So you’re watching Netflix, and that little message interrupts the show and asks, “Are you still watching?” And you think, Uh, yeah! Is that even a real question? You select “Continue” with an emphatic press of a button, and carry on your binge-watching session. You know you’ve watched who-knows-how-many episodes, and you know there are plenty of other important things you could be doing, but you’d rather hide from that to-do list, content to stay in your bubble of Internet streaming.
This is the norm, justifying a binge-session of sorts. Sure, we have plenty of worthwhile stuff to accomplish, and when anyone asks how we’re doing, we always say that we’re just “so busy”—but we laugh off our indulgences because everyone else seems to think it’s totally fine.
We’re kind of in love with all the binging we get to do, aren’t we?
- Binge-watching our favorite shows on Netflix and Hulu.
- Binge-eating our favorite foods because we’ve got so many options at our fingertips.
- Binge-scrolling social media for the never-ending feed of entertainment, news, and cute stuff.
We all know we do it, and we all feel that tinge of guilt for our overindulgence . . . but we like to remind ourselves that everyone does it, so we just keep clicking, scrolling, and eating.
A City Without Walls
I feel the pull of overindulgence and binge-everything. And I think that’s why lately I’ve so desperately felt the need for more and more discipline in my life. I want less indulgence and more self-control.
If our personal lives lack self-control, we’re in a dangerous spot.
Here’s why: Proverbs 25:28 says a person who lacks self-control is like a city without walls. That means it’s a city lacking protection—there’s nothing to keep danger out. If our personal lives lack self-control, we’re
in a dangerous spot. Our lives are left wide open to laziness, impurity, anger, bitterness, dishonesty, apathy, and overindulgence.
In Titus 2, Paul mentions self-control three times, not because he just likes to repeat himself, but because it’s a necessary character quality all Christians are called to demonstrate.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3–5, emphasis added).
In True Woman 201, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Mary Kassian devote an entire chapter to the importance of self-control.
If you want to become the woman God wants you to be, it’s vital that you learn self-control (p. 89).
Let’s tackle the honest truth—self-control doesn’t sound fun. It sounds boring and restricting, right? I know I’d rather eat a ridiculous amount of doughnuts with unlimited Starbucks and watch show after show after show until 2 a.m. That seems way more fun than exercising discipline.
So I’m glad Nancy and Mary provide this explanation of self-control:
It’s not just junk food that’s difficult to resist. It’s hard to put on the brakes in other areas of life, too. Like anger. Lust. Resentment. Self-pity. Addictions. Overspending.
The problem is not that we don’t know these things are bad for us; the challenge is having the power to say “no” to things that aren’t beneficial and “yes” to things that are. Many of our personal struggles and failures in the Christian life are related to a lack of self-control (p. 87, emphasis added).
Watching endless shows. Fun? Yes. Beneficial? Nope—because it keeps us from pursuing the greater things God has for us (2 Peter 1:5–9).
Is Your Wall Starting to Crumble?
There’s a guaranteed progression that happens when we forego self-control in one area of our lives. We’re weakened and become vulnerable to more weakness in other areas. We’ve justified one instance of indulgence, so we wonder, What’s the harm in justifying another? Think of it like a crumbling wall. One area starts to crumble, and so the rest of the wall follows suit and crumbles, too. That’s how we end up like an unprotected city without walls.
Are any of these areas in your life starting to “crumble,” little by little?
Food: Are you eating whatever you want, whenever you want? Do your cravings win out every time? When you know you should stop eating, do you justify eating more?
Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags (Prov. 23:20–21).
Emotions: Do all your emotions flow freely, no matter what you feel or where you’re at? Is anger or lust or sadness in the “driver’s seat” of your heart and life?
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back (Prov. 29:11).
Speech: Do you lack a “filter” and don’t really seem to care? Even though you know you shouldn’t spread gossip, do you find yourself spilling the juicy stories anyway?
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered (Prov. 11:13).
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment (Prov. 12:18–19).
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin (Prov. 13:1).
Thought Life: Is every thought that crosses your mind welcome to stay and linger? Do you daydream and entertain ideas that you know wouldn’t honor God?
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23).
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Ps. 19:14).
Entertainment: Do you have boundaries for what you watch and how much you watch—or does anything go?
Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man (Prov. 21:17).
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me (Ps. 101:3).
Are you beginning to understand how self-control spans each area of our lives? Are you recognizing weaknesses in your own life, but aren’t sure about the next step to take?
Denying Your Flesh; Relying on God
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:16–21, emphasis added).
Overindulgence and lack of self-control are rooted in our sinful flesh. For example, when we shirk responsibilities to binge-watch shows and overeat, we are gratifying, or fulfilling, the desires of our flesh.
While the flesh wants to pull you down to wallow in overindulgence without self-control, the Holy Spirit is what empowers you to live a life of self-control.
But if you’re in Christ, you are no longer in bondage to your flesh, because you have the Holy Spirit living in you (Gal. 5:1, 13). The Holy Spirit convicts you when you’re indulging in your flesh and also provides the power to resist the flesh—the power to say “no” to sin.
While the flesh wants to pull you down to wallow in overindulgence without self-control, the Holy Spirit is what empowers you to live a life of self-control. We don’t have to fight sin through our own efforts or tell ourselves to “get it together” and do this godly life on our own merits. (Amen, right?)
As we continue reading in Galatians 5, we see that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. When we’re walking in the Spirit—living a life reliant upon God and His truth—we’ll be cultivating the fruit of a godly lifestyle.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:22-24, emphasis added).
By His power, we can be molded into the beautiful, self-controlled, mission-minded women He wants us to be.
Don’t miss this: Through His Holy Spirit, God works within us to cultivate self-control. It’s not about trying harder, mustering up more of our own willpower, or relying on ourselves to meet a higher standard. It’s about relying on God’s power ( 2 Peter 1:3).
If you want to say “no” to overindulgence and say “yes” to God’s higher purpose for your life, rely on Him. By His power, we can be molded into the beautiful, self-controlled, mission-minded women He wants us to be.
Here are some practical steps you can take today:
- Ask God to show you which areas of your life are lacking self-control, and pray that He would work in your heart to help you say “yes” to what’s beneficial in your walk with Him.
- Study the Word. It’s where you’ll discover the wisdom, encouragement, and guidance to recognize areas of sin in your life and to rely on God to help you to become more like Him.
- Watch this video, where Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Mary Kassian discuss the topic of discipline.
- Leave me a comment, and let me know what you’re learning!
PS: If you can relate to the struggle to prioritize, be sure to join our summer book club every Monday here on the blog. We’re reading through Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. There’s still plenty of time to catch up. Start here.