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TAKING CONTROL OF YOURSELF

Ephesians 5:1-2
26th October 2003

Wesley Mission Sydney Credit Line counselling service helps people work through their debt problems. One man hobbled into Credit Line and wanted immediate attention. He was in debt and his creditors were pressing him hard for repayment. Our Coordinator asked why he was hobbling. He took off his shoe and showed her. Because he had not paid his debts that day, his creditors had shot off one toe. Two days later we had worked out a scheme and he was working on it, but he was not paying back fast enough. So his creditors shot off three toes. He is now motivated to pay his debts. He had been unable to control his spending. He was not able to control himself, and was paying a terrible price. This week Mrs Kathleen Folbigg was sentenced for killing her four children. It was said she had an uncontrollable temper. I met a newly released prisoner who had been in prison for so long, and had so much built up aggression and tension inside him, that as soon as anybody looked at him he let them have it. He lived ready to fight, full of pent up aggression and unable to control himself.

People need to control themselves over gambling, drug addiction, overeating, alcoholism, fattening foods, shop-lifting, sex or spending money on poker machines. The list goes on. The question that comes is: "How can I control myself?" I know businessmen who have lost it all because of an inability to control themselves. I know politicians who have lost it all because they were not able to control themselves. Our Prime Minister, John Howard, is a man totally in control of himself. In spite of constant functions he does not over-eat or over drink. He is always in control despite the unfair attacks against him. He disciplines himself to walk every morning.

When most of us are still asleep no matter where he is in the world or the exhaustion of the previous day's travels, John Howard exercises. He is a leader totally in control of himself. Likewise President George Bush. He is a man totally in control of himself. When I was talking with him this week, I told him I had previewed a book due to be released on November 11th in USA entitled, "The Faith of George W. Bush". He knew of the book and asked me my impressions. I replied it was frank about his commitment to Christ and how some years ago when gripped by alcoholism he had turned to Christ for strength and had not drunk since. His wife Laura, said, "That is true." Since becoming President of the US, his faith in Christ had given him great personal self-control. These men take control of themselves.

I received a letter from a twenty-year-old woman. She wrote: "My name is Rachael. I first got involved with drugs at the age of 12 years out of curiosity and escapism. Life did not provide me with any answers as I grew, so I took drugs until they were an everyday part of my life, providing me with a convenient form of escapism whenever situations arose that I could not handle. Two and a half years ago I lost a little child. For me this marked the beginning of a downward spiral into the pit. My drug problem became a trip to self-destruction. Drugs occupied my entire life. My only reason to get up in the morning, the only way I could face each day of acid bitterness. It is now only six weeks ago that the Lord stepped in and took a hand in my life. One night after consuming several drugs I rang my parents and asked them to help. that was the first step toward meeting Jesus Christ. The night I gave my life to Jesus Christ as my Saviour, it was a long shot.

I just opened my heart and Jesus walked in and took control of my life and let His sunshine in. It is hard to describe in words the gifts that God has given me in these last eight weeks laughter, love, happiness. Each day is a gift of joy, each minute a pleasure. My eyes are cast forward to a life of completeness now, walking hand in hand with my God." Her life was out of control. When Jesus Christ came into her life He strengthened her to take control. No matter what your problem, Jesus Christ can help you take control. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the young Christians at Ephesus, he knew how they were surrounded by all the pressures, anxieties and temptations of the world. They just had to take control of themselves. In his letter, he wrote: "Since you are God's dear children, you must try to be like Him. Your life must be controlled by love, just as Christ loved us and gave His life for us as a sweet smelling offering and sacrifice that pleases God." Ephesians 5:1 2 In those sentences I see four insights to enable you to control yourself.

1. KNOW YOUR TRUE STATUS.

In these verses you see your status. "You are God's dear children." People who lack control drinking, eating or gambling or anything else to excess, usually have a problem with their own self image, self-esteem and self worth. Often our appetites take control because we do not like ourselves. A man who keeps smoking constantly and has a terrible hacking cough says, "I know it is killing me, but we all have to go sometime" has low self-esteem. When we lose control of temper or passion or anything else, we do not regard ourselves as a worthwhile person. If you want to start to control yourself, discover what you are worth. A personal inventory may not present a very nice picture.

You could say: "I am not worth it." Although that is true, there is another standard by which your worth has already been determined. It is the standard that God has placed upon you. God highly values you. God does not just see you as you are right now. He sees what you can become. He sees what He wants you to be. Once Jesus Christ looked at a man called Simon. Instead of seeing someone who was always impetuously putting his foot in it, Jesus saw the man he was going to be. So he changed his name and called him Peter, meaning Rock. He saw John, a young man who had a terrible temper, who was even nicknamed Son of Thunder. Jesus helped him bring that thunderous temper under control and thereafter he was known as John, the apostle of love.

