“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” (Proverbs 25:28)
Benjamin Franklin tried to be a moral man. He decided one day that he was simply going to stop sinning. After all, he was an intelligent man, possessed of a spirit of unusual industry and determination. He knew what society considered to be moral flaws, and he knew exactly how and when he was falling victim to various vices. So he set up a schedule of these flaws and vices, from least serious to most grievous, and went to work eliminating them from his life one at a time.
He didn’t get very far, I’m afraid. He began to realize that human nature is exceptionally weak, and as soon as he would move on to conquering a new vice, the “old” ones would flare up again. His own power was insufficient; the walls of his personal self-control were too thin and frail to stand up against the barrage of attacks from the world, the Devil, and his own sinful flesh. Perhaps this is why he periodically gave up the “morality” struggle, turning – in later years – to various indiscretions and even trying at times to redefine which things are “moral” or “immoral.”
As Christians, we have many reasons to be sad about our sins: the awful price exacted upon our Lord to pay for our redemption; the estrangement from God that results from our sin; the dishonor to Christ’s name and the weak, flimsy testimony that often results from our sinful words and actions. Our “inability” to control our sinfulness hurts everyone. It becomes even sadder when we realize that it isn’t an “inability” at all – we continually choose to do evil despite God’s intervention: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The amazing, incredible news is that all of these depressing facts about sin shouldn’t be cause for despair in the life of a Christian – they should be cause for rejoicing! God has always known the rebellious hearts of His children, and yet He sacrificed His own Son to provide a way out for us. In light of this glorious truth, we can be strengthened and fortified in our faith. If our salvation was up to us, we would either despair over our complete failure or insanely deny any wrong-doing. But because Christ has paid for all of our sins, we are freed to fearlessly love and serve God and neighbor. His love for us fortifies our self-control, protecting us from the many threats and temptations that assault our faith each day – including the temptation to despair over our sins or disbelieve God’s promises.
No doubt about it, self-control is an important weapon of faith in our fight against the Devil and the world’s darkness. The love of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to produce in us what the Law could not – hearts and minds ready and willing to serve in thankfulness. The walls of self-control that faith erects around us will thwart the attacks of the Devil as he prowls around in frustration. These walls can serve as a welcome refuge to all who flee the misery and ruin of a world that has been ravaged by sin and sensuality. From behind these walls, we will fight on against all spiritual assaults, trusting only in Jesus’ name for the final victory.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” (2 Peter 1:3-9)
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for freeing me from my sins and restoring me in love to Yourself. Protect my faith by granting me self-control, that I may be able to resist the temptations of this world and serve as an effective witness to Your grace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord. Amen.