In this message Pastor Tim explores Paul’s exhortation in 2 Timothy 1:7 to have a Spirit of power, love and self control.
Spirit of Self Control
So we start the new year a bit like most of 2020… socially distanced… a few new regulations…
- But compared to my friends around the world I went to bible college with… incredibly fortunate.
- So welcome… and let’s do this Manly Life!
- God loves his church and is faithful and pours out his Spirit on the thirsty and fills the hungry!
Well, it’s that funny time of year when we make New Years resolutions…
- I didn’t make any this year… I think I was still in shock about being back in lockdown…
- But last years admittedly didn’t go that well… I bought weights!
- They now sit idly by my karate suit, my Nutri-bullet blender and Victoria’s gym membership card…
- Issue, as is so often the case is what? Discipline…
- We know what we want to do… but struggle to do it!
- And I wonder as we start the new year, how often could you reflect on that feeling of letting yourself down. Not quite being able to live up to maybe lofty ideals you set for yourself?
And I wonder what that might be for you this year?
- Maybe there is something in your character that you would love to see change or grow?
- Maybe it’s a habit of addiction that you would like to break.
- Maybe it’s a relationship you would like to see improve or reconciled.
- Or maybe it is something here at church. You want to commit in your discipleship to Jesus, to bible reading or serving in a ministry team, or making your involvement more committed?
- Maybe it is something a little less lofty like cutting back on the hot chips and red wine…
There is an amazing verse I want to look at
As we start the year, it is found in Paul’s letter to his young disciple Timothy
- Now Paul had brought Timothy to the faith and commissioned him to do the work of an evangelist and church leader.
- So Paul wrote to Timothy who was then in leadership in the church in Ephesus.
- And it is an exhortation to faithfulness and to stand firm in the truth in the face of opposition.
- But it also includes this wonderful promise of the gift, God has given to Timothy… and to you and to me…
2 Timothy 2:7 NIV: For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 2:7 ESV: for God gave us a spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.
Fascinating thing to me that one of the things the Spirit of God does in us is give us self control. Or self discipline.
- Now, the Spirit of God is given as a gift to all those who trust in in his Son Jesus and confess him as Lord.
- And we live in the age of the abundance of the Spirit. Poured out on believers in Acts chapter 2… and available to all of God’s children.
- So the bible makes it clear that;
- The Spirit of God, which is his presence, active and alive in the world today, does all kinds of things in God’s church and his people.
- We get the assurance of adoption to sonship – you know you are loved.
- The Spirit in us illuminates the word (the bible) and gives us revelation
- The Spirit as we will see produces Fruit in our lives – changing your character
- The Spirit gives us gifts for service in the church and mission – make you useful
- Finally, the Spirit pours the love of God in our hearts
But here is the interesting thing… one of the greatest gifts given to us… imparted to us is self control.
- Not a Spirit of timidity or fear or cowardice…
- But of love, power and self control. And I think we all need that! So much!
- As the followers of Jesus we get a Spirit of self discipline, that empowers us to live faithfully. That allows us to not be captive to our fleshy desires and egos and pride.
- As we co-operate with God, we find ourselves not out of control, but able to live lives of love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness and so on!
As some of you know, I do some teaching on leadership up at the International College of Management here in Manly.
- Every student who graduates has to do a leadership weekend with me where I get to teach on servant leadership and the example of Jesus
- And I also take all the student leaders through some training. And I love it… it’s a great privilege.
- And a part of the student leadership training for the student leaders is they do a strength finder test
- Right? So after doing a survey, it reveals to them what are their strengths and weaknesses… things like vision, courage, focus, compassion, justice and so on…
Consistently… every time… the lowest strength they always all posses… always… every single one of them… is??? Self control.
- What that means… is that despite high ideals… or knowing what they want their lives to look like, they find they don’t have power to follow through.
- Right? And maybe that is true for you? It is just all to easy to give in to temptations…
- I know for me… there have been periods in my life when I haven’t lived up to being a follower of Jesus as much as I wanted to.
- And I don’t think it is just the students at ICMS or this upcoming generation… I think this is typical of human nature.
The brilliant Apostle Paul described human nature this way in Romans 7…
Now listen to this… as you may find yourself in this passage!
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
- It’s a good summary of the predicament of human nature… right?
- Now does that relate to anyone here?
- You know what you want to do, or you should be doing… but you keep messing up.
- Pauls says, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”
- And my guess is that is the case for everyone of us. For some obvious, glaring flaws… for others more secret but no less damaging flaws.
- The issue is self control.
I remember watching a Simpson episode as a kid that for some reason stuck with me.
- In it, Lisa plays a joke on Bart where she puts out a donut on a plate attached to an electrical current.
- So Bart grabs it, gets a massive electric shock.
- But he wants it, but it hurts him… so he braces himself and goes again… same result… massive electric shock.
- He tries again…. Zzzz… tries again… zzzz…
- And to me it was this insight into human nature… we have these things in front of us that we desire that end up hurting us…
- But then even knowing the pain it causes… we keep going for it!
