By John Piper
As the Hebrews were promised the land, but had to take it by force, one town at a time, so we are promised the gift of self-control, yet we also must take it by force.*
The very concept of "self-control" implies a battle between a divided self. It implies that our "self" produces desires we should not satisfy but instead "control." We should "deny ourselves" and "take up our cross daily," Jesus says, and follow him (Luke 9:23). Daily our "self" produces desires that should be "denied" or "controlled."That path that leads to heaven is narrow and strewn with suicidal temptations to abandon the way.
Therefore Jesus says, "Strive to enter through the narrow door" (Luke 13:24). The Greek word for "strive" is agonizesthe, in which you correctly hear the English word "agonize."We get a taste of what is involved from Matthew 5:29, "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you."
This is the fierceness of self-control. This is what is behind the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:12, "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force." Are you laying hold on the kingdom fiercely?
Paul says that Christians exercise self-control like the Greek athletes, only our goal is eternal, not temporal. "Everyone who competes in the games (agonizomenos) exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable" (1 Corinthians 9:25).
So he says, "I pommel my body and subdue it" (1 Corinthians 9:27). Self-control is saying no to sinful desires, even when it hurts..................
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By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org