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Charles Stanley - The Battle for Self-Control


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Is there any area of your life that you would consider as being out of control? What about your finances? Are they out of control? What about your moral life? Would you say that's out of control? What about your relationship with other people? Is it out of control? What about your attitudes toward some people? Like jealousy. When you think about your life, is there any area of your life that you say, "Well, I think that's out of control"? For example, you drink. And maybe you take drugs. Or maybe you gamble a little bit, you say. And what about gossiping? What about just having a critical spirit? What about being lazy? None of those fit who we are. And that's why Paul said to the Galatians, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control".

So, when you think about your life, would you, would you say that your life is under control? Or would you say that there are some areas of my life that certainly are not in control. Well, it's a battle. And that's the title of this message, The Battle for Self-Control. We all want to be in control of our lives. And now what I mean by that is this. We want to have the relationship with our Lord by which we are submitted to Him to the point that we're not always battling, because watch this. When things are not right between you and God, it's like a tug of war. God wants you to do the right thing. You'd like to, but you don't and so there's tension and stress and uneasiness and oftentimes unhappiness, lack of peace, lack of joy, lack of all the things that Paul just mentioned.

You see, you cannot be living a life of disobedience to God and have love, joy, peace, goodness and all the rest. You can't. You say, "Well I'm sort of happy the way I am". Sort of. But you cannot have real happiness, real joy, real peace, real love when you and the Lord Jesus Christ are not in agreement about your life. So, I want us to think about this whole issue of the battle for self-control in our lives because all of us either have had a battle or are in a battle right at the present time. So, think about this. Would you say that your life is under control? That you have a sort of a healthy attitude about all of these things. The desire for acceptance by others. How strong is that desire that you have that you want to be accepted by everybody else? The desire to be loved by others. Do you want people to love you? That is, have a close relationship. What about desires for all types of pleasure? Does that characterize you? That just whatever is fun, whatever makes you feel good for the moment, that's what, that's what you're looking for.

What about sex? Do you have sexual desires that are outside the will of God? We're living in a very sexually oriented society. And Paul lived in a society that was a cesspool of immorality. And so, he knew about it. What about desires for wealth and security? Where does that rate on your list of important things? Wealth and security. What about desires to achieve and to excel? Is that healthy desire you have, or do you want to excel above other people? You want to be better than. What about the desire to have notoriety and fame? You see, this is the reason people do atrocious things as murdering other people. They'll get their name on television and their picture and in the newspaper, but look what it costs them. Would you say that you have a strong desire for happiness? If that's true, what are you doing to be happy? What are you being to be happy?

What about your desire for personal attractiveness? Is that wrong? No, it's not wrong, but does that demand a lot of your time, lot of your thinking? Do you just want to look good or do you want to look good, better than somebody else? So, do you feel the friction of that? If I could just, if I could just fix my hair like she fixes hers? Or if I could just dress like she dresses or he dresses. What about a desire to control? Do you have a desire to control other people? Somehow, you just got to be number one. And in your business, you're not number one, but you'd like to be, you want to be. And then, for example, a desire for self-acceptance. I just want to be able to accept myself the way I am. You and I will never be anyone else.

So, think about that. No matter what you are, how you see yourself, what you intend to do with your life, you will never be, you will never be like someone else. God made you just the way you are. Now whether we distort that by our actions and our attitudes, that's another question. But as you think about all of these, would you say that your life is under control? That you have a sort of a healthy attitude about all of these things. Now, let's talk about what self-control is. Self-control is basically thinking before you act, which is what a lot of people do not do. Thinking before you act and considering seriously the possibility of the results that you'll have. Would you say that's true of your life? Your life's under control. You think before you act. So, the battle for self-control.

Now, beginning in the nineteenth verse of the fifth chapter, Paul sort of sets us up for the fruits of the Spirit by saying, verse nineteen, "Now the deeds of the flesh..." Now, notice what he says. There are fruits of the Spirit, that is the--these things we just mentioned, love, peace and joy, these attitudes come from the work of the Holy Spirit within us. But notice how he contrasts that in verse nineteen in the fifth chapter, "Now the deeds, our actions, of the flesh the way we live are evident, which are: And the first three of them have to do with sexuality. He says, "Immorality, impurity, sensuality, then idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Now watch this verse. You may be seated here, or out there somewhere, and you're saying, "Then I guess I'm not going to heaven because I've done one of all of those things". The key word in this passage is that, "I have warned you, those who practice such things".

