Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Self-Controlled Life

Mary Kassian: Have you ever made a New Year's resolution?

Leslie Basham: This is Mary Kassian . . .

Mary: Have you ever promised yourself you would stop a bad habit and start a good habit—like exercising, eating right, getting to bed on time, having a positive attitude, or paying off your debts? The number of New Year's resolutions that get made and broken each year is absolutely staggering!

Only eight percent of Americans successfully achieve their resolutions; ninety-two percent of resolutions aren't kept. Eighty percent of resolutions fail in less than three weeks. In this session of True Woman 201: Interior Design, we'll be covering the element of discipline.

A true woman is self-controlled. She has the "I will" power to say "yes" to the good, and the "I won't" power to say "no" to the bad. She knows how to exercise restraint and how to be disciplined in her habits and daily routines.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, April 16, 2015.

We're so excited about the release of a brand-new Bible study workbook for women! It's called True Woman 201: Interior Design. To get a copy for yourself, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

This week we're hearing from the authors of the study, Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Today, they'll discuss chapter 4 of True Woman 201. The whole study is based on the book of Titus, chapter 2.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Mary, this is one of the passages in God's Word that I really, really love, but it also makes me say "ouch" so often, because as we're looking at these different elements of biblical womanhood and how our lives are supposed to be different from those of the world, and how we as women make the gospel believable. I look at some of these and say, "I am so far from being this kind of a woman. What am I doing teaching this material?"

I don't know if you ever feel that as you . . .

Mary: Well, especially with today's topic! It is, "Oh my goodness. How can we even teach on that? How can I teach on that?" I don't feel as though I've arrived; I feel very much in process when it comes to this topic.

Nancy: So, I think that some people who listen to us or watch us or read our books, or whatever, think, Oh, they must just not struggle with these areas, because here they are teaching these things. They must just 'get it.' They must not have the same temptations."

Mary: I wish!

Nancy: I find as I'm having to teach these things, as we discuss these things, that God is doing a searching work in my own heart, in making these more real. We've looked at several elements of the true woman already. The first was discernment—she has right thinking. Then we looked at reverence—she honors God and lives as if she is always in His presence, which we are. Then the last time we looked at affection.

Mary: Affection for the family, whether you are single or married, whatever your age or stage of life—to have that affection for family and what it represents.

Nancy: Loving what God loves. God has a family, and He wants us to love family. When we do, we picture His family. Today we come to . . . Well, let me read the text, Titus 2, and that will give us some context:

Teach what accords with sound doctrine . . . Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior [we talked about that], not slanderers or slaves to much wine (vv. 1, 3).

We said that has to do not just with substance abuse, but with the bigger issue of overindulgence, which is a lack of reverence to God. And then these older women are to,

Teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, [and then this next one] to be self-controlled (vv. 4–5).

Ouch!

It affects so many areas, so many aspects of our lives, so let's dig into that. It's a word in the Greek: sophron. It's hard to translate it with one English word. Help us with the meaning of that word.

Mary: The meaning of that word, again, it is hard to capture in one word, but it contains the idea of restraint, the idea of putting on the brakes, the idea of soundness, of good thinking that leads to good living.

Nancy: Having a sound mind, having a sane mind. You say, "I'm sane!" Well, sometimes we act like we're not, because our thinking isn't right. If our thinking gets off-kilter, our living is going to get off-kilter. So the apostle is saying to this pastor, "Tell these older women that they're supposed to be models of godly living, and then they're supposed to train these younger women to be self-controlled, to have sound thinking."

Now, if we've been discerning and have been basing our lives on the Word of God and on reverence for God, it's going to be easier, because that's the foundation.

Mary: Exactly, you need to have right thinking in order to have right living, and that is the foundation for self-control, for that control that reins in. It says "yes" to the things we should say "yes" to and "no" to the things we should say "no" to, on a daily basis, every choice we make.

So the alarm clock rings, and it's time to get up, saying "yes" to getting up, and saying "no" to sleeping away the day and perhaps giving up that time that we have in the morning to focus on God's Word and to be quiet and still before Him. That's what self-control is. It's having a sound mind in order to make wise, godly choices.

Nancy: And with that sound mind, then the ability to govern ourselves, to put restraint on, to curb unhealthy or fleshly desires and appetites. As we get into this, we see there are so many, many areas of our lives that are affected. But I think we want to talk for a moment about why it's so important.

If we don't have self-control . . . There's an interesting verse in Proverbs that paints such a vivid word picture.) "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls." That maybe doesn't compute for us today because we don't have walls around our cities. But in the Old Testament era, it was real important to have walls around cities.

