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Now displaying: 2014
Nov 23, 2014

Robb gives a story about Squanto, the native american behind the first Thanksgiving.

Nov 23, 2014

Pastor Robb discusses what kind of person God blesses that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Plain.

Nov 9, 2014

Sermon: The Impact of Obedience. Listen as guest speaker Andy Holloway gives a sermon on the importance of obedience in the Christian life.

Nov 2, 2014

Pastor Robb discusses what kind of person God blesses that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Plain.

Oct 26, 2014

Today Pastor Robb explains the difference between experiencing Jesus and obeying Him.

Oct 12, 2014

3rd sermon on this 4 part series about the Apostles of Christ

Oct 5, 2014

Part 2 of the series on the apostles of Christ.

Sep 28, 2014

Part 1 of a 4 part series about the apostles of Christ.

Sep 21, 2014

Part 1 of a 5 part series about the apostles of Christ.

Sep 14, 2014

Pastor Robb preaches about conflicts in the ministry of Jesus. And this is one of the last public ministry of Jesus before He focuses on teaching and picking His 12 disciples.

Aug 31, 2014
 Spiritual Gardening: Cultivating the Spirit's Fruit Galatians 5:24-26
August 31, 2014
- Concluded our study on each aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit
- This morning, I want to tie them all together and talk about the one thing absolutely necessary for successful spiritual gardening.
- By way of review, let's look at the fruit of the Spirit again, just at a high level
• Love: Love is a holy, divine affection toward others.
• Joy: Joy is an unshakeable, dynamic feeling of divine gladness in the Lord.
• Peace: Peace is the supernatural experience of reconciliation, harmony, and freedom. • Patience: Patience is the expression of a heartfelt trust in God's sovereign plan.
• Kindness: Kindness is a concern for others leading to acts of grace for their benefit.
• Goodness: Goodness is morally upright generosity toward others.
• Faithfulness: Faithfulness is an unwavering commitment to the truth.
• Gentleness: Gentleness is a courageous, compassionate humility.
• Self-Control: Self-control is mastery over natural desires.
- I've left off one vital part of each definition. Some of you noticed that each definition ended exactly the same way: produced by the Spirit in all believers.
• The final part of the definition is what ties each of these together.
• The final part of the definition is what separates Christian virtue for pagan virtue.
- We are not attempting to change ourselves. We are not trying to become something we are not by the power of the flesh or by an external code of conduct. This is not a self-help or self-improvement lesson.
- These virtues come to us from outside of us. They come to us from the Holy Spirit as God replicates His own character in our hearts, in our thoughts, in our attitudes, and in our words and deeds.
• The final part of this definition indicates that these virtues are true in measure in every Christian's life. An unkind Christian is an oxymoron. A self-indulgent Christian is a contradiction. A Christian characterized by faithlessness is an impossibility. Every Christian manifests these virtues at some level, and, over time, increasingly in his or her life.
• So, this is the fruit of the Spirit. These are the virtues, among others, that He produces in the life of every follower of Jesus Christ.
- Throughout our study, we've looked at some practical things you can do to cultivate the Spirit's fruit. For example, you can spend time in the Word, you can spend time in prayer, you can examine your life and take one step forward in self-control in an area you struggle, you can go back to the basics of the Gospel and remember God's compassion on you, you can give yourself to the Lord so that you recognize all you have is His, and so on. But in all of these practical strategies, there is one thing we have not mentioned. And it is vital. It is central. It is foundational to all of these virtues. Here it is. [Proposition] To succeed at cultivating the Spirit's fruit, we need to know who we are as Christians.
 