And so, I won't get into the Greek of the, of the verb here but what that means is it's a way of life. Not that it has not happened in your life, because more than likely, when I look at this list, all of us to some degree have sometimes probably committed one or all of those. But it's not a practice, it's not a way of life for us. When you trusted Jesus Christ, those things do not fit who we are. So, he's saying, "Those who practice such things". It's their lifestyle. A person who drinks all the time, it's their lifestyle. A person who's always into something sexual, it's their lifestyle. You could just go down the list. If this is your way of life, this is what you're committed to, he says, "You'll not inherit the kingdom of God". So, we're not saying that a person who does one of these is not going to heaven. But if you've come to the place in your life you practice those, it's the way you think, that's who you are, it's because you're not saved. You can't live like that continuously and really be saved.

You say, "Well now I thought..." No, listen to what he said, "Those who practice those things will not inherit the kingdom of God. So that's our actions. But what about the fruit of the Spirit? So, let's, let's think about that for just a moment and ask here a few questions. And, when I think about that and think about the society in which you and I live, think about the fruit of the Spirit versus what we live around. And ask yourself the question. Would you be considered a follower of Jesus with your conduct, the things that you do and see and the places you go, how you spend your money? In other words, are all of those things in your life that you consider important, do they fit who you are? When you trusted Christ as your Savior, you turned your back on sin. Doesn't mean that you'll never sin again, turns your back on sin.

And so, your commitment to the Lord is to be obedient to Him and to walk in His ways because you want the fruit of the Spirit in your life, of love and joy and peace and goodness and gentleness. And all of these fruits you want in your life because You're going to be more satisfied. You're going to be more secure. You're going to be able to relate to other people totally different than what you used to. So, as you look at your life, would you say at this point that you are walking in the Spirit? And those who know you, would you say they know you as a person who walks in the Spirit? Something different about you. Or, do they see in you this tension, this stress, this anxiety, this... it's like a tug of war. How do you break that tension, stress and all the rest? By surrendering to the Lord, by turning your life over to Him, by saying, "God, the way I've been living doesn't work. That's not the way I want to live in my life".

And I think about people who live their whole life captured by some sin, living in slavery in their hearts and their minds, Many people live and die and never experience the love of God, the goodness of God, the freedom of God, the gentleness of God, the rewards of God. They lived their whole life and never experienced that. So, if somebody should say to you today, "Well, at this point in your life, whatever your age, where would you say you are"? Would you say that you're a person who experiences the love of God? A person who recognizes that He's the source of everything? Would you say that you're a person who loves other people? You're happy when you see other people being blessed. You're happy when you see other people be saved. You love listening to the Word of God.

Could that be said of you? Or would you have to say, "Huh"! "I can't exactly explain it, but I'm really unhappy. I'd like to be different. There are things in my life I'd like to get rid of, but there are some things in my life that I just can't give up". Yes, you can. There's not anything in your life you can't give up when it comes to sin, if you are willing to surrender your life to Jesus Christ and tell Him, "I've made a blunder of my life. I've messed it up. I've hurt other people. I've sinned against You. I've sinned against myself, sinned against the people I love the most. God, can You help me? Here's my life". Will He help you? Change your life. Change everything about you. Self-control. Would you say that your life is under the control of God? If not, let me ask you a question. Are you happy? No you're not. Are you satisfied with how you're doing in life?

No. You can't be living outside of God's will and plan and purpose for your life and be happy. You cannot. Not real joy. Not real peace. Not any of those fruit of the Spirit. That's not going to be in your life. The fruit of the Spirit, not of the flesh. And the thing that concerns me most is how people live their lives and look back and think, "Well, why did this happen to me? Why wasn't I blessed"? Was it not because you didn't listen to God? If you live disobediently before God, you suffer the consequences. In other words, all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus, there is no acceptable excuse for our not attempting to live a godly life whereby the Holy Spirit is in control of our thinking and of our actions. And when He's in control I think before I act, and my actions will follow His purpose and His plan and His will for our life.

So, what is the key to our self-control? And so, this brief passage of Scripture is Paul's way of giving us an opportunity to examine ourselves to see where we are in our relationship to the Lord. So, self-control requires that we think before we act. You ought to get that down. Self-control requires that we think before we act. And this is the problem, people act before they think, and then they're sorry. And so, you must have a strong desire to obey God. If you don't have a strong desire to obey God, you're not going to live a godly life. You're not going to overcome most anything without that strong desire for Him in your life to enable you. So, you've got to believe in your heart that the Holy Spirit who lives within you is going to enable you.

Now think about this. Jesus knew all about temptation and trials, and everything else. Therefore, when He promised us the Holy Spirit, He knew how awful society was in those days. When you trusted Him as your Savior, the Spirit of God came into your life to enable you to live in whatever society you live in, to overcome all types of sin. So, it's not just you against your environment, it's you and the Holy Spirit who's promised to give you whatever you need to be victorious. He's there for the asking, and at the yielding of your life.