Mary: It was important, because if a city didn't have walls, an enemy could come marching right in and take over, take control. That image is so powerful. If we don't have self-control, if we don't have self-discipline, if we don't have godliness in our character to say "yes" to what we ought to say "yes" to and to say "no" to what we ought to say "no" to, then it's like we're opening ourselves up to enemy attack.

We are weak, and we are vulnerable, and we lack the strength that we need in order to proceed through life and make good decisions.

Nancy: And we have both known women, and to some extent both been these women ourselves, women who have made one foolish choice after another, where there was no control, there was no restraint. They just gave in to their flesh. They dated the guy they just felt like dating, even though he didn't know the Lord, and now they're in a marriage to an unbeliever and it's miserable, and they're wishing they hadn't done it. There are a lot of regrets.

So, choices that aren't built on built on self-control end up leaving us, long-term . . . I can eat that bag of chips and not stop and not say "no" and keep going, but the next morning I get on the scale, or I can't fit in my clothes, or I'm feeling sluggish, or feeling guilty or whatever. I'm paying the price down the road for a choice where I didn't exercise self-control.

Mary: And it's interesting that it's in this passage on what we need to learn, that we need to be trained in terms of self-control. It does not come naturally. Many women have said, "Well, I'm just not a self-controlled person. That's not my personality."

And some personalities do tend (more than other personalities) towards being disciplined and being orderly and self-controlled and to have the ability to rein in our passions and desires. Some personalities are more spontaneous and do not lend themselves well to that.

And yet, it doesn't matter in terms of our personalities or styles. These elements are here for all of us, for every woman, whether you consider yourself to be a self-disciplined woman or not, self-control is something that all of us need to develop.

Nancy: And it affects us in so many areas of our lives. When I think about the need for self-control, I tend to think about it in areas of words that start with "T." One is, discipline in my thoughts, what I think about. I don't know if men do this so much, I can't speak for them, but I know as women, and me, I just have this seed of a resentful thought or an anxious thought, and then I mull it over and over.

I don't put the brakes on. I don't bring that thought into captivity, to the obedience of Christ. Then I find it snowballs. It gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Then I find it comes out in some really unhealthy or unkind way, because I didn't rein in my thoughts. So our thoughts are an area where we need self-control.

Mary: And that issue of reining in is so tied to the meaning of sophron. It's putting on the brakes, reining in, it's like having the ability to stop that train from going down the hill and getting involved in a big crash. We crash in our lives because we haven't had that in our emotions, our feelings . . .

Nancy: . . . in our marriages, in relationships, in the workplace. It has to do with our temperament, our emotions. We say, "I'm just a more emotional person." That's alright, until our emotions get out of control, and then we say, "Oh, it's just that time of the month, or it's this season of my life, or I can't help the way I feel." We're not taking responsibility to rein in our emotions, which is the fruit of not reining in the way we think.

So we've got thoughts; we've got temperament. Then, I find if those areas of my life aren't reined in, invariably it will come out in my tongue—the way we talk. How many of us have said words, or have been the victim of others saying words to us that are just in the heat of the moment in a marriage or with a roommate? You get hurt; you just lash out. What happened there?

Mary: You can't take those words back. Once you've spoken it, it is spoken, and as much as you apologize and ask forgiveness, it is there, something that you said.

Nancy: I heard a woman Bible teacher recently speaking about James 3 and about control of the tongue. And she told a story from decades ago where she said something really hurtful to a relative of hers. She tried to make it right; she's tried to apologize, but there's been a breach in that relationship ever since.

As she was teaching this, she just broke down. You could tell it was still so fresh with her, the regret that she said that one thing that has wrecked a relationship.

Now, thank God, there's grace, and by His grace relationships can be healed. But how much better to have the check on the tongue, the brakes, the filter to stop it before the words come out and cause all kinds of havoc and damage!

Mary: Because it does. And in so many marriages it's not the big out-of-control things, it's those little things that are out of control: the words, the sharp words, the criticism, the negativity, the nagging—all sorts of things with the tongue.

That's why we talked about slander in one of our sessions earlier. Slander is an illustration that we don't revere God. It's also an indication that we don't have self-control.

Nancy: Here's another "T" word where self-control is needed, and that's in relation to our time.

Mary: Mmm. Ouch.

Nancy: God gives every one of us twenty-four hours a day, yet most of us today are feeling breathless and busy and overwhelmed. It may be that we're doing things God didn't give us to do in this season of life, that we've taken on too much. We didn't have the self-control to say, "No, this isn't the season for that," but it can also be that frittering away of time.