 I. It's not so much about knowing what to do, but knowing who we are.
Before any strategies will be effective, we need to know what it means to be a Christian, who we are now that we believe in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 5:24-26 gives us three things that are true of us as Christians. Three things that define who we are that are absolutely crucial to spiritual gardening, to cultivating the Spirit's fruit.
We are people who belong to Christ (v. 24)
A. Notice verse 24. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus.
1. It seems like there is this great need in our culture today to find a place where we belong. I know of two different churches that right now have something on their signs stating, “You belong here,” appealing to this desire to have a place where we belong.
2. Here, Paul tells the Galatians they belong to Christ. They are His people.
B. For the Galatians, the issue of belonging must have loomed large.
1. The Galatians as a people group were often considered to be on the margins of civilization in the Roman empire. Their ancestors were known for plundering temples, destroying cities, and basically creating havoc and terror throughout Asia Minor. They often fought naked when they went to war. So their level of social acceptance already was strained.
2. For the Galatians Christians, the feeling of ostracism was even worse. They were no longer welcome in their former places of worship, which also meant in many cases the loss of social ties. But they also were not welcome in Jewish synagogues as uncircumcised Gentiles who believed Jesus was the Messiah. They thus were double misfits, on the fringes of Roman culture by nationality, and now rejected by their own culture and by the Jewish people as well.
3. When the Judaizers came along teaching that they could be part of the people of God through circumcision, the message had great appeal. It would give them a place to belong. It would give them identity. It would connect them to a historic tradition. And it wouldn’t require them to capitulate on their belief in Jesus as Messiah, or so they thought.
4. Many of them were tempted to be circumcised and to follow the Mosaic Law. This gave them a sense of moral direction and a sense of spiritual identity, something many of them seemed to feel was missing from the faith alone Gospel Paul had preached.
5. Paul thus directly assaults their seeking of an identity in circumcision and the Law and says, “You belong to Christ.” You don’t find your identity in the Law. You don’t find it in circumcision. You don't find it in Judaism. You find it in Christ and Christ alone. You are His people through faith.
C. Today, we seek out our identity in thousands of places.
1. Some people seek it out in their work. Some people in their parenting. Some people in their hobbies. Some people in their favorite sports team. Some people in their local church. Some people in their wealth. Some people in a theological system. On and on and on.
 
