(From our church-wide devotion book at Pinedale Christian Church, "You 2.0â€)
All of my life, I have wanted to be good or the best at everything I did. I was raised that way. My dad always told me to â€œWork hard and do your very best at everything.â€ That was great advice - a great life lesson. Unfortunately, when I chose a lifestyle away from Christ, I took that advice in a bad direction. I was a really good sinner!!
Looking back, one of my biggest problems during that season of life wasa lack of self-control. From age 18 to 38, I was running in high gear with nearlyno brakes. Living like that is a lot like mowing a steep hill on a riding mower. If you mow down a steep hill with no control or brakes, you leave an ugly path behind. That was me exactly. I was leaving an ugly path of destruction in my wake.
I was 38 years old when I realized that Jesus was the way, and nothing has ever been the same. God immediately went about repairing my heart, and I was â€œall- inâ€ with Him. I was surprised, as I began studying the Bible, to learn that one key to my new â€œ2.0â€ life was self-control. When it is lacking, everything falls apart.
I read about Adam and Eve and how they refused to say no to temptation. I read about Moses, who in anger killed an Egyptian overseer, and Noah, how was barely off the ark before he drank too much and passed out. Lotâ€™s entire family was a portrait of no-self-control, and the story of David pursuing Bathsheba is actually shocking. Even Peter, who walked with Jesus, struggled in this area. The more time I spent in Scripture, the more I came to see how hopeless we are in the face of temptation... except for one person. Jesus lived a perfect life, and now, He lives His life through me!
Where can we find the strength to say â€œNoâ€ to ourselves? Believe it or not, that might be the wrong question. You see, the reason itâ€™s so difficult to exercise self-control is that we have this fallen, sinful nature within usâ€”these self-centered desires and tendencies that always seem to get the better of us. But when you try to wrestle that nature to the ground in your own strength by gritting your teeth and trying harder, itâ€™s a losing battle.
Itâ€™s a little like riding a wide horse â€“ no matter how hard you pull the reins or shout â€œWhoa!â€ the horse canâ€™t be stopped.
Thatâ€™s why the solution is not to say no. Itâ€™s to say YES. In Galatians 5:16, Paul writes: â€œSo I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.â€
Only the Spirit of God is strong enough to overcome our fallen, self-centered nature. So when we yield to the Spirit, when we surrender our will to his will, then and only then are we able to control our desires, emotions, and action.
In verses 24-25, he continues, â€œThose who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.â€ You see, when we turn to Christ in faith, He not only forgives us for our sin, He frees us from our sin. He places His Spirit within us to lead and empower us.
When we say â€œYesâ€ to the Spirit, we can say â€œNoâ€ to ourselves. And when we say â€œNoâ€ ourselves, we can say â€œYesâ€ to the bigger purpose God has for us.
You may feel out of control of your passions and desires today. Youâ€™ll never be able to change this in your own strength. But if youâ€™re prepared to turn to Christ and confess your sin and receive his forgiveness, you, too, can receive the Holy Spirit, and the strength to become the man or woman you were created to be.
Start by asking, â€œWhat would Jesus do? In the face of criticism, disappointment, weariness, betrayal, injustice, pain, and abandonment, Jesus found strength in the Holy Spirit. In fact, on the night before His crucifixion, He prayed, â€œNot my will, but yours be done.â€ He said to himself, and â€œYesâ€ to the cross, where he would die for the sins of the world.
Itâ€™s the same for you and me. We gain control by surrendering control. That isnâ€™t a one-time decision. Itâ€™s a day by day, and sometimes moment by moment proposition.
Thatâ€™s been my 2.0 story. I lived a lot of years doing what Jesus wouldnâ€™t do, and I left an ugly path behind me. But whenI surrendered to Jesus, the Holy Spirit applied the brakes and slowed me down. I have never looked back. Instead, Iâ€™m focused on the future â€“ being the best servant of Jesus that I can possibly be.