We may not have the self-control to get to bed at night, turn off the television, put down the blogs, or to get up in the morning and get started in my day. So time is an area where we need self-control.

Mary: I find that that's one of my largest areas of need, in terms of my time. God gives us a certain amount of time, and it's so precious! If we fritter it away, it's gone, and we can never regain that time.

Nancy: And that doesn't mean that we never have time to play or time to do something that is recreational or relaxing, but it means we're intentional. We're not doing those things when we should be doing something else. We're not procrastinating a hard job. There's self-control. We know what we're supposed to do, when we're supposed to do it, and that's what we do.

Mary: Exactly.

Nancy: Okay, I've got to tell you this next "T" is the hardest one for me (well, I don't know, there are several that are hard, but one that's really hard for me) and that's in relation to my physical temple—food, exercise.

Mary: And you've made a lot of changes just in the last few years.

Nancy: I've had to, but I'm saying, "Why didn't I learn some of this discipline earlier?" And then of course, you get self-control in one area . . . So I'm going to the gym, but then I'm eating everything in sight. It's not so much that it's what I'm eating, but am I eating out of control? Is my body controlling me, or am I disciplining and controlling it so it can be used for God's glory?

Mary: I think that is such a difficult area for so many women, because we feel those impulses, in terms of "we're hungry" or "that piece of chocolate is calling my name." It's such immediate gratification . . . which is a lack of self-control.

It's so much easier to sit on the couch than it is to get up and get on my outdoor clothes (if it's wintertime especially), to go out to the gym and actually get some exercise, to honor my body as a temple of the living God, to steward it.

Nancy: And I find that, when one area gets out of control, it affects another area, and then others and then others. Then finally you feel like, "I'm depressed. I'm a slob. I'm a mess. I can't think. I don't have any energy. I'm out of control in my emotions." That's where the need for self-control in every area is so important.

There's one more "T"—our treasure, our money. That's an area, I think, that is difficult for many women. They walk in a store, see a commercial, and . . .

Mary: That pair of shoes sure looks cute! Gotta have them!

Nancy: And there's nothing wrong with that pair of shoes. If it's God time and way for me to spend that money—then do it with joy, without guilt. But if it's just, "I'm depressed, so I'm trying to feed a need, to self-medicate . . ."

Mary: . . . through just the thrill of the moment. So instead of looking at the long-term consequences and the long-term picture, it's always the short-term immediate gratification.

Nancy: Right.

Mary: But you know what, you said something that is so true. A lack of self-control in one area of your life leads to more being out-of-control in other areas. But the converse is also true. If you're able to gain some self-control in some areas of your life, that also spills over in a positive way, and it seems that self-control leads to self-control.

Nancy: And it's so critical. I keep saying these are all foundational. They're all important!

Mary: That's why they're all in the curriculum.

Nancy: But if we don't have self-control, we really can't do these other things. We can't control our tongues; we can't control these addictions; we won't be pure. A woman who is not self-controlled can't love a husband or children who, at some point, are maybe not being lovable.

Working at home . . . it's going to be hard to focus on home priorities if you're not controlled about your use of time and your values. Being kind . . . when I'm not self-controlled, I'm going to say things that are unkind. I'm going to think things that are unkind.

Self-control is actually mentioned five times in the book of Titus, not just for women, but for men as well. And, apparently, it's a lot in these pastoral epistles that Paul wrote. Self-control in this age and era in which we live is the same as in the era in which Paul lived.

The world was out of control—out of control morally, out of control with integrity. And Paul is saying, "God's children live lives that are under the control of the Holy Spirit," which is what self-control is really all about.

Mary: That's a key point, because I think there are a lot of self-help books about how to get control of your habits, how to get control of your schedule. There are lots of time management books, all sorts of secular resources that have their place and are good. However, for the Christian, for the believing woman, self-control doesn't just come from mustering up something from within.

Nancy: Sheer willpower.

Mary: It comes from our relationship with Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Nancy: And we have that power. What does Ephesians 3:20 say? "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think ['Lord, help me in this area of my life where I'm so out of control!' He is able to do this in us how?], according to the power at work within us." And what is that power? It's the life of Jesus!

It's His Holy Spirit! The same power that raised Jesus from the dead."=

Mary: That is a lot of power.

Nancy: It can help me put down that bag of chips!