 2. Here’s the thing: If we would be people who produce the Spirit’s fruit, we must find our identity in one truth: we belong to Christ. We are His people. He has bought us with His own blood. 1 Cor 6:19-20. And Acts 20:28. God has purchased the church with His own blood, the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
D. If you’re struggling to see the fruit of the Spirit in your life, let me suggest one of two things is true about you:
1. You are forgetting whose you are. You are forgetting your identity is that you now belong to Christ. You are not your own. Your life is not your own. Your body is not your own. Your time is not your own. Your money is not your own. Your talents are not your own. Christ is your Lord. You belong to Him. Everything that is important about you is defined by this one truth: you belong to Christ Jesus. Never forget that. Never let that take second place in your life. That is who you are.
2. You are not a Christian. It’s possible that the reason you don’t see the Spirit’s fruit is because you don’t belong to Christ. For some, that’s a very unsettling idea. But listen. The Spirit produces His fruit in all believers. Sometimes the fruit might be small. But it will be there. If you don’t see it, you need to examine yourself and make sure you belong to Christ.
E. So, we must know who we are as Christians, and the first thing is that we belong to Christ.
II. We are people who have crucified the flesh (v. 24)
A. Notice verse 24 again. We have crucified the flesh. We have crucified its passions, and we have crucified its desires.
1. The word crucified is put in such a way as to state a universal truth for all Christians.
2. In English, we have maxims, or truisms. People say, “What goes around comes around.” It’s stated like a universal truth.
3. Paul here is stating a universal truth for all those who belong to Christ. They have crucified the flesh.
B. The flesh is the old man. The flesh is the sinner in his natural state a part from God’s Spirit. It’s the aspect of us in which nothing good dwells. It’s the inclination to sin. The NIV uses sinful nature, which isn’t the best translation. The idea is the part of us that awaits final redemption, the part of us we battle that desires to do the evil works of the flesh in verses 19-21.
C. Paul says that we have crucified the flesh. This language is very graphic, and its very active. Notice that Paul says that we have crucified the flesh. It’s not something that was done to us in this context, but something we ourselves have done to the flesh. What does this mean?
1. Crucifying the flesh is a graphic picture of true repentance. The imagery helps us understand what we did when we came to Christ through repentance and faith.
2. Think about crucifixion. Crucifixion was not a neat, tidy method of execution. It was not meant to be painless and humane. It was violent. It was excruciating. It was tortuous. It was brutal. It was bloody. And it took a long time. And it required great strength even on the part of the executioner. To nail a human body to a thick piece of wood with massive nails up to nine inches long demanded great physical exertion. It demanded mercilessness to ignore the screams of pain from the victims. It demanded the cruelest sort of callousness to the suffering of the one dying.
3. Here, then, is the picture of true repentance. The truly repentant person does not have a mild disgust for sin. He does not have a distaste for sin. He does not merely dislike sin or find it objectionable. He has nothing but contempt for sin. He loathes sin with all of his being. He sees sin as so offensive to a holy God that nothing short of the cruelest death will suffice to pay sin what it deserves.
4. Paul is thus saying that all who belong to Christ have turned away from sin, not mildly, not half-heartedly, not flippantly, but with great violence they have severed themselves from sin. We have taken our flesh and nailed it to a cross. We have taken the very seat of our sin, slammed it down onto a piece of wood, held it fast while taking a nail, grasped a hammer, and we have driven the nails through our sinful flesh. We have done violence to sin. Our sin.
5. What’s more, we have sought not only to kill our individual acts of sin, but to kill the very seat of sin in our lives, the flesh. To repent of sin is to hate sin with such a great hatred that we abhor it to the point of annihilating its root, its source, its cause.
D. Paul adds that we have crucified the flesh’s passions and desires.
1. The passions are representative of the power of the flesh. The passions are what seek to control us and move us to sinful acts.
2. The desires are what the passions want to do. The passions compel us toward the desires of the flesh.
3. The point, then, is that repentance is a total destruction of sin in our lives. It is a transformation not just of external behavior, but a transformation of inward desires and inward motivations.
E. Now, you say, “Sometimes I feel tempted by the flesh. I desire sin. I have affections that are unholy. How can this be if I have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires?”
1. Remember what I said about crucifixion. It is not an immediate execution. The crucified person could survive hours upon the cross. He could have conversations while on the cross. The crucified person will die, to be sure, but it takes time.
2. The same is true of our flesh. When we crucified the flesh, the battle was won. But the flesh still yells at us. The flesh still taunts us. The flesh still is set against the Spirit of God.
3. The war has been won, but there are still battles to be fought.
4. This means that the flesh is a defeated foe that is still fighting and trying to win. But we always fight from the vantage point of victors, not ones who are defeated. We are not powerless against the flesh since we have the Spirit.
5. Sometimes it might seem like we are powerless. Sometimes it might seem like we can’t win. Sometimes it might seem impossible to overcome this temptation or that vice. But it’s not. That’s just a lie of the flesh as its taunts you from its cross. If you belong to Christ, you have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. We must understand this.
III. We are people who live by the Spirit (vv. 25-26)
 
