1 Timothy 2:9-10
July 29, 2018
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts at 15:10 in the audio file.
Or, Emotional Idealism as a Menace to Self-Control
When we used to have regular small group meetings just for students, one of the questions that I regularly got asked when I visited, especially the guys’ groups, was some version of this: If you only had one thing you could say to these guys before you died, what would it be?
The apostle Paul gave an inspired one thing to Titus to tell the young men. In Titus 2 he told Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (verse 1) and then followed it with five verses about what characteristics various groups in the church should be expected and/or trained to exhibit. The older men get six, the older women get four or five (depending on how you count), the younger women get seven, and the younger men get one.
Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
The word translated self-controlled (a form of σωφρονέω) in Titus 2:6 could also be translated “sober-minded” (KJV) or “sensible” (NASB), but these meanings are not really so far apart. Titus was to get the young men to focus on building just one virtue into their lives.
Here is a good working definition: self-control is a mindful restraint of one’s impulses, emotions, and desires. This is from Webster and from the Greek dictionary. The New Oxford Dictionary: “the ability to control one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.” Such a definition highlights a couple things.
It would be unmerited to say that a lack of self-control among young men is a modern problem. The fact that Paul isolates this one virtue for younger men almost two-thousand years ago indicates that it has been a problem for millenniums, not just for millennials. When we consider the overall emphasis of the book of Proverbs, written so that young men would get wisdom, I think we can safely say that young men have been idiots for generations.
But look in Titus 2 again. Being self-controlled is urged for the older men as well (verse 2), and it is also part of the training program for young women (verse 5). Since it is the older women who are to train the younger women, we expect that the older women must “likewise” along with the older men have this virtue and know how to exercise it in order to explain and model it for the younger women. Self-control is for everyone.
It is for everyone that is filled with the Spirit (see Galatians 5:23). It is a different Greek word there (ἐγκράτεια), but again, self-control refers to disciplined and defensive forces that protect the inner train from being pulled off the tracks. This is urged and illustrated for all Christians who must run the race of obedient living. It is the point in 1 Corinthians 9 and 10.
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (1 Corinthians 9:25) I discipline my body and keep it under control… (9:27)
A multitude of Israelites who had received God’s great blessings in the Exodus and provision in the wilderness failed to run with self-control and were judged (1 Corinthians 10:1-13). They did not all get the prize because they were not all self-controlled.
So all Spirit-filled Christians, male and female, old and young, must be self-controlled and develop self-control. It is the first and fundamental focus for young men in particular. There is much that could be said to the men, but I want to spend the rest of my time addressing the ladies.
By nature there is something more wild about boys and young men. The masculine stereotype is of a creature not tied up, usually not clean, running and jumping and sowing wild oats and not in neat rows. The feminine stereotype is much more domesticated, house-bound, cinched-corset, sitting cross-legged and knitting and calm, at least on the surface.
These are stereotypes, typical characters in many stories, and obviously not always the case. But to a certain sort of guy, there is something seductive about “girls gone wild.” I have only seen commercials, I have not seen the movies. But I have never seen a commercial for “guys gone wild.” There must not be enough of a certain type of girl that finds self-indulgent boys desirable. That’s partly because you don’t need to pay money to see it.
God reveals that He desires girls gone self-controlled. And this is more than physical self-control at parties, this is also for Christian ladies. Girls are, in general, much more sneaky in their self-indulgence. They fall out of their seats in school much less than guys, but they also allow feelings to fester much deeper for much longer with worse consequences in their souls than many guys. Guys may drown jumping into the deep end of the pool when they don’t know how to swim, women may drown in their emotions if they don’t drain the swamp.
God wants ladies, not only being self-controlled, but making self-control look good. When they are clothed in self-control, it makes them look good.
I desire that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or quarreling (so, showing self-control); likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works. (1 Timothy 2:8-10)
To “adorn” is more than cover. To adorn is to dress up, to take something beautiful and enhance its appearance. A woman’s beauty is made more beautiful with self-control. Self-control, from the inside out, is a way she makes herself more attractive than jewelry and make-up.
The following verses (11-15), controversial to some, describe the place of a woman’s learning as a place of submissiveness rather than of authority over men. The reason is not cultural, it is creational. Adam was formed first, and also Eve “was deceived and became a transgressor” (verse 14). She listened to lies, not only from the serpent, but from within, from her lack of restraint (the tree was a “delight” and “to be desired” Genesis 3:6). So Paul finishes by saying,
Yet she will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (verse 15)
This is a woman’s unique sanctification opportunity, the God-given gift of fertility and birthing. But even that must be done with certain virtues. This is different than Paul’s usual triad; it isn’t even three. He puts faith, love, and holiness (rather than hope) together, and adds self-control. The NASB translates it as “discretion,” and that is a great word as well. It means “the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation.” This doesn’t merely take place outside of yourself, this is an internal freedom. To have that internal freedom, you must not be a hostage to any given terrorist feeling.
As I said before, woman are better than men at a kind of self-control and they are worse than men at another kind of self-control. Masculine self-indulgence is like an acute injury, it is more obvious, concentrated, and short term even if repetitive. Feminine self-indulgence is like a chronic illness, less obvious (unless you know what to look for), more spread out across the system, with long term debilitation.
