“I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)
Self-control feels difficult or even boring to many, but its rewards are innumerable. Concerning personal self-discipline, the Bible says, “…live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit… They are in conflict with each other…” (Galatians 5:16-18)
Our enemy Satan, who is a fallen angel, can effectively enter any area of our lives where the wall of self-control is in disrepair. This is why the Scripture says, “Keep your heart with all diligence…” (Proverbs 4:23a) and “…if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12) Our lives as Christian disciples are never fully mature, so we must remain vigilant to resist temptation and feed ourselves spiritually.
A believer’s response to injury that is received by intentional violence must be prayerfully determined through personal Bible study. Over the centuries, countless crimes have been directed toward believers because of their faith in Christ.
In the context of our faith, both slander and lies about us have taken place naturally because of our love for heaven’s Savior. Jesus said, “…a pupil is not above his teacher…” (Luke 6:40) so we are not exempt from the hardships which He endured.
Now comes the challenging question about self-control. How do we apply what Scripture teaches us? What can civil law handle for us, and what should we handle personally? When crimes are committed against us or those we love, where should we stand? Clearly, those in authority were placed in their positions by God for an official purpose (see Romans 13:1,2). However, there have been many extremely difficult cases like Stalin and Hitler, so how should Christian disciples act in response?
Self-control relates to wise judgment and good character. Therefore, Biblical instruction about lawsuits was given to us to prevent unredeemed judges from being needed to settle disputes between spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ. This is for the sake of our Christian testimony. We were given clear spiritual principals to live by, however neither legal action against non-believers, corporate entities, or political tyrants were specifically dealt with by New Testament authors.
For our personal attitude and behavior, as Christians we are instructed “…. not to return evil for evil.” (Romans 12:17) The Bible even says “…bless those who curse you…” (Luke 6:28a) However, Paul broadly explains that the civil authorities who govern over us are responsible for punishing those who break civil laws. He says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2)
The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers us to exercise self-control. When prayerfully requested, He will help us establish our much needed – moral, ethical, and spiritual boundaries. These boundaries may sometimes differ from believer to believer (see Romans 14:2-4). However, remember that “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” The Bible also teaches, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 5:24-6:1)
Prayerfully established boundaries are the key to spiritual self-control. Dealing with temptation begins before it happens! Paul addresses this in (1 Corinthians 10:13) when he says, “No temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
The Bible teaches, that, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23) This spiritual principal is further illuminated for us by Paul when he writes, “Whether, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
In summary, our Christian lifestyle of self-control is empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures teach that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) This encouraging truth corresponds with Paul’s instruction to Timothy when he wrote, “…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7c)
Our previous self-ownership was surrendered to God when we personally came to the cross and understood its meaning. It is now Christ’s ownership that produces our self-control. The Bible says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
The tragic consequence of anyone’s rejection of heaven’s Savior goes directly against God’s will. Scripture explains this by saying “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise… He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish…” (2 Peter 3:9)
Rationally, the resulting consequences for our decisions have always been related to our freedom of choice. As has been wisely stated, “for any lost seeker to finally miss heaven – they must disregard thousands of church steeples, millions of Bibles, countless radio and television programs, plus, all the personal testimonies of their Christian friends and family members!” Those who willingly choose to remain lost, in spite of God’s grace and open self-disclosure, will forfeit heaven for only one reason – their persistent unrepentance, which is a freely made choice!
By Billie Hanks Jr.