knowing the truth and being obedient to the truth are two very different things. I still struggle daily (just ask my family). I will however, today, continue to work at denying self and following Christ. Tomorrow I plan to do the same.