self-control

Titus 2

Today we’re reading Titus 2.

Self-control is a key theme of this chapter. Older men are to be taught to have it (v. 2), older women are commanded to teach it to younger women (v. 5) and Titus was to encourage young men to be self-controlled as well (v. 6). Why all this emphasis on self-control?

One reason is that a lack of self-control feels good. It is always easier and more fun to eat an entire pizza or cake than it is to eat one modest slice--or none at all. The same is true when buying clothes or cars, expressing your opinion, or venting your frustration and anger. And we haven’t even talked about intoxicants or sexual activity. These--and other--things promise an immediate hit of pleasure and they usually deliver, at least at first. Self-control is hard when pleasure is easy. We all struggle with it at times and in various aspects of our lives.

Verses 11-12 told us that it is God’s grace in salvation that teaches us “to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.” Self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit makes us desire to be self-controlled as does the gospel (again, here in Titus 2:11-12). Desiring self-control, however, doesn’t make exercising self-control easier. That’s why it is something that has to be taught (vv. 2, 4), encouraged (v. 6) and modeled (v. 7).

Do you have an area in your life where you need to work on self-control? Have you sought out someone who is self-controlled to help you, just as Titus was to help the older and younger men and older women were to help the younger women?

Honestly, a lot of self-control can be learned by modeling, as Paul commanded Titus to do in verse 7. Would Jesus click on that link? Would Paul order another round of beers in this situation? Would John MacArthur (or John Piper or whoever) take a hit from that bong? While we don’t worship men and women as idols or slavishly copy them, we do follow the example of others as they follow the Lord. When we wonder if it would be OK to indulge in something, it can be helpful to ask ourselves if someone we respect in the Lord would do it. In those situations we are not subjecting ourselves to someone else’s morality; we are learning self-control by following “an example [of] what is good.” So consider where you need to learn more self-control, trust God’s power and teaching on that, then look for other believers who can coach you, guide you, and model it for you.

Acts 24

Today’s reading is Acts 24.

So, Paul was taken from Jerusalem to Caesarea to protect his life from a plot by his Jewish opponents at the end of yesterday’s reading in Acts 23. Five days (v. 1) after Paul arrived in Caesarea, his Jewish opponents showed up there to charge him with stirring up conflict among the Jews (vv. 2-9). Paul answered the charges against him by appealing to what actually happened and the lack of proof his opponents had for their charges (vv. 10-13). Paul skillfully wove the gospel into his defense starting in verse 14. Felix, the governor who was handling this case, punted the case to a later date (vv. 22-23).

But a few days later, Felix and his wife Drusilla set up a private meeting with Paul (vv. 24-26). This meeting allowed Paul to specifically bring the gospel to this couple. An interesting aspect of this is that Felix was a Gentile, a Roman governor, but his wife Drusilla was Jewish (v. 24b). So Paul had a mixed audience religiously when he spoke to this couple. How did he handle this opportunity? According to verse 25, “Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come....” Let’s break that down:

  • “righteousness” refers to what is right, how someone measures up to a standard. In this case, the standard is God’s perfect holiness as revealed in his Law.
  • “self-control” has to do with a person’s ability to say no to his sinful impulses and choose to do what is right instead.
  • “judgment to come” of course, refers to the fact that every person will stand before God to give an account of his or her life.

In other words, Paul spoke to Felix and Drusilla about right and wrong, about their inability to control themselves enough to do what is right, and about the fact that God would judge them individually for doing what was wrong. What was the reaction? “Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now! You may leave...” (v. 25b). In other words, Paul’s conversation with them caused Felix to feel the conviction of sin and his need for a savior.

Unfortunately, he did not repent at Paul’s teaching and find forgiveness in Christ. But once again Paul’s approach when talking to him is instructive for us when we speak about Christ to unbelievers. Almost any point of sin is an adequate starting point for the gospel. When you are talking with an unbeliever, if they complain about an injustice in the news or about crime or about the lack of self-control they see in others or in young people, that is an opportunity to talk about Christ. Why do people dislike it when others can’t exercise self-control? Because an uncontrolled population is dangerous and difficult to live in. But what standard do unbelievers use to complain about the sins, injustices, and failures of self-control in others? They appeal to God’s standards, even though they may not know it or even may deny it. The Bible says that the law is written on the heart of every human. That means that we have an intuitive sense of right and wrong. Use that! Show them how they too fall short of the standards they apply to others and admit to them that you, too, fall short but that Jesus didn’t. This will give you the opportunity to share what Christ has done for us to deliver us from the coming judgment of God at the end of the age.