Summary: This sermon is in a series on fruit of the Spirit, namely The Character of a Christian: Self Control.
I. I have really enjoyed preaching this series on the "fruits" (character) of a Christian, and then I came down to this last one and read it again "Self Control". I sort of did one of those Lucille Ball takes (uggh!) on it! Like it is easy for me to talk about joy, and love, and peace, but "self control"? I mean I could talk all day about "self-will" or "self-centerdness" or "selfishness" or "self- fulfillment", not to mention "self-seeking", "self-absorbed", "self-aggrandizement" (acting to increase one’s own power and importance at the expense of others); "self-denial", "self-deception", "self-importance", "self-indulgance", "self-love", "self-pity", "self-satisfied" (smugly conceited), and among some others "self-serving". We can talk about these things we are experts in for hours, but few of us, and I mean few of us, myself included would qualify to speak about "self-control". Few of us would be considered experts in "controlling one’s emotions and desires by the will".
Have you ever noticed that there are all kinds of groups to help you control your will, almost every kind of recovery group imagineable: Alcohol and drug dependancy; sexual recovery, shopping and gambling support groups, and every diet and support group imagineable to help you control eating habits, but have you every one seen an advertisement for people who have so much "self-control" that they need help to come back to the real world. Nope! Never seen it! And yet "self-control" is a part of being a Christian. And yet why do we struggle with self-control?
(1) "During his term as President of the U.S., Lyndon Johnson was somewhat overweight. One day his wife challenged him with this blunt assertion: "You can’t run the country if you can’t run yourself." Respecting Mrs. Johnson’s wise observation, the President lost 23 pounds." And yet this story not only suggest that our ability to control the self is possible, it suggests that it is within us.
Some of the things that are for sale in our world today suggest that we are a world without "self-control". Think about it, many people will buy anything. Just invent some new thingy-ma-bob, and find a way to market it, and "wallah"! I did manage to find some "self-control" when this e-mail ad crossed my desk a couple of weeks ago: "Buy 1 acre of land on the Moon for $29.99". WOW! What a bargain, you can use it as a get-a-way on the weekends. The ad states "-Sale of Moon land has been going on for 22 years - When the program first began you could get 1,777 acres for just $10.00 (I mean less than a fraction of a cent for each acre, what a bargain) - Over 2,000,000 registeredd land owners from 176 Countries - 13 major corporations have purchased large tracts of land (I wonder if one of them was Enron?) - 2 former U.S. Presidents own Moon property, as well as numerous Celebraties." I mean if that doesn’t make you lose your "self-control" nothing else will.
But perhaps you want more "realistic" stories about self-control than buying land on the Moon: We might (1) "Ask Admiral Phipps, commander of the British fleet in 1750. When the British and French were fighting in Canada, Admiral Phipps was commanded to anchor outside of Quebec. He was given orders to wait for the British land forces to arrive. Then he was to support them when they attacked the city. Phipps’ navy arrived early. As the admiral waited, he became annoyed by the statues of the saints that adorned the towers of a nearby cathedral. So, he commanded his men to shoot at them with the ships’ cannons. No one knows how many rounds were fired or how many statues were knocked out, but when the land forces arrived and the signal was given to attack, the admiral was of no help. He had used up all his ammunition shooting at the "saints." We might relate that to some of the life of the Church, that we spend so much energy fighting against other Christians and other believers that we have little energy left to fight evil; fight hunger; fight poverty.
But there it is: Real "self-control", as hard as it is to talk about, as tough as it is to realize, is the very thing we need in our lives as Christians. In fact it is almost ironic that after Paul lists these fruits, ending with "self-control" he makes a clear statement "There is no law against such things". No law against love, or peace, or joy. No law against kindness, or gentlessness, and no law against "self-control". You might need to control, yourself from breaking a God made, or man made law, but there is no law against "controlling yourself" and so go ahead and excercise "self-control". And yet is that as easy as it sounds?