So, when you think about that, and you think about you have someone to help you through this, so, you should consider, seriously, the following questions. Think about it for a moment. Before you do anything, ask yourself these questions: How will this affect me, spiritually? Secondly, how will it affect me financially, and how's it going to affect my health? Many people today, are where they are physically because they have violated the physical laws that God has given us. And then they wonder why they're where they are. So often times it's a violation of a principle God's given us.

So, think about it. How's it going to affect me spiritually, financially, how's it going to affect my health? And, how will others--how is it going to affect how others see me? Will they look at you and say, "She's really committed to the Lord. I can tell he's really committed to the Lord". You will never talk them into going in a place like that. They would never allow that in their life. That is, when you think about your life, how do others see you? Not perfect, none of us are perfect, but do they see you, watch this. Do they see you as a true believer? Do they see in you a person who not only claims to be a Christian, but person who lives it out. Not perfect, but they see the difference in you.

And so, you ask this question, all these questions, and ask this question. What are the consequences of my actions? Do the people I work with, do they see me as having lived a Christian life? Do my friends see me as someone who was honest today in this situation? Do others see me as somebody who's very reckless with my money? Reckless with my morals? Reckless with my attitude? In other words, is the fruit of the Spirit evident in our lives every day? All day? Now think about this for a moment. God has provided His very, very best for you, and listen. I didn't say His best was easy. It's not easy. It's difficult sometimes to have God's best.

But let me ask you a question. What's better than God's best? Nothing! And so, when Paul wrote this whole book of Galatians, he, listen to what he says. For example, he says in the last chapter, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, whatever a man sows, this he will also reap". All through these six chapters, he's encouraging us to live a godly life. And what does he say? Don't be deceived. In other words, don't believe the devil's lie. In other words, you can't mock God and say I don't believe in God and all the rest. "Whatever a man sows, he will also reap". Whether he believes it or not. "God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap". Period.

You say, "Well, I don't believe you always reap what you sow". Then what you're saying? God lied. I'll tell you another reason you can believe it. Look around you. Look around your friends who drink, who are on drugs, who are living in immorality day after day after day. Who cheat when they can, lie when they can and brag about getting away with it. You don't, you don't want to live that kind of life because, listen, you cannot change the law of God. You can't change His law and His law is, listen, whatever we sow, we'll reap. And think about this. You've been sowing something all these years. Now God says you're going to reap a harvest. Does God miss anything? No. Is He a judgmental God? No. What the problem is, we hear what He says but we don't believe what He says.

For example, if somebody said to me, "Well I'll tell you what, pastor, if you'll just step out all the way down here and here's what's going to happen". If you do that, you're going to break your leg. Wouldn't I be foolish to look down four steps and say, "Well I'm going to do it anyway". You know what? That's exactly what people do when they hear the Word of God, they listen to the Word of God, they say, "Well, yeah, I do believe that". Walk right out and do something totally opposite.

Now listen carefully. It is a dangerous thing to listen to the Word of God and then deliberately, willfully, knowingly disobey God. Dangerous. Because whatever a man sows he's going to reap. Reap what he sows, more than he sows, and later than he sows. We don't like that part. Just because you're not having a bad time at this point in your life, and you think you've been getting away with sin, you haven't gotten away with it. I'll tell you why. God loves you too much to let you get by with it. He loves you too much for that. Besides that, He would not be being Himself. God has chosen the very best for those who are willing to listen, surrender and walk in His ways, He's got the best. Don't look around and compare yourself with somebody else. God has a plan for your life. He's got the best plan for your life.

Ask yourself this question. What am I doing in my life that's, watch this carefully, what am I doing in my life that's cheating me out of God's best? What is it? What are you doing that's cheating you out of God's best? Creating stress and tension and strife, tug of war in your life. What is it in your life that you just can't let go? What is it in your life that you want that you don't have? What is it in your life that you're doing that slammed the door on the blessings of God? When I think about how awesome loving God is, and then people who hear the truth and walk away thinking there are no consequences.

Listen to me carefully. If you will listen carefully, you'll hear the devil tell you this. The devil is saying, "You don't have to believe all that. You don't have to believe all that". But on this side, God is saying, "You're going to reap what you sow". We have a choice. And I will say to you, it's a dangerous thing to hear the gospel. It's very dangerous for you to listen to the gospel and turn it off, walk away, because then you're responsible for knowing the truth, denying the truth, and saying no to God. It's a dangerous thing to hear the gospel. And it's an awesome wonderful thing to hear the gospel. It depends upon how you respond, how you react.

Let's pray. Father, in Jesus' name, what a critical moment this is. For people seated here and people who are listening and watching it, their eternity may hinge upon their decision in this moment. Oh God, may Your love sweep over them. May Your love surround them and undergird them. May they be wise enough to recognize that You're God, the only true God, and you have the best, the best plan possible for them from this point on, if they're willing to say yes, Lord. Yes, yes, yes Lord. In Jesus' name, amen.
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