Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Self-control ........................... Parables 114

Have you ever caught a child with his hand in the cookie jar . . . when he has just been told “not before supper?” He knows he’s in trouble. He may even begin his defense before the accusation comes.

Cookie jars tempt kids. It is easy to let the desire for “just one” overrule the fact that a loving mom always has her reasons why she sometimes forbids cookies. But little appetites don’t always understand.

Mom knows it is too close to supper and empty calories would spoil appetites for something more nutritious. She knows how quickly “just one” becomes “just one more” and how badly junior needs to learn self-control. In spite of what junior may think, mom knows best.

I’ve noticed that many people live with the same response to God’s commands as the average child does to mom’s cookie jar rules. God says “no” and just like a child, they protest against His “thou shalt nots.” Or they plead ignorance; or they try to change the rules. Sometimes they would rather bear the consequences of indulgence than go without -- anything but yield to His wisdom. They have never looked beyond the no-no.

Why are some things forbidden by God? Could it be that He cares for us, that He has plans for our good behind His commands? Could it be that finite man is like a child, only thinking of what tastes good, what feels good -- not what is good for him? That being the case, God will seem like a kill-joy, quick to say “no” and quick to condemn. But that is not true.

The Lord affirms His motives in Jeremiah 29: “I know the thoughts that I think toward you . . . thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” He isn’t out to get us.

The problem is that many people are bent on going after things that He knows are not good for us. Yet He is not standing behind a bush with a big stick hoping to catch us so He can swat fingers or lay on a guilt trip. In fact, John 3:17 says that God did not send His Son to condemn the world but that the world could be saved through Him.

Like a child that eats sweets until they are sick, we would ruin our own eternal destiny, and probably our present life, without His intervention. Jesus came to save us from our tendency to disobey -- for our own good. We need His provision for our sinfulness and we need His commands to guide us.

Being warned of danger through His commands shows that we are loved and important to God. He is able to see the possible consequences. He would rather prevent the chaos we inflict on ourselves than have us learn by painful hindsight. So He warns us, yet we often misinterpret His intentions.

His commands also show that we are prone to disobey, to do things that are far more serious than eating a few too many cookies. Every one of us has broken at least one command. However, He didn’t give them and warn us about disobedience so He could punish and reject us -- but so we would see how badly we need His Son. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we are set free from the condemnation we would otherwise bring on ourselves.

The temptation to sneak “just one more” may be ignorance of God’s goodness, or it may be rebellion against His wisdom. Whatever the real reasons and no matter the excuses, the forbidden can destroy the appetite for something better -- and further weaken self-control.

It’s just not worth it.

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