Thursday, June 04, 2020

Lord, Give Me Self-Control

[This is the journal entry from my quiet time with God earlier this morning.]

Look: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” (Proverbs 25:28)

In ancient times, cities were places of refuge from thieves and muggers who waited to assault the innocent from hiding places beyond city walls.

It’s open to debate whether walls provide much protection for cities and nations today. But the point of the proverb holds: When we lack self-control, all manner of sins and struggles ensue. Chaos fills our lives.

I have trouble controlling my mouth, my appetite, and my ego/desire for affirmation,  among other things. They are the sources of abiding sins for which I’ve asked God for help and the violation of which, in mind and/or action,  I have repeatedly repented over the decades.

Listen: The vivid imagery of the proverb shows how serious the lack of self-control is. Personally, I’ve seen people destroy their lives because they had no self-control.

And lack of self-control in one area seems to set off a domino effect in people’s lives. Because of one breach, incessantly indulged, all self-control breaks down. Such breakdown separates us from God and others, blowing us in every direction, filling our lives with chaos and noise that prevent us from hearing the soothing, eternity-transforming Word of God about Jesus.

According to the Bible, self-control is the gift of another “wind,” the Holy Spirit. (1) Paul says, “...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

If I try willing myself to control my natural impulses and appetites, I may have momentary “success.” But the success usually breaks down. The fate of New Year’s resolutions on about January 3 testify to that.

Far more accurate is the insight on which the first two steps of all 12-Step programs are built. The first step is recognizing the destructive or sinful impulses we have that are beyond our control. The second step is understanding that a “Higher Power” can restore us to “sanity.”

Of course, the Twelve Steps, were directly derived from the steps propounded by the Oxford Movement, a Christian movement meant to help people get free from slavery to alcohol. It applies to anyone seeking freedom from the finite things of the world that rob us first, of our self-control and then, of our lives. And the Oxford Movement recognized that the only source of freedom from an out-of-control, chaotic, enslaved life is in the God we meet in Jesus. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to free us to live with self-control.

Self-control is, according to Galatians, the fruit of a life that’s persistently planted in and gains its growth from the God revealed in Jesus.

Respond: Father, I come to You again today in the name of Jesus. Conquer more of my life so that I can live more fully in Your grace. Grant, by Your Spirit at work in me, the fruit of self-control. Amen

(1) In both the Old and New Testaments, the word Spirit can also mean wind or breath. The Hebrew word in the Old Testament is ruach. The Greek word used in the New Testament is pneuma.

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