But this is serious stuff right?
- I know of a marriage that ended because of the husbands addiction to pornography.
- I don’t doubt he desired to do what is good and pure… but he just couldn’t carry it out. He lacked self control.
- I think of a friend who lost tens of thousands of dollars gambling at the pokies…
- So if we are going to live the Christian life… if we are going to have faithful marriages and integrity and live holy and pure and whole lives…
- Then we need the gift of God… his Spirit at work within us… producing new life!
So Paul says one of the characteristics of the Spirit of God, given to us is self control or self discipline…
So how does that work? Are you zapped with the Spirit of God and never struggle again?
- Do you become a Christian and all bad habits, toxic thought patterns, addictions to sin and sinful things disappear?
- Well no… we know that from our own experience… we know that from Paul’s description in Romans 7…
- And also Paul wouldn’t have to remind Timothy of what he had received if it wasn’t an issue.
- No… we need to learn to appropriate what God has given us…
- To co-operate with the gift of God’s renewing presence… his Spirit alive and at work within us.
So for Paul there were two states of life or two ways of living…
And we either end up in one category or the other.
- Find it in Galatians… which is also going to give us the clue to how to appropriate this…
- But for Paul there were only two realities…
- Life according to the flesh and life according to the Spirit.
- These are eschatological realities… these are the essential realities as Gordon Fee states of the two ages… before and after Christ!
- The Greek is Kata Sarx… (living according to the flesh) and Kata Pnuema (living according to the Spirit).
So flesh is defined as our essential fallenness of life outside of Christ. It is being ruled by our sinful nature.
- Living according to the Spirit of course then, is living with the presence of God alive within us, conforming us into his image.
- Right? We get empowered to live in keeping with the in-breaking kingdom of God and its norms and values…
We find this particularly in Galatians 5… but indeed all through Paul’s letters.
So Galatians 5:16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
- So there it is, pnuema or sarx… Spirit or flesh!
17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
- Right so two types of living that are contrary to one another…
- The flesh where we have no self control and do whatever we want…
- And the Spirit which guides us into a new life.
- And just a side note… if we are led by the Spirit why are we not under the law….
- Well… and this is another sermon… but again, like the flesh, the law belongs to life before Christ, that like the flesh was inadequate to bring about change.
Right… sometimes we just think if we know what is right or the law, that will be enough to do the right or moral thing…
- But we all know the law can’t do that.
- I remember being at Oxford University in one of the fancy colleges… and there was a sign on every lawn saying… “do not walk on the lawn.”
- So immediately I had this desire to do what? Walk on the lawn…
- And so sometimes the law that we read about in the Old Testament is like that… it actually arouses sin within us…
- And at it’s very best it was still unable to produce a renewed life!
So then we get descriptions of what the two kinds of lives look like…
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
- Right? So it’s a bit of a list of naughty…
- Santa would not approve…
- But seriously, these are the things that destroy lives and relationships, that cause pain and brokenness in our lives!
- We don’t grow up to aspire to these things…
So then the life of the Spirit is contrasted and the fruit it produces in our lives…
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
- So don’t just put these things on a tea towel… actively pursue these virtues in your life.
- You see if we belong to Jesus Christ…. The flesh with its passions and desires gets crucified.
- Right? We no longer desire after the very things that harm us… we get a new set of priorities.
- In the new age we live in, empowered by the Holy Spirit… this gets produced in us!
So that leads me to one final thing today?
How? How? How do we get the Spirit of self control.
- Mentioned both in 2 Timothy 1:7 and here in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5?
- Right? How do appropriate this?
- How do we increasingly live kata pneuma and not kata sarx?
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
- The Christian life, according to Paul is appropriated, becomes a reality by keeping in step with the Spirit.
- As we learn to co-operate with God, his promptings, get immersed in his word
- We begin to walk in the same direction as the Spirit of God directs us.
- Now this has a Supernatural presupposition… this isn’t going to come from just trying harder…
- It isn’t going to come by reverting back to a whole lot of laws.
- It is going to come by getting to know the will of God and the voice of God and the ways of God and keeping in step!
And it will come through supernatural empowerment. I cant say that enough. There is a supernatural strength and self control that the Spirit alive in us, can give us.
- We can overcome habits and addictions.
- We can see our character change.
- We can commit to righteous living and service in his church!
As I’ve thought about this… self control and the renewed life comes from 3 convictions
Conviction 1: Jesus is Lord.
Conviction 2: Jesus way, or truth, or will for my life truly is the best
Conviction 3: I will align my life with his will and co-operate with the Spirit of God.
One of the things my kids love doing is walking on my feet…
- So they go where I am going… they learn to stay in the same direction… to get the rhythms of how to walk together.
- So let’s get practical… we need to learn how to keep in step with the Spirit of God!
- To when facing decisions or temptations to stop and pray…. And listen
- Immerse yourself in the Christian community and practices… know the Word of God
- And then pray… for the renewing of your mind… and the strengthening and control that comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Be blessed this week as you love and serve the Lord!