Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Friday, May 4, 2012

Exercising self-control

'Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. ' - 1 Corinthians 9:25

I am sorely lacking in the self-control department, and I do not say this lightly or boastfully. Self control and self discipline are hard for me to follow on a regular basis. But, as we strive for holiness, it is essential to do just that on a consistent basis if we are to be successful in overcoming sin. There is something to be gained by competing vigorously; by denying our desires and saying no to the pampering of our bodies, we do so for the 'imperishable wreath' that awaits us.

The Apostle Paul compares our  striving for holiness with that of an athlete, there is an exercise of self control required to run successfully. 'Exercise self control' is defined as 'in a figure drawn from athletes, who in preparing themselves for the games abstained from unwholesome food, wine, and sexual indulgence' {Thayer's Greek Definitions}. There is a strict way of life that is adhered to by the athlete, his mind is set on the race - how to compete, how to finish so as to win that perishable wreath. He knows certain foods and activities harm the body, so he avoids them. He desires the prize more than he desires the temptations that would lure him away and cost him to not finish this race.  It certainly isn't for the faint at heart to run this race effectively, as we see in the phrase 'competes in the games'. To compete is to to contend, struggle, with difficulties and dangers, to endeavour with strenuous zeal, strive: to obtain something {Thayer's Greek Definitions}.  There is a struggle, a war waging against us as we compete to run our race, this war is within. We battle our desires and succumb all too often to them and wind up falling down, but we do not stay down.

The athlete strives for a temporal reward, all that hard work for something that doesn't last. We have a reward that is eternal, Matthew Henry sums it up quite nice when he says "Those who conquered in these games were crowned only with the withering leaves or boughs of trees, of olive, bays, or laurel. But Christians have an incorruptible crown in view, a crown of glory that never fadeth away, an inheritance incorruptible, reserved in heaven for them. And would they yet suffer themselves to be outdone by these racers or wrestlers? Can they use abstinence in diet, exert themselves in racing, expose their bodies to so much hardship in a combat, who have no more in view than the trifling huzzas of a giddy multitude, or a crown of leaves? And shall not Christians, who hope for the approbation of the sovereign Judge, and a crown of glory from his hands, stretch forward in the heavenly race, and exert themselves in beating down their fleshly inclinations, and the strong-holds of sin? "

It seems we have fallen short in this race concerning the holiness of our bodies. In his book entitled 'The Pursuit of Holiness',  Jerry Bridges says 'true holiness includes control over our physical bodies and appetites. If we are to pursue holiness we must recognize that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that we are to glorify God with them. Modern Christians, especially those in the Western world, have generally been found wanting in the area of holiness of body. Gluttony and laziness, for example, were regarded by earlier Christians as sin. Today we may look on these as weaknesses of the will but certainly not sin. We even joke about our overeating and other indulgences instead of crying out to God in confession and repentance. Our physical bodies and natural appetites were created by God and are not sinful in themselves. Nevertheless, if left uncontrolled we will find our bodies becoming 'instruments of wickedness' rather than 'instruments of righteousness'.  There is no place for laziness and indulgence of the body in a disciplined pursuit of holiness. We don't feel like getting out of bed to have our morning time with God, or doing Bible study, or praying, or anything else we should do. That is why we have to take control of our bodies and make them our servants instead of our masters.'

Striving for holiness is not easy, but there is no excuse not to. Perseverance is a must if we are to finish this race.  I do not give up, and I pray you don't either. Yes, old habits are hard to break, especially in a time when laziness, complacency and gluttony are so very prominent in our society. But that should never be the case for the follower of the Lord Jesus; let us follow the Apostle Paul's example, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14

May our Lord be gracious, may He be all that we desire.


Susan said...

Thanks Lyn,

This has been a recurring theme in my readings today :)

Just read this one earlier today (very down to earth and simple practical wisdom):

and then also this one (same blog):

lyn said...

Hey Susan,

Thanks for the links, I will look into them momentarily.