JOHN PEARRELL: Christ-followers should exercise self-control

John Pearrell

John Pearrell

Last week, I wrote an article on the change that should take place in the behavior of a person once they place their trust in Jesus as their personal Savior. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT).

In Ephesians 4:17 through 6:9, Paul gives us a pretty comprehensive view of what type of changes the Christian should make in his or her life. Unfortunately, this is where most people rebel. There is this little thing called “standards” that we don’t like. If you go by the name Christian, there are family standards to keep and people are watching you.

Family rules or standards grow out of relationships. In the Old Testament, when God gave Israel the Law they were to live by, He gave it to them because they were already in relationship with Him, not so they could get in relationship with Him.

They had already been called to be His people — His family — and when He delivers them from Egypt, He brings them to Mount Sinai, and He gives them the family standards. Break those rules and there is discipline, correction and maybe even punishment, but the family bond remains untouched.

We Christ-followers aren’t free to live our lives any way we want; we’re to live them in a way that brings honor to the family name. But here’s the thing, so many of us who gladly embraced the family name of Christian want to live our lives as if we don’t have to answer to anyone.

The Apostle addresses this false assumption when he writes, “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” (Ephesians 4:19, NIV84).

That seems harsh, but give me a minute to explain this verse in the context of the language and culture to which it is written; it’s not what you think it is.

The word “sensuality” is automatically linked with sex in our culture. But the word Paul used when he wrote this letter was a Greek word that had a far broader definition than just sexuality. The word he uses is a word that means simply, “a life without concern for personal standards or social constraint.” Put into modern English, “No one is going to tell me what to do, what is right or wrong. I get to decide that for myself.”

“So as” is a purpose statement. They live life without concern for societal rules and their own personal standards, “so as to indulge in every kind of impurity.” Before you get mad at that, let me bring it into modern English, “Nothing’s off limits if it is what I want to do; I get to decide what is pure and impure behavior. No one, including God, gets to tell me what to do.”

That last phrase, “with a continual lust for more” has nothing to do with just sexual mores, what we usually think of when we see that word “lust.” The word Paul uses here actually is “greed” and the idea is that those who opt for a life where only their personal standards count, indulge their own self-gratification without regard to what it may do to others. Put into modern English, they are concerned with looking out for No. 1 — themselves.

The Christian, however, is not to live a life that is driven by impulses and personal desires. We are to live a life of self-control and godly desires.

We want to please the One we claim to serve, not because we are trying to be better than everyone else, nor because we are trying to earn our way into heaven (which can’t be done: See Ephesians 2:8-9), but because by living a life that pleases our Heavenly Father we show Him our gratitude for His marvelous gift of grace and we bring honor to the family name — namely “Christian.”

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway Web site at www.gatewaycommunity.org or email john.pearrell@gatewaycommunity.org.