 A. Notice vv. 25-26. We are people who live by the Spirit. What does that mean? Simply, it means the Spirit is the source of our life. The hypothetical is not really a hypothetical. It could be rendered, Since we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. This is not a command. This is a fact. It is true of every Christian. Every Christian is alive by the power of the Holy Spirit. The idea, of course, is primarily spiritual life, since everyone physically alive, believe and unbeliever, is sustained by nothing other than the power of the Spirit. But for believers, our true life, our spiritual life, our life in Christ, is life given by and empowered by the Spirit of God.
B. Here, the contrast implicitly is with the Law. We do not live because of the power of the Law. We do not live by our own power. The flesh did not achieve something that gave us true life. We live because the Spirit has made us alive.
C. The command, then, that follows, is to walk by the Spirit. Another way to put it would be to follow the footsteps of the Spirit. Stay in sync with the Spirit. Keep in line with the Spirit.
1. The idea of walking by originally was a military term. It referred to the ranks or lines of the soldiers in battle array. Everyone had their place to stand. And everyone had to follow the one leading them into battle. In fact, the fighting power of the squadron depended on the individual soldiers all being firmly in line, following the leader into battle with precision and without deviation.
2. So here, the idea is similar. It is the idea of the Spirit being the leader. He leads us into battle with the flesh and with sin. Our success in battle demands we stay in line. It demands we follow His lead. It demands we stay in battle formation and don’t wander away from where He is going or how He is leading.
3. We see that it goes beyond even our own power to that of the entire church. Verse 26 makes this corporate. Read v. 26. If we get out of line we begin to fight one another, and that means we stop fighting the enemy, we lose our power, and we risk defeat.
4. The church, then, needs everyone to stay in step with the Spirit. Our ability to battle the evil win demands we all follow the Spirit’s lead.
D. Now, you might be wondering, “Well, what does it mean to follow the Spirit?” It’s a fair question, and I think Paul just answered it. The fruit of the Spirit describes what it looks like when we are in step with the Spirit. Notice how Paul ends verse 23. Against such things there is no law. Meaning, if you stay in step with the Spirit, and your life looks like the fruit of the Spirit, you will fulfill the law of God. You won’t be violating anything, you won’t lack anything, you won’t miss anything.
E. The contrast in verse 26 shows what happens when we forget who we are. We become boastful. We begin to take credit for our obedience. We begin to challenge each other. That term was used of men who challenged other men to drinking contests to show who was more manly. We envy one another, which of course is one of the works of the flesh.
F. When you understand you’re alive because of the Spirit, not because of your obedience to the Law, not because of your good works, not because of anything you have done, it makes you humble, not boastful. It makes you lowly, not conceited.
G. I think one of the reasons why we fail to see the Spirit’s fruit in full bloom in our lives is because we forget who we are, that we are people who live by the Spirit. We begin to think God saved us because of something in us, because of something we did, because of who we are. And the next step is to think we can produce holiness in our lives on our own, because if we were good enough, smart enough, talented enough, wise enough for God to save us, then we have something we contribute and we can contribute something to make ourselves holy. But we can’t. We are entirely dependent on the Spirit of God. We live by His power. We are alive because of His work, not our works.
- Christian, do you know who you are this morning? • Do you know that you belong to Christ?
• Do you know that you have crucified the flesh?
• Do you know that you live by the Spirit?
- If you want to be a spiritual gardener, if you want to see the fruit of the Spirit grow in your life and mature and ripen, you must know who you are as a Christian. You must know what is true about you through the Gospel, through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and through the power of the Spirit in your life.
• You belong to Christ.
• You have crucified the flesh.
• You live by the Spirit.
Aug 24, 2014
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control Galatians 5:23
August 24, 2014
- Last of the nine virtues listed as the fruit of the Spirit
- Self-control is the most difficult one for many people. A number of people joked that they were going to skip church this week because the sermon would be too convicting!
- Joking aside, the reality is that self-control is elusive. Our society has, for the most part, given up on it. What used to be considered a virtue is now considered restrictive, legalistic, controlling, old-fashioned, and even foolish.
• The message that comes from culture: Be controlled by self, don’t control yourself. Whatever impulses, whatever desires, whatever feelings, whatever thoughts, follow them, do them, indulge them.
• Perhaps this is exemplified most clearly in the message, “Listen to your heart.” It’s the name of a popular song. How many movies have a line, like, “What does your heart tell you?”
• The slide by the world into an absence of self-control is to be expected. 2 Tim. 3:1-3.
• This list describes the character of our world today, and the lack of self-control is part of the overall nature of it.
• One scholar wrote concerning society’s degradation, “It is not so much that they lead a dissolute life, but rather that they cannot control themselves, and so they no longer act as human beings–they are amoral beings.”
• Spicq is arguing that part of what makes us human is our ability to control ourselves. We are not savage beasts acting on impulse or mere instinct. Or, at least, that’s not how God designed us to be. But when we reject self-control, we descend into a lifestyle that is amoral, that can no longer even recognize right from wrong. It doesn’t even desire to recognize right from wrong. It lives, or attempts to live, as if these categories do not exist.
- As Christians, we must not follow the world down a path of self-indulgence. In fact, [Proposition] Faithful obedience to Jesus requires self-control.
• A Christian who lacks self-control will find his sanctification short-circuited and his holiness hindered.
• Why? Socrates taught that self-control was the foundation of all virtue. That certainly over- states the case. The Gospel is the foundation of all virtue, including self-control. But think about how important self-control is in the Christian life, just focusing on the fruit of the Spirit.
- We might think about patience. Patience means that we are able to endure because we trust in God’s sovereign plan. This endurance demands self-control. If you remember, we talk about the connection between patience and forgiveness. When someone has deeply offended you or wronged you, it requires self-control not to break out in fury against them. It requires self-control not to gossip about them to others, but to bite your tongue.
- Or we might think about gentleness from last week. The gentle person must have self- control. It’s an integral part of acting in a gentle way toward others.
 
