* A savings account that allows me to take out of it as much as I desire but never gets smaller!
* A car that only needs to be filled with gas, oil, water, and air once!
* A house where the grass stays green but never needs to be cut, where the paint will change to any color I desire, without using a brush, and the rooms would grow or shrink as I see fit!
* A wife that knows I am always right; that loves to watch sports on TV and that thinks shopping is a waste of time!
* Children that love to put things away and that leave home at 13 to college with a fully paid scholarship!
* A church building that never needs maintenance!
* A congregation that always agrees with me!
* I want Ice cream that tastes like it is from heaven but causes you to lose weight!
I bet your list would be exaggerated also! “I want”…We do have wants don't we? There is nothing wrong with wants. In fact, I think – “Is having wants, wrong?” is the wrong question! The question that needs to be asked is: “Do my wants HAVE me?” AHHH there’s the rub! When what we want becomes the master we are in trouble. The answer to this is the last quality of fruit that God gives us:
Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
As we consider this fruit, let’s keep these questions before us.
1. What’s the first step in learning to control yourself?
2. What’s the real problem with lack of control?
3. What is the danger of that “little area” of no control?
First we need to define “self” – As a believer it is a little complicated.
Romans 7:14–25 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
We must remember, we are not two people. The believer is not Scydzofrenic! Each believer is one person with two natures. Whereas before Christ we had only the sin nature (old man) and we were enslaved to it. When we enter into a relationship with Christ we are given a new nature (new man) which enables us to yield to the Holy Spirit and obey and serve the Lord. It is important to identify both natures and learn to yield to the new man while counting the old man powerless to command you. This is what Paul is discussing here. When he states that he does wrong because it is “sin living in me” he is not trying to blame something else. He is identifying that his sin nature, existing in him, is what drives him to do wrong, yet he is responsible for which nature controls him, which he established in chapter 6.
Each believer struggles in his or her own way with this. We each have our own appetite weaknesses. Appetites come in all shapes & sizes; fame, reputation, riches, sex, drugs, etc. The reason many addicts refuse to get help is because their appetites are controlling them.
This nature is far more dangerous than many believe. You can be staring face to face with a stark reality, but your appetite blinds you to the consequence of a wrong choice.
Look at these two examples, one with an unbeliever and one with a believer:
Mark 10: 17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good— except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’" "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
This young man knew he lacked eternal life, yet when Jesus told him he must change his “God”, his appetite for money was too great. He walked away from an eternity with God for a temporal moment with creature comforts!
Acts 5:1–10 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
This couple were children of God in the Church. The issue was never the “things” (land or money) Peter made it clear that God had given that to them and it was up to them what they did with it. However, when they lied and tried to appear as though they gave their all, but really were trying to deceive everyone, the Lord decided that He would not allow such a false testimony in such a young Church. So as an example to all He took the two home. They kept their relationship with God, because that is secure based on Him, not us, but they lost their eternal investment 1 Cor. 3. The amazing part is how when the wife came to Peter, she must have been wondering what happen to her husband, I am sure the Holy Spirit was convicting her not to lie, but when Peter asked her if the gift was what they claimed it was, she pushed ahead and lied.
The sin nature wants what it wants and does not consider the consequences! This is what makes it so dangerous.
Do you know your most vulnerable appetites? They change throughout our life, so we need to identify them and turn them over to God. I am not talking about human self-control, that will not cut it. I am addressing learning to target those appetites in prayer and bringing them before the Lord. Then when that temptation comes the Holy Spirit can produce His fruit of self control that the flesh cannot overcome.
Warning! If you bring those appetites before the Lord, be ready for answered prayer. For example:
I have never been very materialistic; I have a lot of other problems, but not that one. Still, when I was approached about leaving my Pastorate and going to the mission field I suddenly became very anxious over all the “things” that I might have to give up. I took this to prayer right away – Two days later God began to answer my prayers. This is what happened in a 48-hour period. The washing machine bearing went out; my clothes dryer broke; my vacuum cleaner broke; the basement of our house was flooded; my wife’s hair dryer broke; during the hard rain we had, the roof of my car sprung a leak and the floor of my car was flooded and the carpets ruined…then the final straw, while golfing the sole of my golf shoe fell off! I just laughed and thank the Lord for helping me make sure that the things I own were not controlling me.
Remember, whenever you see something other than God controlling you, you need to jump on this right away! The principle stated in Scripture is very true:
1 Corinthians 5:6 Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough?
Gal 5: 9 "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough."