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The Paradox of Self-Control

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. – Proverbs 25:28

Let’s talk about being self-controlled.

If you’re a Christian, you know it’s important, cause the bible talks about it quite a lot (1 Cor 10:13; Gal 5:22-23; 2 Pet 1:5-7; 1 Cor 9:24-27; 2 Tim 1:7; Prov 16:32; 1 Pet 4:7; Tit 2:12…)

Sometimes self-control comes pretty easily, such as saying no to junk food or sleeping early. And sometimes self-control is difficult, and you really need to stand strong to be disciplined.

The paradox of self-control, though, is that to truly be self-controlled we need to stop controlling ourselves.

To truly be disciplined and not act on our desire to lust, lash out in anger, gossip behind someone’s back – we need to give up our desires to God.

To truly be self-controlled, we need to give up control of ourselves.

Jesus our redeemer sets an example for us as he ‘endured the cross’ (Heb. 12:2). Even though he had a legion of angels at his disposal (Matt. 26:53) he exercised self-control.

But his self-control isn’t just Jesus trying really hard, ultimately it comes from his submission to the Father, saying ‘not my will, but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42). Jesus didn’t control his situation, but instead chose to let the Father act on his perfect will.

I think that shows us what self-control looks like.

Self-control is actually self-sacrifice. It’s actually giving up our self-control, and submitting it to the Father. Trusting him that he is in control of the situation and allowing him to exercise his power, not our own.

That’s freeing. At least I think so.

No longer do we have to fight for our own space and our own desires, but we have a God who holds every atom in his hand and lavishes his love on us, all while shaping us to be more like his son Jesus.

Self-control is actually self-sacrifice. It’s actually giving up our self-control.

When you’re tempted to lust, watch porn or masturbate – you can say “God, you are in control and I trust you with my desires. I don’t have to act on my desires because I know you have my best in mind. Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from the evil one.”

When you’re tempted to lash out in anger against a friend or loved one – you can say “God, you are in control and I trust you with my desires. I don’t have to act on my desires because you are a God of justice and compassion. Show me how to love my neighbour and my enemies.”

When you’re tempted to gossip or put someone down – you can say “God, you are in control and I trust you with my desires. I don’t have to act on my desires because in your kingdom, the least shall be the greatest and the meek are those whom you love. Grant me the power to show kindness and respect to the people you made.”

If you want to experience freedom in this life, rather than trying to control your situation, perhaps it starts with trusting God with your desires.

As it says in Galations 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God”.

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