Mary: Exactly. And we don't often make that association, because there's nothing inherently sinful about a potato chip! So we tend not to think of that as an area of our life in which need to ask the Lord's help. And yet we do. We need it in every area of our life—in all of our thoughts and our attitudes, in our tongue and our time and our temple and our treasure (all the "T's" you mentioned)—we need to ask the Lord to help us, to invite the Holy Spirit to convict us, and then give us the power to have self-control in all those areas of our lives.

Nancy: And this is an interesting area, because we talk about the importance of cultivating self-control, exercising self-control, which makes it sound like it's my responsibility, which it is, but then we say, this is a fruit of the Spirit, something we need to allow Christ to do in us, and that's true, too.

So, is it God? Is it me? Yes.

Mary: Both and.

Nancy: It's Spirit-enabled effort. I make the effort, but how do I make the effort? He gives me the desire and the power—that's God's grace to do what is pleasing to Him.

Mary: He provides the power, but then that requires effort to follow through, to act on it. It's essentially a battle of the will. I don't want to do it.

Nancy: And that battle begins in the mind, doesn't it? It's how we think. Sometimes we're focusing too much on changing the behavior or stopping some sinful behavior. We have people listening right now who are part of this study who are in immoral relationships, and they're feeling, "I just can't stop." Or something else.

Mary: Or don't want to stop. But they may be trying to, and saying, "But I just can't; I just can't." And that's where we have to go back to, "What's in our minds?" What are we fixing our minds on? Are we fixing our minds on Jesus? Are we fixing our minds on the Word of God?

What kind of wrong thinking is producing that wrong behavior?

Often it's an attitude of entitlement, thinking, I deserve this, and I shouldn't have to suffer. I deserve to be happy in the way that I want to be happy. I can make my own choices. No one has the right to tell me what to do. Those kinds of thoughts often lead to a lack of self-control.

Nancy: So I think when I'm feeling tempted, it's important to stop and ask, "What am I believing that's not true? What am I being tempted to believe that's not true?" Then stop, pause, recalibrate, renew my mind according to the Word of God. What's the truth?

I think if we can just stop. A lot of times [a lack of] self-control is just impulsive. I just do it without thinking, and that's the problem. But if I can stop . . . We talk in this study about a "sophron comma," a "sophron pause"—stop to have a sound mind, stop to think about it, stop to think about what might be the unintended consequences.

Mary: Stop to exercise discernment, stop to ask the Holy Spirit to help you in that moment of need.

Nancy: Stop to pray. We need His grace every moment, to have that self-control. So whether it has to do with what I'm eating, or my internet habits, my sleep, when I get up, when I go to bed, my procrastinating unpleasant tasks, my emotions . . . with all of these things I can go to God and say, "Lord, I need You! I want these areas of my life to be under Your control. Would you help me say 'yes' to You, 'yes' to what is good and true and beautiful, and to be able to say 'no' to that which is not pleasing to You in this moment of my life?"

Mary: Here's what I've discovered about self-control: it truly is a joy-giver.

Nancy: Which is counter-intuitive, because you think if you're self-controlled, you're going to be straight-laced and strict and narrow, that you never have fun and have no freedom. But it's really just the opposite.

Mary: It is just the opposite. You have more joy through walking in the control that God gives through the power of His Holy Spirit. I get more done. I know that I'm on point in terms of my purpose in life. I know that I'm meeting the needs of my family and that I'm looking after what God has given me to steward (in terms of my gifts, my abilities, my physical body.)

Self-control produces joy.

Nancy: And freedom, which brings joy, because I'm not enslaved to this thing or this habit.

Mary: And it is counter-intuitive, because in a sense, eating that whole bag of chips, downing that whole bucket of ice cream may bring a sense of pleasure for the moment, but it's not long-term joy. That's what the Lord wants for us—that longer-term satisfaction and joy and fulfillment of doing what He would have us do and to live those lives that are reined-in. He wants not to quench our joy but actually to set us free.

Nancy: I want to do something real quick as we wrap up our time together. We were talking a day or two ago about a diagnostic tool that's a list of characteristics of a person who doesn't have sophron thinking, sound-mind, sound thinking, and a person who does have sophron (sound-mind) thinking, who is exercising self-control.

We just have a minute or two here, but maybe you can tick through the first list of evidences of a lack of sophron or sound thinking. When I look at this list, it helps me identify, "Oh, this is a need in my life, more than I realized."

Mary: And when I went through this list with you, I was going, "Ouch. Ouch! I don't often think of that as a lack of self-control." But it is a lack of self-control. Things like being impulsive, or when my home is out of order and there's chaos and confusion and it's just clutter. Or when I'm lacking follow-through. (I say I'm going to do something, but I don't follow through and do it.) Or when my emotions are controlled by my circumstances, that's a lack of self-control (emotions are controlling me rather than me being controlled by the Spirit of God). Or when I'm easily provoked, when I talk too much. There's one for women—just out-of-control talking, talking, talking or nagging.

