Summary: self-control - is at the heart of our faithful walk before God and people. We lose it in small ways which leads to bigger problems

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Respectable Sins – Self-Control

How often have you had someone say to you ‘He who is without sin cast the first stone?’ Or maybe you have someone say to you ‘Judge not lest you be judged?’ I reckon they must two verses which are most often taken out of their context and misapplied. The second quote, from Matthew 7, must easily be thee most misapplied verse in the NT. Certainly that is my experience when you challenge someone about sin. This sermon series is all about sin and I want to say right up front I am as guilty of the sins we will deal with in this series as anyone else. So I am not standing up here beyond conviction. You know if you had been reading the media over the past few years, decades even, you would believe that Christians are only really interested in sexual sins, or abortion or what we seem to see as the major sins of our society. It would appear that we have lost sight of our own more subtle sins or more ‘refined’ sins. It is impossible for us to cover all the subtle sins that we face and which have become acceptable and respectable in the church, in HTW. This series will be challenging for us all. You may well feel ‘got at’ and there may be occasions when you feel really uncomfortable in your seat – I don’t want you to dismiss such feelings but to take on board that maybe, just maybe, the Holy Spirit is applying God’s Word to an area of your life where ‘respectable sins’ have gained a foothold and it needs to be dealt with. So this sermon series comes with a ‘spiritual health warning’ right at the very beginning. Listening to this sermon series may seriously improve your spiritual life – a big claim but I pray one which will be true in all our lives.

The story is told about an old farmer who after 40 years of married life decided he should take his wife out for the day. They were driving past Aldergrove when he saw a sign offering flights over the countryside. He pulled the car in and inquired how much the flights were. £20 per person and being a typical farmer he started to haggle for £20 for 2 people. The pilot eventually said: “if neither of you utter a word during the flight it will be £20 but one word and it will be £20 each.” The farmer agreed and the pilot pulled all these acrobatic stunts during the flight but not one word did he hear. They land at Aldergrove and he turns to the farmer and said: “That was amazing self-control, some of those stunts had me frightened.” The farmer replied: “Ah, but I nearly said something when the wife fell out the door.”

Now is that what you think of as self-control? Let me read a verse to you from Proverbs 25.28. Defining self-control is not that easy. The word in Scripture is ‘enkratiah’ which has at its root the word for ‘strength.’ In Scripture ‘self-control’ speaks of keeping one self in check, ‘one who holds on to himself’ and someone who does not live in bondage to anyone or anything. Such a person has reined in their passions, their desires and have curbed their appetites. The word self-control in Scripture contains within it the understanding the means to heal, to save and to make whole. It is the ability to live in this world but not to have your garments spoiled or soiled by this world. Yet are these words not our dilemma – Romans 7.18? Do you not find that to be true of yourself on so many occasions? But let us come back for a brief moment to the verse from Proverbs. In the ANE the main source of strength and protection were the walls of a city. That is why we read in Nehemiah 1.3 of the shame felt over the walls of Jerusalem lying in ruins. A gap in the wall was considered a breach or lapse in security and a city in such a state of disrepair had a shameful reputation. Such a city was open to attack and destruction. The writer of Proverbs says that if a man lacks self-control is like a city whose walls are destroyed – such a man is defenceless before his passions/desires and the ways of this world. Such a man has no means of defence because he cannot resist the things that will destroy his life. The occupants of a city who neglected the walls were considered lazy, weak and foolish. Let me ask you this morning: “Is there a hole in your wall that allows loss of self-control to squeeze through time and time again? Take a walk along the wall of your life this morning. Your emotions, attitudes, relationships, addictions and temptations – list the holes and the spots of decay in your wall. Does it make uncomfortable surveying?

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