 • Many of the Christian virtues are connected to self-control. This makes sense because the fruit of the Spirit is a unity. You cannot have one without the others, at least not as the Bible defines these terms. So faithful obedience to Jesus requires self-control.
- That raises a few questions about self-control, which we’ll look at this morning. Let’s start with...
I. What is self-control?
A. Let’s start with a definition. Self-control is mastery over natural desires and is produced by the Spirit in all believers. There are two crucial elements to this definition, and I want to look at them in reverse.
1. Self-control is produced by the Spirit in all believers.
a) This particular aspect of the Spirit’s fruit can almost sound contradictory. Self- control: the ability to control myself. But isn’t the goal Christ-control? Shouldn’t the goal be to have Christ control me? Didn’t Paul write, For the love of Christ controls us (2 Cor 5:14)? How does self-control fit in this equation?
b) We have to understand that the fruit is the ability to control oneself. But the power, the ability itself, comes from the Spirit of God. It is not self-generated self- control. It is Spirit-generated self-control.
c) This distinction is important for a couple reasons:
(1) It separates it from pagan concepts of deprivation and an ascetic lifestyle.
(a) The Neo-Pythagoreans believed in a type of dualism, that the body had to be kept in check through asceticism, that is, severe bodily treatment and discipline, so that the soul could rise to God.
(b) The path to self-control is paved with severe treatment of the body, according to this group. In some cases, you literally have to beat the body into submission. You deprive it of food just for the sake of deprivation. The way you teach yourself self-control is to ritually and continually and painfully deny yourself what the body desires and even what it needs.
(c) This self-deprivation is foreign to the New Testament, except when it condemns it. The way we learn self-control is not by harming our bodies. Self-control comes from the Spirit of God, not from some humanly devised rituals or masochistic treatment of oneself.
(2) It reminds us that are responsibly dependent on God. What do I mean by that?
(a) We are dependent on God. We cannot generate self-control. We cannot master our natural desires on our own. It is an ability and power that God gives through the Spirit.
(b) We are responsible to master these desires. It is still self-control. As Christians, we must control ourselves. We must not wait around as if God is going to just take over while we walk around like robots or like puppets on a string. God wants us to be responsible for controlling our desires. We must do it. We must do it by His power and by His Spirit, but we must do it.
c) So, self-control is produced by the Spirit in all believers.
2. Self-control is mastery over natural desires. I have chosen this phrase, natural
desires, very purposefully.
a) Natural desires connote sinful desires, at least in our context. When we think of what comes natural to us as sinners, we probably think of sin. The natural person is opposed to God and God’s wisdom. Natural can have a dark side.
b) Natural desires connote human desires. The desires therefore do not have to be sinful in themselves. They can be things that are required because we are human beings, like sleep, food, drinks, and so on.
c) Self-control means mastery over every kind of desire we have, whether it is a desire that is inherently evil, such as the desire for revenge when wronged, or whether it is a desire that is morally neutral, like sleeping, which is neither good or bad in itself.
d) What we need to understand about morally neutral desires, like sleeping or eating, is that they can become sinful desires when they are indulged beyond what is necessary and reasonable. If we do not control even the normal, human desires, they will overtake us and enslave us.
B. To add some more clarity, Matt 23:25.
1. The word translated self-indulgence is the opposite of self-control.
2. This helps clarify what self-control means. What is the self-indulgent person like? He gives in and satisfies and indulges every desire he has.
a) Does he desire sleep? He sleeps.
b) Does he desire food? He eats.
c) Does he desire sexual pleasure? He commits acts of sexual immorality.
d) Does he desire a good time? He carouses and drinks and parties the night away.
3. The self-indulgent person gives in to whatever impulses he feels at the moment. Jesus said this characterized the Pharisees. Did they want something? They took it, even if it wasn’t theirs to take. They were self-indulgent, thieving hypocrites. They did not control their desires; their desires controlled them.
C. Self-control,then,istheoppositeofself-indulgence.Itismasteryovernaturaldesires and it is produced by the Spirit of God in all believers. Now, let’s move on to the second question...