Nancy: And usually the people who realize that are the people who are listening, the other people in the room.

Mary: That's a lack of self-control. This one really got to me—procrastination, putting off unpleasant tasks.

Nancy: Could that have anything to do (not for you, but for me) with why this book took two years to finish? Just wondering. (laughter)

Mary: Yes, procrastinating, being distracted, yielding to temptation, being demanding of others. Or this one also, frittering away time—just being involved in mindless entertainment and time-wasters. Now, again, we mentioned it before. There is a time and a place for relaxation and rest and just enjoyment and having fun. But when we're not being intentional with our time and when we're just wasting it . . .

Nancy: And at that same time, not doing something else that we should be doing with that time . . . just wasting it.

Okay, I need to move on to the sophron list. There are others on that lack of sophron-thinking list, but what are the evidences of someone who does have a sound mind, sound thinking, they're restrained in their thoughts? They're tempered in their eating and in their spending. In their reactions they're slow to get angry, not easily provoked.

They are emotionally stable, calm under pressure, purposeful in her use of time, a well-ordered life, the ability to resist temptation, and the ability to give thanks in all things. These and others are evidences of a sophron, a self-controlled life. So, quickly here, how do we cultivate that?

Mary: Well, if it is truly God who gives it to us, then we need to draw near to the Lord, and we need to ask Him to search our hearts and our lives and to point out those areas where He wants to bring correction and where He wants us to be reined-in, in certain aspects of our live.

Nancy: And then to get our minds renewed in the Word. And then I think also the value of having other women around us who can point out things that we may not be seeing or who can help us. That's the value of an older woman who can say, "I've wrestled with that thing, too, but I've found this helpful." So, developing this in community with others.

And I want to close this session with another verse from Titus 2 (not where we're studying in this particular session). It brings this together—the way that God's grace and God's Spirit help us with this area and why it's so important. Titus 2, beginning at verse 11:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, [It takes self-control to wait, doesn't it? Self-control to say, 'All the enjoyment I'm ever going to have doesn't have to be had right now; there's a hope coming.' And that is] the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (vv. 11–13).

So what helps us do all that? What helps us wait? What helps us say "no" to ungodliness? What helps us say "yes" to self-control? It's the grace of God—the finished work of Christ on the cross—that enables us to have the power to say "yes" to God and "no" to that which is not pleasing to Him.

Leslie: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She's been talking with Mary Kassian about self-control, and they'll be right back to pray.

As we've just heard, God's Word is very practical. Nancy and Mary have been digging into Titus chapter 2, and showing us ways to live out these instructions for women in our day. Nancy and Mary write about self-control from Titus 2 in True Woman 201: Interior Design. This Bible study will help you study God's Word and let Him perform a makeover in your life from the inside, out.

I hope you'll go through this Bible-based, practical study. We'd like to send you a copy when you help make Revive Our Hearts possible. We can't come to you each weekday without the financial support of our listeners. When you provide a gift of any size, we'll say "thanks" by sending this brand-new study, True Woman 201: Interior Design. Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

We'll send one workbook per household for your donation this series.

The Revive Our Hearts team had cameras rolling for that conversation between Mary and Nancy. We wanted small groups to be able to watch the conversation together, as they went through this study. You can see the video at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Human marriage provides a powerful picture of Christ's love for the Church, so the individual choices we make have a big effect on whether the world around us sees this picture. Nancy and Mary will talk about purity when they're back tomorrow.

Now they're here to pray that the Lord will help each of us develop self-control.

Nancy: Oh Lord, as I think about this whole area, I just think of so many areas in my own life where there's a lack of self-control. And, Lord, I join my other sisters who are doing this study, or listening to this series, in saying, "Lord, we need You, we need Your grace."

If You just leave us to ourselves, we will do just whatever we feel like doing, we'll say whatever we feel like saying, and we won't glorify You. But we want to glorify You, with tongues and time and temperament and temples and treasure and thoughts that are pleasing to You.

Lord, thank You for Your grace, thank You for Your enabling power, and please build in us those disciplines of self-control. Give us that sophron mind, that sane, sound thinking that is worthy of the gospel and rooted in Your precious Word.

And through that self-control, may people see there is one Savior and Lord, under whom we have the privilege of living our lives in humble, faithful, consistent obedience. May they be drawn to Him as a result. I pray in Jesus' Name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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