“For a bishop must be…self-controlled…”
If there’s one thing in which our modern society is lacking, it is self-control! There seems to be no depth to man’s depravity, no line that he’s unwilling to cross. The pleasure of this body rules his heart and mind. If it feels good, he deserves it and demands it. And, there’s no such thing as too much. We are a society of excess, but our text today says the pastor must set an example that is just the opposite. He must lead the flock of God to be self-controlled. This flesh and its desires must be kept at bay. The body must be controlled!
Our physical body is not without purpose in our walk with the Lord. 1Th 5:23 reads “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This verse tells us that the body needs to be preserved blameless, but it also sets the proper order in our lives. The spirit and soul must take precedence over our physical man. The body must be used with an eye towards spiritual preservation for it is the spirit and soul that are eternal, not the body. At the same time, however it is this body with which we serve God in the natural realm, so it cannot be ignored. A balance must be properly maintained.
Regarding the physical body, Paul wrote, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1Co 9:27) The word “disqualified” shows us the great importance of how we handle this body. To use it improperly reveals we are disqualified concerning the faith! (2Co 13:5) To keep it in check, Paul said first, “I discipline my body”. This phrase literally means “to hit under the eye” and is rendered “I buffet or discipline my body” in other translations. This phrase is reminiscent of the strong language our Lord used when speaking of the radical way we must deal with sin: “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” (Mat 18:9) Next, the apostle said of his body, I “bring it into subjection”. This phrase means “to enslave”, and the Literal translation reads, “lead it captive”. The point is simple. We must rule our bodies rather than our bodies ruling us!
So, how do we maintain this body for the Lord’s service and see that Jesus is manifested in it? (2Co 4:10) The world might tell you which vitamin supplements to take and which exercises to do, but maintaining a healthy body to glorify the Lord does not begin with those things! In studying the body in the Scriptures, you’ll find three areas that must be guarded to keep it in proper working order for use in the kingdom of God:
1) Guard your mind. Your actions flow from your mind, so keep it focused upon the Lord and His word! Rom 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
2) Guard your eyes. With technological advances in modern times such as pictures and videos, the temptation in this area is perhaps greater than ever! Mat 6:22-23 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
3) Guard your tongue. You might not have expected this one, but if we can control our tongue, the Scripture says the rest of the body will be no problem! “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” (Jam 3:2)
Our last point includes a critical observation just a few verses later. “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (Jam 3:8) None of these things can be accomplished in our own strength! We can only maintain this self-control in the flesh if enabled by the Lord to do so. In other words, outside of salvation, you don’t stand a chance! But in Christ, we can control this body instead of it controlling us. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom 6:12-14) Enjoy your victory, Christian!