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A Self-Controlled Life

DSC_3703_2Dear Comfort Cafe Friends,

In this Bible Study series we are continuing to look at what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. The lessons run monthly  and focus on “Looking Inward,” (relating to and loving God), and “Looking Outward,” (relating to and loving our neighbor). In this series, the entire lesson each month is presented here on the front page. We hope you will join us in applying knowledge of God’s character to deeper levels of life. Previous lessons from 2014 remain available under the Table of Contents and Archive page.

©2013 Kay Smith and Ruth Wood. All rights reserved. Used by permission. User Permission Notice: This study may not be sold or used for profit. However, copies may be made for personal use. Questions? Contact: ruthywood@gmail.com.

Looking Outward

self-controlBy Ruth Wood

God’s reliable and dependable nature means that He exercises self-restraint, self-control, and self-discipline. He would not be able to govern the world without these qualities nor would He be able to effectively love sinful people.

Since God possesses self-control, in becoming believers we received a Spirit of self-control. II Timothy 1:7 says that God “gave us a spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and self-discipline.”

Look at the role that self-control plays in all the fruits of the Spirit:

Love, of course, is first in the list of the nine fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23). Self-control is last in the list. It regulates all the preceding fruit or virtues of the Spirit. Love without restraint becomes passion. Joy taken to excess is shallow frivolity. Peace without self-control becomes idleness. Patience without balance becomes apathy. Gentleness becomes weakness; goodness becomes self-serving. Faith completely without reason becomes blind superstition. Meekness taken to an extreme becomes timidity. The world speaks of love, joy, and peace, but its darkened mind knows only a false shadow of the divine reality. Christians should be examples of self-control before an out-of-control world.

Quote from Assemblies of God website, “Discipline and Self-Control.” http://ag.org/top/beliefs/topics/charctr_02_selfcontrol.cfm

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Diving In

In this lesson we will consider why growing in self-control is so important for a believer and how self discipline relates to loving others.

1. John McArthur defines self-discipline “as the ability to regulate one’s conduct by principle and sound judgment, rather than by impulse, desire, or social custom . . . To exercise self-discipline is to avoid evil by staying within the bounds of God’s law.” List potential consequences of an undisciplined life.

What might be the rewards of a disciplined life?

2. We need self discipline to avoid evil. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Self-discipline provides the perseverance to resist in the long run so that we can prevail against the enemy. Identify an area in your life where you need to exercise prevailing resistance. When you succeed, who all will benefit?

3. I Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” How are you impacted when you hear of faithful, self-disciplined resistance from brothers and sisters around the world?

4. One aspect of loving others is to seek their highest good. How might self-discipline allow you to lovingly do good for others?

Your spouse
Your children
Your friends
Your work colleagues
Challenging people

5. Proverbs 25:28 states that “A person without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls.” By exercising self-control, we set healthy fences around our lives. Why fences? Remember that the purpose of fences is to protect, to keep the bad out and the good in. Fences also contain gates that allow controlled interaction with the environment. Here are some ways that a person with good boundaries operates:

  • She is not afraid of disapproval from others.
  • She assesses her limitations and, when appropriate, unapologetically says no.
  • She refuses to give in to false guilt when she cannot meet people’s expectations.
  • She is able to tolerate a loved one’s disappointment or anger at her appropriate boundaries. Because she is committed to the good, she is willing to endure emotional discomfort in the short run.
  • She understands that staying the course provides the best long-term prognosis for a positive outcome. Unwisely “giving in” seriously weakens her cause.
  • She understands that healthy boundaries are good for others and requiring them is not selfish. In fact, a well-set boundary may be the best way to love someone.
  • She understands that learning to set healthy boundaries includes failure at times, and she is committed to being kind to herself in the process. Setbacks happen in all learning processes.

Considering this list, prayerfully ask the Lord where He would have you grow in your ability to set healthy limits with others.

6. John MacArthur has summarized self-discipline in one word: obedience. What does your obedience to God accomplish?

7. In James 3 we read that the tongue can do a “world of evil.” Yet James also says that “anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check (vs2b). Reflect on times you’ve been blessed by someone’s words. Record one (or more) of these encouraging incidents. What did the person say and why was it encouraging?

Around whom do you need to watch your tongue? How can you use your words today, to encourage someone?

8. Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.” Committed Christians desire victory in this area, but how do we go about overcoming our knee-jerk reactions? First of all, we must understand that anger is a secondary emotion. It rises in response to the more primary emotions of fear, frustration, or hurt. Fear may be involved when a person uses anger to try to control others. Frustration may be related to feelings of powerlessness or helplessness. Hurt is perhaps the strongest driving force of anger. When we react in anger it could be one or all three primary responses at work.

We can use early physical symptoms of anger as a signal to shift our focus to root emotions. Communicating what we’re really feeling, instead of expressing anger, makes it far more likely that we will be heard.

Write a list of things that have angered you in the past. Next to each item, determine whether the underlying emotion was fear, frustration, hurt or perhaps a combination of these.
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Imagine yourself in the future talking to a loved one about the underlying emotion of anger, instead of reacting. What would this look and feel like?

9. Sexuality is an area where people often struggle with self-control as well. I Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” In order to honor God with our bodies, we must begin with a pure mind. Consider what influences you’ve allowed into your life that undermine the cultivation of a pure mind (e.g. via media, fantasy, social events, patterns of behavior). Prayerfully ask the Lord where He wants you to make changes to honor Him.

10. In the previous lesson we learned that God is trustworthy and responsible. Consider the realm of your current responsibilities. List who and what you are responsible for.

In the domain of your responsibilities, is there work or a person that needs a stronger commitment from you?

Summary Reflection
In review, record the highlights of what you’ve learned so far about loving and relating to God, yourself, and others. In light of your studies, how will you interact differently with God and others?

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