Can You Control Yourself?

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Self-control (temperance) is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).  It is also a Christian virtue (II Pet. 1:5-8).  Self-control regulates desires and impulses (the lusts of the flesh).  Self-control involves wanting to do one thing, but choosing to do another.  Self-control regulates what we think, do, and how we express our emotions.  Willpower is the emotional and mental energy used to exert self-control.  Self-control is inner regulation by one’s willpower keeping ourselves from sin.  Self-control is the fruit of submission to God.  It is energized by faith in God and love for God. The more self-control is used, the stronger it becomes.  It weakens immediately after use, but strengthens with frequent use.
Automated and Controlled Actions
Automated actions develop whenever we learn a skill or activity through repeated actions (Driving a car).  Controlled actions involve conscious thought and effort (Driving a car in a foreign country).  Automated and controlled actions team up to help us function.  Self-control involves both automated and controlled actions.  Self-control exercised over time produces habits of the mind and heart which affect behaviors.
Self-Control and the Bible
Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”  Self-control is a result of the pursuit of the Spirit rather than the lusts of the flesh (carnality or worldliness).  “As many as are led by the  Spirit, these are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). We must be vitally connected to the Vine in order to bear these fruits (John 15:1-5).
Self-control is a virtue of the Christian life.  II Pet. 1:5-8, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance: and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness: And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”  Self-control is acquired by exercising ourselves unto godliness (I Tim. 4:8).  Lack of self-control is like a city without walls (Prov. 25:28).
Results of Low Self-Control
If we possess a low willpower level, then there will be more indulgence of the flesh.
A low willpower level, will result in the display of more negative emotions like anger and strife.
Low willpower or lack of self-control make temptations more alluring.  Yielding to temptation creates a greater desire for the object of the temptation (we now have a memory of the pleasure of sin).
Factors Involved In Increasing Self-Control
Each person should get plenty of rest and pursue a proper diet (remember Elijah who became despondent whenever Jezebel sought his life).
Don’t add stressers to your life (rushing to get somewhere increases anxiety-which wastes emotional energy).
Work to reduce or eliminate personal conflict.
Don’t overload or overwhelm your abilities to cope with life.
Steer away from wasting emotional energy on things like constantly checking email or social media.
Self-control must be used or it will be lost.  Use your own willpower to make habits out of your thoughts, feeling and behaviors that you know are good and beneficial.
Don’t accept weakness or shortcoming.  This leads to failure.  Failure to hit the mark (God’s standard of righteousness) is sin.
(see Can You Control Yourself, Christianity Today, May, 2017, pp. 36-41 for more information).

Are You Smarter Than Eve?

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In Genesis 3:1-7, we are given the biblical narrative concerning the fall of man.  The characters are:  Eve, Adam and the serpent (Satan).  The transition that takes place involves the relationship between Eve, Adam and God.  It is a transition from a spiritual state of innocence to a state of guilt before God due to sin.  Satan is the tempter.  By a series of seductive appeals and direct contradiction of God’s Word, he appeals to the mind and flesh of Eve (Eph. 2:3).  The Bible indicates that Satan is subtle, i.e. crafty, deceitful.  Eve is drawn away by her own lusts and enticed.  Satan uses the avenues of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life.  Satan’s nature and methods have not changed for over 6,000 years!  Eve was the first to sin and then Adam followed Eve, who became a temptress, in disobedience to God (Gen. 2:17).
Eve sinned against her own soul.  She sinned against God.  She sinned against her husband (by tempting him).  She failed to be morally responsible.  She believed a lie.  She rejected God’s Word and by doing so, she rejected God.  She permitted her own thoughts and desires to guide her instead of God’s Word.  She made a choice to act while disregarding the consequences of her actions.
Eve shows us that there is a fundamental difference between human beings and animals.  Human beings are created by God.  They are created in the image of God.  Human beings have free will (the power of volition and so free moral agency); intellect (rational thought and a conscience); emotion (feelings such as guilt); and a soul (a spiritual aspect to their nature).  Human beings are dualistic.  Each person has an “outward man” (physical aspect of his/her being) and an “inward man” (spiritual aspect of his/her being).  The fact of sin in human beings means that there is a fundamental difference between humans and animals.  Animals are never charged by God with sin.  There is no moral law that restricts the conduct of animals.  However, human beings are responsible to God’s laws and God holds them accountable for disobedience to those laws.
There were consequences to Eve and Adam’s sin against God.  They both felt shame and guilt.  They both came to know sin by experiencing it.  They both feared God and hid themselves from God.  Both were separated from the tree of life in the midst of the Garden of Eden and were banished from the Garden of Eden.  Both began to die physically.  Both dies spiritually at the time of their sin.  Both lost the intimacy of fellowship with God.
The consequences the serpent suffered involved: (1) a curse by God involving a change of form; and (2) enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of Satan whereby the seed of the woman would destroy the power of Satan (Heb. 2:16).
Eve suffered the following consequences:  (1) she was placed in subjection to her husband; (2) she was told that she would have pain in child birth; and (3) condemnation due to sin and death entered the world, Rom. 5:12).
Adam suffered the following consequences:  (1) God cursed the ground so that it brought forth thorns and thistles; (2) Adam’s work would be more demanding and (3) he would die physically (from dust thou art, unto dust thou shalt return.
Are you smarter than Eve?
Do you know the enemy?   In John 8:44, we are told, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”  Satan lied to Eve, but Eve did not discern the lie and reject it.  How about you?  Are you smarter than Eve?
Do you know yourself?  Every temptation is a lie.  Temptation is the enticement to sin either by the external presentation of evil allurement or the internal desire to participate in that which is forbidden by God or both.  James states that we are tempted when we are drawn away by our own lusts and enticed (James 1:14). Temptation to sin involves appeals to the mind and the body.  Eve did not practice self-control in the face of temptation.  How about you?  Are you smarter than Eve?
Do you know God?  God knows all and sees all.  We cannot sin without God knowing about it.  We are accountable to God.  God will punish the evil doer.  God means exactly what He says.  We sin when we disobey God.  Eve disregarded God and God’s Word when she sinned.  How about you?  Are you smarter than Eve?
It is possible to be smarter than Eve.  James states, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).