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Self-control is necessary. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).

In ancient times, a city without walls had no market economy, no ability to offer and produce goods and services, and everyone scrambled for existence. This simile teaches us that a person without self-control is out of control because he is ruled by his appetites (food, drink, sex), his emotions (anger, despair, fears), and his lusts or inordinate desires (idols of the heart).

Soon your doc will say, “If you don’t change your diet, you’ll die!” If you don’t control your tongue, then you’ll set a forest fire and burn all your relationships to nothing (James 3). If you don’t exercise self-control over your sexual appetite, then you’ll seek relief from distress until distress becomes a dark cave of addiction. You don’t have to wait for a police car to pull up into your driveway because of your anger. You don’t have to get caught by your children for pornography addiction.

Self-control may be obtained by being born of the Spirit and regularly filled. It is obtained by two things; namely, surrender in repentance to Christ and envisioning our final day in Christ’s presence. Let it go, and follow Christ. When we set a long-term important goal, we are able to say no to the unimportant things that are unwise. We replace an old affection with the expulsive power of a new one. We run in such a way as to win the prize by buffeting our body and making it our slave in order that we may when the prize of pleasing Christ on the final day (1 Corinthians 9:23-27).

God has perfect self-control because he decreed the end from the beginning, and nothing could ever interfere with his long-term plan to be glorified and have us satisfied in him. Jesus had everything. Why did he exercise self-control, tempted in all things yet without sin, to the point of death? The one thing he did not have was you. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross in order to gain you. Is your long-term prize Christ himself? Are you willing to obtain self-control for the sake of winning your race and gaining the crown eternal?

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Smart is pastor, Christ Church, Normal.