II. Why is self-control necessary?
A. What do I mean by this question?
1. I think we understand that self-control is necessary at some level. We all recognize that to act on every thought or impulse we experience would be destructive both to ourselves and to others.
2. But here’s the thing: the level we are willing to accept as self-control is far too low. For most people, keeping their desires generally in check is good enough. But that’s not biblical self-control. Remember, self-control is mastery over your natural desires.
3. And this is where we need to focus. Why should we learn to master our desires?
 B. It’s one of the reasons Jesus died - Titus 2:11-14
1. The grace of God teaches us self-control. Notice verses 11-12.
a) This point is absolutely critical. Some people think that grace means you can now do whatever you want, follow whatever urges or desires you have, because God’s grace covers all your sins, so sin doesn’t matter that much.
b) While it’s true that God’s grace does cover every sin a believer will ever commit, it’s also true that God’s grace teaches us not to sin. It teaches us to have self- control. It teaches us to live godly. It teaches us to deny worldly desires. It teaches us to say no to the flesh.
c) If you reject self-control, if you say you don’t need to master your natural desires, then what you’re saying is that you don’t understand grace. Because grace teaches you to do these things.
2. Grace teaches us self-control because Jesus died to make us pure. Notice verses 13-14. Jesus died, according to this passage, to make us zealous for good deeds.
a) We must master our natural desires so that they submit and conform to the desires of Jesus Christ.
b) Jesus died not so that you would be zealous to indulge your desires but so that you would be zealous to do His will.
3. If we treasure the cross, we will treasure its purpose as well. The person who lives a self-indulgent life, the person who has no desire for self-control, shows contempt for Christ and His cross. He shows contempt for God and His grace.
4. If we love the cross, we will want to learn self-control. We will want to learn to master our desires so that every single one submits to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Because that’s one reason Jesus went to the cross, to purify us, to teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, and to make us eager to do good deeds that glorify His name.
C. It will ensure fruitfulness - 2 Peter 1:5-8
1. Here we have Peter’s version of the Spirit’s fruit. It’s a list of virtues that every
believer should seek to cultivate in his or her life. In verse 6, we see self-control.
2. Peter anticipates the why question in verse 8. Why should we cultivate all these virtues? Why learn to master our natural desires? Notice v. 8. When we possess these qualities, such as self-control, we ensure that we will be useful and fruitful in our knowledge of Christ.
3. You can have knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and be unfruitful and useless. Peter warns his readers later on that such fruitless and useless people should have no certainty about their salvation. It is a sobering reality that we can know lots of great theology, we can memorize lots of Bible verses, we can read books by great pastors and Christian scholars, and all that knowledge can be useless.
4. We avoid that by cultivating, among other things, self-control. See, what good is it if I know all the right things to say and do and think, but I have not mastered my desires? I will never be able to use that knowledge for anything useful or fruitful.
 5. This reminds me of a former Phoenix Suns basketball player named Richard Dumas. He was a small forward on the Suns in the early- to mid-90s. He was a star rookie on the 1992-93 team that went to the NBA Finals, when he averaged almost 16 points and 5 rebounds per game. If you ever watched Dumas play, you know he had massive talent and could have been an all-star or even possibly an MVP caliber player. But Richard Dumas never amounted to anything in the NBA.
a) After the 1993 season, he went to drug rehab. He came back to the Suns in 1995, and this time only averaged 5.5 points per game in 15 games.
b) He then went to the 76ers, where he played 39 games and averaged just over 6 points per game.
c) Today, Richard Dumas is awaiting a trial to begin next month for eight felony counts of Organized Retail Theft.
d) It’s such a sad story of a person who could have risen to the top of the basketball world and been set for life financially, but who, because he had no self-control, and has never learned it, never was fruitful in basketball and now very well could be sent to prison for eight felonies.
6. That’s a sad story, but what is even more tragic is when someone knows the truth of Christ, and does the same thing spiritually because they have no self-control. They do not learn to master their desires, and so they become enslaved to their desires, leaving them fruitless and useless in their knowledge.
