Devotional Text and Mediation for the Day
“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”
Our meditation verse for today confronts us with the perils and problem of lacking self-control. How sobering it is to consider the myriad of times throughout Scripture we see sin manifest itself in a life devoid of self-control. Cain kills Able (Gen 4:7-8), Achan steals from God (Josh 7:20-21), Saul lives in jealously (1 Sam 18:8-9), Moses strikes the rock in anger (Num 20:10-13), and David is overcome by lust (2 Sam 11), in large part, because they lost truth driven temperance. Specifically, in the Hebrew, this verse is speaking about having control over one’s “spirit”, meaning his emotions, passions, and thoughts (cf 16:32; 17:27). Therefore, self-control in the biblical context carries the idea of restraining oneself from a certain course of action because one is driven by the Spirit’s control instead of emotional whims (Rom 12:17; Eph 5:18; Gal 5:16). Thus, the godly man of self-restraint allows biblical convictions to control his body, not physical appetites (Titus 2:2,5,6,12). Notice how our proverb equates the uncontrolled man with a ransacked city without walls of fortification. In that day, a failure to have walls around a city was a sign of shame and looming disaster as you were utterly vulnerable to any and all attacks (Neh 1:3). Therefore, a person without self-control is like riding a horse without a bit and bridle, controlling a ship without a rudder, and living in a city without walls; it is only a matter of time before deadly disaster strikes.
Sadly, many in the Church today fall prey to man-centered thinking in surmising that self-control is simply the exercise of self-discipline, determination, or sheer will power. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth because biblical self-control is all a gift of God’s grace given through the gospel of Jesus Christ alone (Titus 2:11-14; 2 Tim 1:7; Gal 5:23). Consider that life outside of Christ is a life out of control where futile and darkened thinking abound that leads to unrestrained passions and perversity (Titus 1:15; 2:15; 3:3; Eph 2:1-3; 4:17-19,22; Rom 1:21). However, it is the grace of God that “trains” us to say yes to godliness and no to wickedness, and so to live self-controlled and upright lives for Christ (Titus 2:11-14). Thus, God’s grace trains us to not trust ourselves (Prov 3:5-8 cf. Rom 12:1-2), but to direct our thoughts on Scripture so that our steps will follow Christ (Ps 119:9,11; Gal 5:16-24; 2 Tim 3:16-17)! The heart of Christlike self-restraint is living joyfully in Scriptural submission (Mt 4:1-11; Jn 4:34; 6:38; Lk 22:43)! This is the way to grow and walk in true self-control as everything the believer thinks, says, and does is to be taken captive in humble obedience to God’s Word (Ps 1:1-6; 119:1, 97-105; 2 Cor 10:4-6). One of the surest ways to grow in biblical self-control is to discipline yourself to think theologically and Scripturally before you act emotionally! This is one of the distinguishing marks between the godly and the wicked. One thinks biblically before he acts, and the other acts and does not think!
As you meditate on this verse today consider this as you pursue Christ-centered self-control. What specific ways are you hiding God’s Word in your heart that you might grow in controlling the unredeemed passions of your heart? After reading Mt 4:1-11 and 1 Pet 2:18-25, write down three specific ways that Christ demonstrated self-control and how that provides a perfect plan for growing in God-honoring self-control. Stop and remember the last time you lost control, and write down four passages of Scripture that would have propelled your mind toward Christ in that moment and protected your life from embracing that sin.