Just Say No

“Learn to say no. It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin”; so said Charles Spurgeon in the mid-19th century. We could update the quote giving it the punch it needs in our day: “Learn to say no. It will be of more use to you than a smartphone.” Call it self-control or call it self-discipline; whatever the terminology, if we cannot say no to our wants, desires, and passions—our life is going to be a mess.

Solomon put it this way: “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). Without walls, ancient cities were easy pickings. Those cities that had them closed the gate at night—keeping their people safe and secure from outside threats.

And there certainly are all kinds of threats that want inside of us. Pornography is a click away. Adultery is a look or touch away. Slander just needs two receptive ears. In other words, our walls can be easily breached.

In the book of Nehemiah, Jerusalem’s walls had been down for 150 years. Jerusalem was little more than rubble. Nehemiah is told the following regarding the holy city: “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire” (1:3). A chapter later, after Nehemiah investigates for himself, he says: “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision” (2:17). Because the wall was down, the residents were in “great trouble and shame” and “suffer[ed] derision”; that is, were jeered and mocked. All of this because the city lay exposed.

Likewise, the one who has little or no self-control is vulnerable to a host of ills. Temptation knocks, has a brief conversation with desire, and in moments sin is running the place (see James 1:14-15). Whereas, temptation knocks at the home of self-control and not only finds the door locked but is quickly tossed from the front porch. Self-discipline sees to it no one is buying what temptation is selling.

Many years ago, Charles Bridges wisely wrote: “Trust not to the strength of the citadel.” In other words, we mustn’t trust our own strength. Bridges continued: “Have not repeated defeats taught us the need of calling in better strength than our own? How could we enter into the conflict, much less hold on the fight, but for the promise—‘For sin will have no dominion over you’” (Romans 6:14). In the Romans passage, God isn’t commanding us to make sure sin has no dominion over us; He is promising us this is so.

And because He makes this promise, self-control and self-discipline is ours already. It is one of the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). Perhaps you have more self-control then you realize and more self-discipline then you presently experience. It’s just that the wall has been knocked down so many times you’ve given up. And when you give up, the wall is rubble and even worse marauders will find you.

Self-control isn’t achieved by simply gritting your teeth; more of it is available, however, when you by faith simply say no. You won’t win every time. But by doing so, breaches will be closed and your walls will become higher.

Pastor Rich Hamlin

October 11, 2013

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