7. The good news is that the fruit of the Spirit is self-control, and as we learn self- control, we ensure fruitfulness and usefulness in Christ’s kingdom.
D. It prepares us for Jesus’ coming (Rom 13:11-14)
1. Paul exhorts us not to make any provision for the flesh or its desires. Notice v. 14. While he doesn’t use the word self-control, it’s the same idea. Don’t allow anything into your life that will indulge the desires of the flesh, the natural desires that can draw you away from Christ and His will if not held in check by the Spirit.
2. Notice why we need to do this in verses 11-12. The motivation Paul gives is the arrival of salvation. That means nothing less than the return of Christ, the resurrection from the dead. And as every day passes, we get nearer and nearer to that moment.
3. The point is clear: you’ve indulged evil desires long enough. The time is short. You only have so many days left to serve Christ before your life is evaluated and judged by Him. So now is the time to lay aside the deeds of darkness. Now is the time to put on the armor of light. Now is the time to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh and its desires.
4. If you want to be ready when salvation is consummated, when the resurrection of the dead takes place, then you need to practice self-control now. You need to lay aside wickedness and every natural desire that violates the law of Christ. Make no provision for the flesh or its desires. Jesus is nearer to coming now than when you believed.
E. So why is self-control necessary? It’s one of the reasons Jesus died, it will ensure fruitfulness, and it will prepare you for Jesus’ coming.
 III. How can you learn self-control?
A. Thisiswheretherubbermeetstheroad.Wecantalkaboutself-controlalldaylong,but we must learn it. We must practice it. We must implement this mastery over our desires into our lives. So how do we do that? I want to give you three steps to learn this focusing on 1 Cor. 9:25. Notice what Paul says.
B. Focus on the goal.
1. Paul reminds the Corinthians why they exercise self-control. Because we receive an imperishable reward.
a) The analogy is drawn with athletics. The successful athlete always has his mind fixed on the prize. He knows why he is working out. He knows why he is training. It’s the old saying, “Eyes on the prize.”
b) As Christians, we need to remember why we discipline ourselves, why we learn self control, why this is important. We’ve just talked about that.
2. When we get tired, when the flesh starts barking at us, when we want to indulge the flesh, we need to remember where we are going and why we are going there.
3. There’s a book on time management called “Tell Your Time,” and in that book the author draws an analogy that is helpful in this regard. Imagine you planned a trip to Switzerland. You spent months planning where to go, saving to buy the tickets, and buying all kinds of Swiss gear and new luggage. The day of the big trip arrives, and you get to the airport. You make your way through security, and you suddenly have a realization. You’re in the wrong terminal. You thought your flight left at 8 AM but it’s actually leaving at 8 PM. And you will have to walk, carrying all of your carry on bags, to another terminal, and then sit and wait for hours. But what are you going to do? So you start walking, when you pass by a gate and hear that the flight is about to take off. You think to yourself, “Wow, what timing! What good fortune! If I board this flight, I won’t have to walk, and I won’t have to wait! I can leave right now!” The only problem is, this flight isn’t going to Switzerland. It’s going to Siberia.
4. Now, certainly none of us would board the flight to Siberia just to avoid walking and waiting for a while. But how many of us do the exact same thing, metaphorically speaking, spiritually, because we don’t focus on the goal? The goal is Christlikeness. The goal is holiness. But oh, how it requires we wait! And oh, how it requires we walk! And we are tired. We have competing desires, desires that come so much easier than holiness. And so we make very little progress in holiness, or we do things that actually take us to another destination, sin.
5. We must focus on the goal. Like a traveler or like an athlete, if we are not focused on where we are going and why we are going there, we will not have self-control.
C. Recognize the effort required.
1. When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, the Greeks had the Olympic games, and the training required for the athletes was rigorous and intense.
a) Athletes were required to abstain from all alcohol, from luxurious living, and from immoral behavior. Anything that might negatively impact their bodies was eliminated.
b) This meant that they had to abstain even from things that were not bad in themselves, but were harmful for someone who wanted to compete at the highest level of competence.