Maybe the area of least self-control for women is in the area of sentimentalism. To be “sentimental” is to be “marked or governed by feeling, sensibility, or emotional idealism.” In general, ladies tend to have more feelings, and so they are particularly at risk of being governed, controlled, by emotions and moods. They get a picture in their minds of what something should feel like, a reunion with a friend over coffee, or picking up kids after school, or any number of idealistic images.
Some women endure this state of emotional idealism. They believe, and so argue, that strong feelings are unchangeable. Emotions are part of the landscape, perhaps able to be avoided but never to be removed. You can avoid running into some of the trees in the forrest, but you can’t cut them down.
Some women esteem this state of emotional idealism. They believe, and so argue, that strong feelings are not a necessary evil, but they are virtuous. Emotions aren’t just landscape, emotions are fuel for the engine of life. How dare anyone talk about removing emotions. Emotions should always be heeded and rewarded!
When you don’t get your way, when your feelings get hurt, what do you look to control? Do you look to control the other person, the situation, or your feelings? Too many say that they can’t control their emotions. It’s part of who they are. Without denying that you have feelings and that they are strong feelings, it does mean you are not self-controlled.
For young ladies, when it comes to boys, you can’t help it. You describe your insides as if you are being controlled by some sovereign force of attraction that you can’t resist; you’re a puppet on strings. The ladies at Titus 2 recently had a discussion about this, about disordered loves and cupid’s arrow. There is no cupid, there is just stupid. Being boy-crazy is a lack of self-control. You may not be desperate for his attention in public silly giggling ways, but letting your emotions prance around inside you is your fault.
When it comes to other girls, you are easily “hurt.” She said something ignorant or something mean, and you find comfort in your self-pity. Who can blame you? Being unkind and petty is a lack of self-control.
When it comes to situations, you are disappointed, or sad. You didn’t get the grade you wanted, or the part in the play you wanted, or the tent assignment you wanted, or something else you wanted. Who can blame you? Being bitter is a lack of self-control.
Flip the sin. Do you think boys should be able to justify their laziness? They’re just tired/growing/not mature. Do you think boys should be able to justify and indulge their lust? Do you think boys should be able to defend and act out their anger? Is it really just “who they are”? Can we really expect them to control their emotions? Yes, and if they don’t, society is in trouble.
Ladies, do not play the victim of your feelings and emotional idealism. Do not be lenient with yourself and your out of control feelings. Anxiety/fear, envy/bitterness, unthankfulness/discontentment, these are all destructive.
Exercise self-control. Practice it. Get better and better, faster and more ruthless. This is discipline, this is something you learn. It is not natural. What is natural is death. So go supernatural.
“Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Do you have six threatening thoughts a minute? Take all six captive; get them all. Don’t let your emotions take you captive. Being a hostage is not cute. Neither is being a terrorist and taking hostages.
Get out of the dumpster. Are you having feelings of guilt or regret? Do you find yourself in free moments drifting into the dumpster of fleshly things, things that are opposite of Philippians 4:8, things that are untrue, dishonorable, unjust, impure, unlovely? Do you dwell on your sins? the sins of others? Do you trust in Christ? He has died for your sin and risen again to give you life. Take your thoughts, and emotions, captive. Preach to yourself. Stop telling yourself bad stories about how you’ve got it so bad. Starve your bad mood.
Get out of the ditch. Your emotions are like a horse, and some have spirited horses. They can totally be ridden, but they must be directed, otherwise they will run you into the ditch. “The goal is not to cripple the horse, but equip the rider.” Get ahold of the reigns. Steer. Or if need be, Whoa!.
Look in the mirror.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:23–25)
God’s Word is the full-length mirror for your soul. See what is there, make the changes. Remember “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12). God’s Word will get between and expose your feelings and emotions. Think on good things (Philippians 4:8), for real.
Anticipate triggers. Pray for God’s strength. Ask for outside help. Listen to your parents; listen to older ladies, cf. Titus 2. Parents, pay attention to your daughters. Love them, correct them, show them. Write it down, say it out loud, see all the ugliness. Repent. Take a nap, or go to bed. Go for a walk. Read about someone who has it worse than you, or even better, go serve someone who has it worse than you. Have some coffee. Laugh.
Some of you need to break up with your emotions. You’re in an abusive relationship. Don’t tolerate it. (See Miserable Wives). Adorn yourself with self-control.
Some may be truly damaged, and the gospel of grace brings us to the One who heals our wounds. Others are emotional dominoes, much too easy to push over.
Lack of self-control affects more than one-self. No sin is ultimately a private sin. You may do it in your room when no one is looking, you may think it’s in your heart where no one can see. Who does it hurt? It hurts all of us. We are connected as a body no matter how much you feel isolated.
You always do what you most want to do. Do you want to be like Christ? Do you want to be in the place of greatest blessing? Fight the fight with self-control.
There is a day of rest each week, but there are no days off in the Christian life. We are in a battle, a race, and every word, thought, and feeling counts. How are you feeling right now? How should you be feeling? What is your plan for when your feelings go off the rails? Be disciplined in your body, your mind, your heart. Don’t be foolish, be faithful.
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.(1 Timothy 6:13-16, ESV)