Sunday, May 06, 2012

Who's In Control?

Who's In Control?

Intro.: A while ago, I came across a story of a man of the streets.

Johann Tauler was one of the most practical preachers of the early 14th century. He tells the story of how he, one day, came upon a beggar standing on the street corner. Greeting the beggar, Tauler said, "Have a good day." The beggar replied, "I thank God I have never had a bad one." Then the preacher said, "Have a happy life." The beggar answered, "I have never been unhappy." The man was puzzled. "What do you mean?" he asked. "Well," said the beggar, "when things are going well, I thank God and when things are not going well, I thank God. When I'm well-fed I thank God and when I'm hungry I thank God. Whatever pleases God pleases me. God's Will is my will. Therefore, why should I say I'm unhappy when I'm not." The man looked at the beggar with astonishment. He wanted to know more about this extraordinary person. "Who are you?" he asked. "I am a king," the beggar said. "Where is your kingdom?" the man asked. "In my heart," came the reply.i
  1. The beggar had learned something about self-control –
  2. One dictionary that I consulted defined “self-control” as being: the ability to exercise restraint or control over one's feelings, emotions, reactions, etcii
  3. The problem with this common definition is that I cannot control my feelings. Feeling are – I may feel mad, glad, sad, ashamed or afraid. I do have some choice over how I respond to those feelings. It is those choices over which we do have some control.
  4. As you may have guessed, self-control also part of the Fruit of the Spirit.
Read: Galatians 5:19-25


Trans: Up till now we have spoken of the fruit of the Spirit as if it were an independent concept. 
  1. Yet Paul did not see it that way. In Galatians 5, Paul includes two lists. We are only looking at one of them.
  2. The Fruit of the Spirit comes as the result of our intimate connection with the Holy Spirit.
  3. And, though we are not looking at them, the other list is composed of the characteristics we see in those who have not surrendered to the control of the Holy Spirit: Galatians 5:19–21 (NIV84): 
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
  1. There is also a warning associated with this list. Paul writes, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
  2. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives does make a difference. It is distinguishes us from the rest of the world that has no connection the Holy Spirit.
T.S. Self-control is not something we have naturally, it comes out of our connection with the Holy Spirit.
  1. Self-control is something that we cannot really have.
(Ill.) Self-control has a connection to that old Lays Potato Chip commercial – “bet you can't eat just one.” Someone has defined self-control as the capacity to break a chocolate bar into eight pieces with your bare hands – and then eating just two of them.
    1. The minute I think I am in control, I am out of control.iii
    2. You know where I learned that first – it was when I first heard of the twelve steps. Step One says “We admitted we were powerless – our lives have become unmanageable.”
    3. It may be easy to say, “I am not an alcoholic, I am not an addict, this does not apply to me.”
    4. But the fact that we are not addicts, does not make it untrue. It is true for each and everyone of us. We are powerless – unless we recognize the power or the Holy Spirit in our lives.
    5. Are you trying to control your own life? It will never work – only when we are willing to trust God to control the events in our life.
  1. Self-control is requires a change of heart – not just a change of behavior.
    1. When it comes to overeating, there are two ways to approach the problem. They look similar on the outside, but they are vastly different on the inside.
    2. I can sit with food in front of me and just force myself not to eat it. I can fight the urge to eat. I can find tricks to insure that I will eat less –
      1. cut my quantities,
      2. order less or better quality food,
      3. plan in advance to take some home.
    3. I can do all this, but it takes a lot of energy. And it is based on a legalistic or ritualistic solution to my problems.
    4. There is another way – God's preferred way. He wants to make a change in me – a change to what I call my “want to”.
    5. Rather than my finding tricks or gimmicks that I can use to – my prayer is that God will change what I want, that he will change my “want to's” to more closely match what he wants for me.
(Ill.) In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything,
              Desire to have pleasure in nothing.
        In order to arrive at possessing everything,
              Desire to possess nothing.
        In order to arrive at being everything,
              Desire to be nothing.
        In order to arrive at knowing everything,
              Desire to know nothing.iv
    1. My prayer for me, my prayer for you, is that God will change not just my behavior, but also my heart – to be more like His.
  1. Let me finish by saying this – Self-control is not easy.
    1. I suppose I could base that on my own experience, but then I am not perfect, I might be wrong.
    2. It is far easier to find it in the scriptures:
      1. Adam and Eve eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil – even though God told them not to.
      2. Cain killed his brother
      3. Abraham and Joseph both lied about their wives – and called them sister in order to save their own lives
      4. Jonah disobeyed God and refused to go to Ninevah – a rash decision at the time.
      5. David committed adultery.
      6. Peter sliced off the ear of the centurian – rather than trust Christ
      7. Peter denied Jesus as He was being prepared to die
      8. Paul reminded us that he was the chief of sinners.
    3. You see, even the main characters in scripture lacked, at times, self-control. Self-control is hard – it was hard for the champions of the faith, it is hard for you and me.
    (Ill.) Bill Bright founded Campus Crusades. He confirms what I am saying, “You and I know from experience that it is not easy to discipline our emotions, our passions or our self-will. In fact, apart from God’s help, it is an impossibility.”v
    Conclusion: I suspect each of us have areas that difficult – for some it may be connected with self-control. But what ever it is, I am going to encourage you today, as we take communion, to commit one of those areas to God. In communion we are renewing our vows to be people that belong to Christ. As person who belongs to Christ, take time to give him that one area that seems to stand out to you.

    iAMG Bible Illustrations. Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2000.
    iiiIllustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively. Edited by Green, Michael P. Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989.
    ivJohn of the Cross quoted in Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (986). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.
    vBright, B. (1993). Promises : A daily guide to supernatural living. Orlando, FL: NewLife Publications.

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