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A Life of Self-Control

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Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
(Philippians 3:17-19 ESV)


In this passage Paul is warning the Philippians (and us) to beware of those who are “enemies of the cross of Christ”. We are not to imitate their lifestyle because doing so would lead us away from God (i.e. hell).

These people serve only their own sensual desires (“their belly”). They do whatever their mind and body tell them to do. Even worse, they try and convince others to live the same way [Romans 16:18].

Certainly we see this in our culture. The idea of serving self and our own needs is the norm. We are bombarded by advertising that encourages giving into every impulse we have. We live in a microwave society where we want what we want and we want it now.

When it comes to sex, the concept of waiting until marriage is laughed at by a society that thinks its impossible to control themselves. The financial crisis of 2008 was a direct result of people seeking to serve their own selfish desires without consideration for how their behavior would affect others. In our society its all about “me” and its all about “now”.

Paul wrote this letter to remind the Philippians to be humble and to put the needs of others before their own desires [Philippians 2:3-4]. Someone who is humble does not seek to serve self.

The Bible does not promote asceticism – self-imposed denial of all pleasure as a way of getting right with God. God has given us all things for our enjoyment [1 Timothy 6:17]. But we are commanded to have self-control [1 Thessalonians 4:4]. Sadly, the current culture in America eschews this logic and instead promotes just the opposite approach to living.

Jesus, who was God, is the perfect example of how we are to live. His purpose in life was not to use His fame to feather His own nest. Instead He came to seek and save the lost [Luke 9:10; 1 Timothy 1:15] and to provide light to those living in darkness [John 12:46].

Jesus took care of His own needs. He slept. He ate. He prayed. But beyond that, Jesus lived sacrificially [Matthew 20:28]. He didn’t give in to the temptations that He faced living in a human body. Instead He lived for others.

Paul warns us against following in the example of people who live for themselves. Instead Jesus is our standard and godly people, such as Paul, are our earthly examples.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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1 Comment

  1. Kathleen says:

    Such excellent advice! And yet self-control may be impossible when a person does not have the Holy Spirit. Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit–for which I am so very grateful.

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