He saw Mary Magdalene, a prostitute in a village. She allowed Jesus to help her bring herself under control and she became the first witness to the resurrection of Jesus. He saw a man like Saul of Tarsus who was persecuting Christians and helped him to control himself until he because the great Paul, apostle and missionary. He saw a sensuous man Francis, and so helped him control his life that he became a saint caring for people. He saw Luther, a doubter, and He turned him into Luther the great man of iron faith. He saw an insecure, aloof, cold John Wesley, and changed him into the great warm heart. Every one of them discovered a deep truth. God valued them more highly than they did themselves. As Paul put it, "He loved me and gave His life for me." Galatians 2:20 Charles Wesley said in amazement,

"Died He for me, you caused His pain,
for me, whom Him to death pursued?
Amazing love, how can it be
that Thou, my God, should'st die for me?"

God the Creator and Father calls you His "dear children" - not just children but dear children whom He loves. For anyone who feels worthless, the Gospel word is that you are loved. God loves you and cares for you and because He does, we, the rest of His family, love you too. The fact is that you are "God's dear children." You can be part of the family of God. You are valuable because He loves you. You are His dear children.

How school students need to know that. There are a million teenagers between 13 and 17 years in our schools. Those who are praised are the brains, the achievers, the outstanding sports stars. Only 5% are like that. 50,000 out of a million 50,000 somebodies and 950,000 nobodies. If you feel you are a nobody, inferior, down near the bottom of the bucket, you will become that. Yet you need not be trapped in that self image of worthlessness. For you are God's dear children. He loves you, as His child. Being a child of God enables you to stand, walk tall and look anybody in the eyes. If that is your true status, note your main objective.

2. KNOW YOUR MAIN OBJECTIVE.

What is the main objective in your life? To get rich? To be powerful? To have status? To have many possessions? Most people want to get many things. Our society values things over people. One schoolteacher wrote: "Consumerism is the belief that happiness and success in life come through consuming goods and services. All of us are deluged by advertising that urges us to buy, borrow, lease, consume and you will be a happier person. The teenage market and the youth culture are the prime targets. The hopes held out by advertisements are illusionary. They are the idols we are told to worship!"

What is your objective in life? Paul says "You must try to be like God." "But how can I try to be like God?" someone may ask. God does not need your ability, but your availability. If you make yourself available to God He will give you the ability to be like Him. Do you notice how Paul puts this: you must try. You have to make the effort to be godly, holy, to have control in your life. Jesus promises to help you but He does not do it for you. Then the Scripture says, "You must try …to be like Him." The word really means you need to imitate the characteristics of God. You are to imitate God's love, God's care, God's kindness, God's consideration. You are trying to be like Him, so He gives you the power to achieve.

3. KNOW YOUR PERSONAL MOTIVATION.

Paul gives you the motivation for this. He writes, "Your life must be controlled by love." When you try to be like Him His love grows within you. That loves helps control your life. Many psychiatrists support this view. Professor Karl Menninger of the Menninger Clinic says, "Love is the medicine for the sickness of this world." Dr. Paul Tourier says, "Love brings healing to sick persons." Professor Alfred Adler says, "All human failures are a result of a lack of love." Sigmund Freud said, "Mental and emotional health is the capacity to work and to love." The Apostle Paul was right when he said "Your life must be controlled by love." The love we are talking about is a deep care for other people. If you really care enough for others, your own appetite is controlled. You need to be controlled by love. Love God. If you have that right you can start to love other people, and if you have that right you can learn to love yourself, and if you have that right you can take control of your life.

4. KNOW YOUR ULTIMATE EXAMPLE.

Paul ends by saying if you want to know what that love is, look to Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate example of love. "Your life must be controlled by love, just as Christ loved us and gave His life for us as a sweet smelling offering and sacrifice that pleases God." Jesus gave Himself to save mankind. That was a sweet smelling offering to God a sacrifice that pleased God. The demonstration of the love of Jesus is the fact that He died for you upon the cross. It was His way of demonstrating God's love for you. His death upon the cross is God's value upon your life. You are worthwhile. You are important. God has made you and loves you, and in Jesus Christ gave Himself for you. His love in you is the means by which you can take control of yourself.

If you want to live the Christian life-style, you must take control of yourself. Paul wrote: "Because of God's great mercy, I appeal to you: offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service and pleasing to God." Romans 12:1 Have you given yourself to God? If not, pray: "God come into my life and control me so that your love in my life will give me a sense of my own significance. Then I will have a new objective to be like you. I will have a new motivation to do everything out of love. I will follow the ultimate example of Jesus Christ. Then I will know your power and will take control of myself."

If you want to live the Christian life-style, one important step is to take control of your life, and the way to do that is to commit yourself to that high value God places upon you. You are worth more than you think. It is how God values you that matters. Live up to His valuation!

Wesley Mission, Sydney.