c) One ancient writer described the required training this way: “Do you wish to gain the prize at the Olympic games? Consider the requisite preparations and the consequence. You must observe a strict regimen; must live on food which is unpleasant; must abstain from all delicacies; must exercise yourself at the prescribed times in heat and in cold; you must drink nothing cool, must take no wine as usual; you must put yourself under a pugilist [athletic trainer, especially boxing], as you would under a physician, and afterwards, enter the lists [of competitors].”
d) Another wrote poetically, “A youth who hopes the Olympic prize to gain, all arts must try, and every toil sustain; the extremes of heat and cold must often prove, and shun the weakening joys of wine and love.”
2. Even today, the greatest athletes are the ones that train most rigorously, recognizing the effort required.
a) Jerry Rice, the greatest WR in the history of the NFL, was known for his rigorous training.
b) His diet was regulated. During the off-season, when other players went home to be with their families and friends, Rice was in the gym every day, working out. He was on the field every day, running practice patterns.
c) When people have asked what set Rice apart from the rest of the WR who have played the game, the answer comes back again and again, it was his discipline and dedication to the game. His self-control.
3. To be self-controlled will not be easy. It will require great effort. It will come at great cost. When others are enjoying leisure, you may be in prayer. While others are at sporting events, you may be worshiping with the saints. While others are sleeping, you may be reading the Word of God. While others are enjoying a free evening, you may be discipling someone or serving in ministry. While others are eating, you may be fasting. While others are purchasing the latest fashions, you may be giving to support the ministry of the Gospel here or abroad. Nevertheless, it is worth it. We stay focused on the prize, and we recognize the effort required.
4. Listen to what Paul told Timothy in 1 Tim. 4:7-8. Yes, great effort is required, but this effort holds promise not only for this life but the life to come! The strenuous exertion is worth it.
D. For those of you who are now exhausted, here’s a little relief. Start where you are.
1. I remember Randi and I were going to run a 5K a couple years ago. I hadn’t run in quite a while, at least not in any serious way. And I didn’t begin by working my way up from couch potato to 5K athlete. In fact, early on in my training I ran a 5K to see how fast I could do it. Now, by the time the race came around, I had shin splints. I made it through the race, but it was uncomfortable.
2. A good exercise program will always allow you to start where you are and work your way up.
 3. And that’s what we need to do spiritually. If you have very little self-control right now, recognize the need to grow. But also recognize that jumping into a severe regimen might be a little too much all at once. Here are some suggestions.
a) If you’re not serving in any ministry areas because you’re too tired, or you have other interests, or whatever other reason you have, just pick one thing to do and start with that. Serve in one ministry. It can even be a temporary ministry for a special event or something, but find something to do to make a start and mastering your desires so that you live your life doing God’s will and not the natural things you want to do in the flesh.
b) Maybe you have no self-control when it comes to money, and so you don’t give to support the Lord’s work, or you only give sporadically. You need to recognize the problem, recognize where you are, and take a step in the right direction. Maybe that means you start to give 3% or 5% of your income for now. Maybe that means you set a fixed dollar amount for a while that you can manage. You start where you are. You find someone to help you understand budgeting and money management. You learn how to handle money so that you can give generously and faithfully as you grow in your self-control.
c) Many other areas we could address: time management, Bible reading, prayer, diet, and so on. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. If you’re not exercising mastery over your desires, take one step in the right direction. Then master that step and take another. You’ll be amazed at how the Spirit grows self-control in your life when you are obedient step by step, day by day, moment by moment.
- The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
- If we would be obedient to Christ, if we would carry out His desires and not our natural impulses and desires from the flesh, we must learn self-control.
- Self control is mastery over our natural desires and is produced by the Spirit in all believers.
 
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