"like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit." proverbs 25:28
bridges opens with this verse, reminding the readers that in biblical times a wall was a city's main line of defense. if the wall was down, they were vulnerable to so many attacks. a lack of self-control in any area of our life should be a good warning sign to us that trouble is on the way or it has already snuck in without us knowing it. bridges is quick to tell us that many christians think they have self control because, "we have boundaries from out christian culture that tend to restrain us from obvious sins, but within those boundaries, we pretty much live as we please. we seldom say 'no' to our desires and emotions"(110).
bridges goes on to talk about three areas that most christians fail to exercise self-control. the first is eating and drinking. he is quick to point out that this is not just for people who have a "weight problem," but for anyone that lets their craving for food or drink or even their enjoyment of food or drink drive them. be it ice cream, chocolate, alcohol, soft drinks, or whatever. if we cannot live without it or cannot stop after a reasonable portion, we lack self-control. and it is dangerous. secondly he talks about temper. if we lash out quickly with any emotion, it shows a lack of self-control. and finally, he talks about personal finances. the fact that most americans, yes even american christians, live above their means shows our lack of self-control. and just because someone is not in debt does not mean that this is not a struggle. many affluent people, indulge themselves in whatever their heart desires. this is obviously not a comprehensive list. there are many other seemingly harmless ones, like too much time on the computer (guilty), watching too much television, impulse buying, watching or playing sports, exercise, etc.
bridges does not talk about this, but i wanted to make this point. this lack of self control can definitely be used to expose what our idols are. the reason we cannot quit them is because we need them or we need to do them to serve our idol, the thing we consider most important. it is going to be hard to quit these behaviors or control them without taking a look deeper to expose our idols.
some of you may say, "i am not doing this because i am enslaved to something. i am doing this because i enjoy it and it brings me pleasure. or it helps me take my mind off of stuff." i would caution you to take a more careful look. look deep! if you want to see if you are really controlled by something or if it is controlling you give it up cold turkey for period of time. how many times a day do you think about it or want to do it? do you have to do something to keep your mind off of it? then sadly my friend, you are bowing to an idol or using this to numb you to the pain of the world or as a fix to keep you from something else. all wrong responses. if you are bowing to an idol, it often stems from something you do not understand of believe about the gospel. why do you need that to feel good? wholeness never comes through the blessing, only through the blessor!
so how do i practice this self-control? it is a bit deceiving because it sounds like we can do it on our own. but we cannot! to have self-control in all areas of our lives we need help. that is why self-control is listed as a fruit of the spirit. the same spirit that raised christ from the dead resides in us and can give us self-control. we have to be dependent on him. he is probably going to have expose our idols and why we love some things so much before he enables us to have self-control. he will reveal to us how the gospel is all satisfying and we do not need this. then our desire for it will be conquered with the sweet taste of the gospel. and each time we battle it, we need to remind each other of just that.