"BUILDING BLOCKS OF CHARACTER: SELF-CONTROL"

Written and preached by David P. Nolte



2 PETER 1:5-11


After the Civil War a fellow called "The Old Colonel" lived in Charleston, S.C. He was widely recognized for his ability to exercise authority and control. Those under his command delighted in instantly obeying his orders. His downfall, however, was that he became a hard drinker. One day a fight broke out in a local saloon and was getting beyond the ability of the authorities to control it. Someone said, "Send for The Old Colonel!" Search was made for him and he was found in another saloon. He was apprized of the situation so he mounted his steed and rode to the scene of the riot. He rode into the mob and began giving orders. The rioters began to disperse and one by one they obeyed his commands. With quiet restored, the Old Colonel rode back to resume his drunkenness. He was an eminent success in controlling others, but a dismal failure in controlling himself! Today we are instructed to add to diligence and faith and moral excellence and knowledge the building block of self-control! The Greek word translated, "self-control," means "strength, mastery, or temperance." One of the greatest things you'll ever learn or acquire is the practice of self-control. Let's pursue that thought:
  1. CONSIDER WHAT SELF-CONTROL IS NOT!
    1. We often think of self-control as a heavy, oppressive, negative thing. Some say
      1. That if you are self-controlled you are a wet-blanket, a kill-joy, a party-pooper, reigned in, bound up and restricted!
      2. That if you are self-controlled you must be Puritanical! H.L. Mencken said that a Puritan is "Someone who has the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having fun!"
      3. That if you are self-controlled you have to be Pharasaic: you know, like those guys who followed Jesus around accusing His disciples of all sorts of lack of self-control for not washing their hands before eating, for gathering grain to eat on the Sabbath, and for consorting with sinners.
    2. Many whine saying, "Oh, Christianity! It's just limitations and restrictions. It reins us in and doesn't allow us to enjoy life! It forbids doing anything joyous or fun or enjoyable." That is not self-control at all.
    3. You see, self-control is not merely:
      1. Asceticism. That is, austere, harsh self-denial, infliction of abuse and harm to our bodies to keep them under control! Like the ascetics who, to keep their bodies under control did silly things like sitting in a pond full of leeches or sitting on top of a column for days without letting their bodies find comfort.
      2. Stoicism, or severe squelching of all desire, feeling, and wants until all appetites are eliminated and we are unaffected by pleasure or pain.
      3. Legalism which is merely outward observance of rules, prohibitions, and external behavior norms to control our selves.
      4. Negativism which is wearing a lemon-puss countenance like you've swallowed your Lysterine, finding what is joyous, happy and positive and refusing to participate to deny ourselves and keep self under control.
    4. Self-control is not keeping ourselves so reined in that we are paralyzed. It is not denying ourselves any worthy joy or pleasure. Self-control is not failure to act or to be passive. During the early days of aviation, a stunt pilot was selling rides in his airplane. He got into an argument with a stingy old man who insisted upon taking his wife along on the ride - at no extra charge. "Look," said the pilot finally, "I'll take you both up for the price of one if you promise not to utter a sound throughout the entire trip. If you make a sound, the price is doubled." The deal was made and they all took off. The pilot then proceeded to put the aircraft through maneuvers designed to make the bravest tremble. But not a sound came from the back, where his passengers sat. Finally, he landed the plane. As the old man climbed out, the pilot said, "I made moves up there that frightened even me, and yet you never said a word. You're a fearless man." "Thank you," said the old man. "But I must admit that there was one time when ya almost had me." "And when was that?" asked the pilot. The man replied, "That was about the time my wife fell out!" He held his tongue, but that was not self-control.
  1. CONSIDER WHAT SELF-CONTROL IS!
    1. Mastering our desires, attitudes and actions, not being controlled by them! This takes the joint effort of:
      1. The human will: we choose to obey God's word!
      2. The Holy Spirit Who enables and instructs and urges us!
        1. Galatians 5:16 (NASB) "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh."
        2. Galatians 5:23 (NASB) "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control."
    2. Self-control is like
      1. A bit in a horse's mouth keeping the steed under control.
      2. A rudder on a ship keeping the vessel on course.
      3. The brakes on a car bringing it to a stop when needed.
      4. A stove holding in the fire warming the house without burning it down.
      5. A dam holding back the water keeping it from flooding the valley.
      6. A governor on an engine preventing the engine from going too fast.
    3. Self-control involves:
      1. The ability to say "No!" to ourselves and mean it!
        1. Being a self stopper saying, "I will not do this or that!"
        2. This is strong "Won't power!"
      2. The ability to say "Yes!" to ourselves and mean it!
        1. Being a self starter saying, "I will do this or that!"
        2. This is strong "Will power!"
    4. Consider some examples, pro and con:
      1. Some who did not exercise self-control:
        1. Esau who allowed hunger to control him and so he sold his inheritance for a bowl of soup!
        2. David who didn't say no to his lust for Bathsheba!
        3. Solomon who married many pagan women and allowed a desire to please them to control him, so he had his heart turned from God!
      2. Others who exercised real self-control:
        1. Joseph who said "No!" to the woman who wanted to seduce him!
        2. Stephen who preached Christ though in the end he was stoned to death!
        3. Paul, who said, "Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified." 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NLT).
        4. Bill, a soldier who had been the terror of his company. He would punch a fellow out for the slightest pretext. But Bill became a Christian and people noticed a difference. He never punched anyone any more. He treated people with respect. One man, who had suffered his wrath, thinking Bill had grown soft, decided to get even. In the mess hall, he walked by Bill and spilled a bowl of hot soup on him. Bill jumped up by reflex. Everyone thought that the other fellow was going to meet his maker. But Bill said, "Once I would have beaten the daylights out of you for that. But Christ helps me forgive you." That's self-control. That's what we all ought to learn - and until we learn it, we don't know the "a.b.c's" of Christian character.

Solomon said, "It is better to be patient than powerful; it is better to have self-control than to conquer a city." Proverbs 16:32 (NLT). And, "A person without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls." Proverbs 25:28 (NLT). And "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." Proverbs 29:11 (NIV). God demands self-control! Perhaps you have failed at that point time and again. Perhaps your appetites, temper, emotions have ruled the day -- today is a new day! Today can be a new beginning where you put Christ in control. If Christ is not in control of your life, something or somebody else is. Romans 13:14 (NLT) says, "But let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don't think of ways to indulge your evil desires." It is impossible to have Godly self-control until Christ is in control! He controls that life where He is Lord! That's the goal of our invitation today -- put Christ in charge so our lives empowered by the Holy Spirit can manifest Godly self-control. Have you done that? If it is your choice today to consecrate your life to Christ, do it while we are singing!

Wife and airplane from internet source; Bill story from Knight


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