I found a great article on self-control by Edward Welch in the Winter 2001 issue of The Journal of Biblical Counseling; which (I’m fairly sure) is reproduced as this booklet:
Here’s a brief outline:
What’s the Problem?
We are governed by “I want” and “I want more”: and this boils down to idolatry. We “WANT” things more than and other than God himself.
Sin is Pleasurable
We should admit that we sin and sin over again out of a deep love for those sins. Why? (1) It’s honest; (2) It impels us to battle against our out-of-control desires.
Sin’s Pleasures are Temporary
“With each indulgence, we paradoxically feel less and less satisfied, while we are persuaded that the object of our desire is the only thing that can fill us.”
Satan Appeals to Our Desires
And he is good at it:
“As if our own insatiable desires were not enough, Satan comes alongside these ungodly passions and intensifies them.”
“Satan knows sin and he has well-tested strategies to persuade us that sin is really not that bad and God is really not that good.”
What is Self-Control?
Self control is “a great blessing rather than a legalistic burden.”
Self-Control Means Living Within Boundaries
“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). This is a picture of being vulnerable to being taken captive.
Self-Control Means Thinking Before Acting
Self-Control is Not Emotional Flatness or Indifference
“It is likely that part of the repentance of addictions should include repentance for not being passionate about–lusting enough after–Christ and the things that he loves.”
Self-Control is Not Self-Dependence
It makes things worse to simply replace one lust for another, such as exercise for gluttony. True self-control stems from Christ’s power through his Spirit.
How Do I Get Self-Control?
“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, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” [Titus 2:11-14]
Do You Want Self-Control?
Or do just want, say, relief from the consequence of lack of control.
“The real prize is Christ Himself. So, with Jesus in view, we do those things that are important, true, and good, rather than those things that feel urgent but are ungodly.”
Remember the Grace of God
The passage above from Titus 2 “changes everything. It takes a simple command–saying “No”–and surrounds it with Jesus Christ.”
This is not “let go and let God”–it is being “empowered to engage in the battle.”
Contemplate the Coming of Jesus Christ
1. Meditating on Christ’s return gives us a deadline. “The battle with sin is hard, but on some specific day it will be over. If no end to our battle with sin is in sight, we easily can fatigue and give up, but when we know that the deadline is approaching, we become much more vigilant.”
2. Because “eternity exposes those things that are important.” Think about someone “walking in on you” doing the sin. “If the potential appearance of a person can reveal the ungodliness in our behavior, how much more the coming of Christ Himself in person?”
3. “It reveals our true identity.” “We were created for something much more noble than eating feces. We were created to have passions that are directed to the glory of God. If you have put your faith in Christ, your destiny is to be absolutely sinless. Now is the time to start acting like the person you will soon be.”
Develop a Clear, Publicized Strategy
This applies the “nuts and bolts” to life. “A good indicator of whether or not you want to grow in self-control is this: do you have a clear, public strategy?”
“The heart of any plan, of course, must be Jesus Christ. Self-control is like any other feature of wisdom in that it is learned by contemplating a person….We would expect God to yell at us and tell us, again, to shape up, but God’s ways, being much better than our own, are rarely predictable. Rather than give us twelve steps on which to rely, he gives us a person to know. As Jesus is known and exalted among us, you will notice that self-control becomes more obvious.”