Biblical Womanhood part four:
The Safety of Self-Control and Purity
By Jan Kopfstein
Turning to Titus 2:4-5, we read: That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Tonight we want to look at the next two feminine virtues in the list of seven, and they do go together. The word “discrete” means self-controlled and “chaste” means pure, modest, and upright. Both of these virtues involve self-control.
We discover a foundational principle in I Cor 6:12, 19-20:
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. I Cor 6:12
What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. I Cor 6:19-20.
Keep this in mind as we begin with looking at the virtue of self-control. Self-control is what we need in order to say no to sinful desires, and what we need to follow through on godly desires. Saying no and saying yes.
Even in thinking about this subject, what words come to your mind? Drudgery, discipline, discouragement, despair. Self-control isn’t a popular subject today, but as Christians we need to examine this virtue from a biblical perspective. Self-control is so important that the Apostle Paul referred to it when addressing each group of Christians in Titus chapter two.
One reason that self-control and purity are so important is that they commend the gospel to all around us:
Titus 2:5 . . . that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Titus 2:10 . . . that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
If Scripture requires self-control from every Christian, it is obviously attainable by every Christian. This truth should revolutionize our understanding of self-control because whenever God gives a command, He also provides the grace to obey! This is so important!
Self-control doesn’t just happen: it requires effort. We are never going to acquire this virtue by our own strength. Our growth will take place as Paul’s did when he said in Col 1:29: To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. We are to work hard at taking control of every area of our lives but being dependent on the help of the Holy Spirit, in all things. The Scripture promises that God is always present to help in time of need.
One of my greatest memories of living in Great Britain was visiting all the castles covering the land. The usual way castles were built was to have a strong wall of protection on the outside and the people took refuge on the inside. God’s word likens self-control to walls: Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down without walls. Prov. 25:28.
Self-control is our wall of defense against the enemies of our soul. We do have an enemy: I Peter 5:8 reminds us that Satan as a roaring lion seeks to destroy us, and I Peter 2:11 instructs us to “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” James 1:14 reminds us: “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”
We are in a fierce battle; confronting sin from within and temptations from without, God gives us that wall of protection and that protection is self-control. Tonight, we will focus on self-control in three areas: 1) our appetites; 2) our thoughts and feelings; 3) our behavior.
First, we will look at eating to the glory of God. Therefore, whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God. I Cor 10:31. How do we fulfill that command?
We must receive our food with thanks; God’s provision for us is wonderful. God also wants us to enjoy our food: I Tim 6:17 tells us that God richly provides us with things to enjoy.
However, as believers, we are to be temperate in all things. Paul in Corinthians talks about having the body in subjection: But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection . . . I Cor 9:27. Moderation in all things is important. Eating too much is sin. We have all been there. Eating too little is also sin.
Eating to calm our fears, alleviate stress, eating out of loneliness: these are habits that don’t glorify God. Food should never be our comfort—God wants that place in our lives.
Paul speaks about bringing his body into subjection lest after he had preached to others he himself should be a castaway. However, nowhere in the Bible are we encouraged to be thin. The sin of vanity is no less serious than the sin of gluttony. We need to ask ourselves: am I seeking my own glory or God’s glory with my eating habits?
Second, we need to exercise self-control over our thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings are wonderful emotions. Remember all those wonderful, happy occasions—weddings, births, holidays. Remember the excitement you felt when you shared the gospel with someone? The ability to have thoughts and feelings makes the experiences of our lives meaningful.
But we must remember that our thoughts and feelings can be marred by sin. Because of our sinful nature the way that we think and feel can be contrary to Scripture. Thus our need for self-control: we all know that sinful thoughts and feelings can lead to sinful behavior.
Let’s turn to 2 Cor 10:4-5: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ . . .
It is estimated that 10,000 thoughts pass through our minds in a single day. Wow! How do we compel our thoughts to be subject to Christ? D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself.”
When we start to worry, fear, or doubt, we must start talking to ourselves: remind ourselves of the truths of Scripture. Instead of thinking, “What if this happens?” or, “I will never be able to get this done,” talk to yourself. We must remind ourselves that God has promised to “supply all of our needs.” He says, “My grace is sufficient.” God will keep us in perfect peace if our minds are stayed on Him. Whatsoever things are true, pure, good, just, of good report—think on these things.
David in Psalm 42:5 asks, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? . . . Hope in God” He speaks to himself. We need to use self-control on our thoughts. Bring every thought into captivity: Peter tells us to “gird up the loins” of our minds.
What about controlling our feelings? Self-pity, anger, resentment, discouragement, loneliness. We must understand that just because we feel something doesn’t make it so. Our feelings are either ruled by truth or ruled by sin. We must bring our feelings under the truth of God.
Let’s consider the life of Hannah. Hannah was barren; Peninnah provoked her to sorrow, and she became overwhelmed. “Why doesn’t God bless me with a son? I have waited so long.” Hannah gave free reign to her grief and self-pity. She wept bitterly and refused to eat.
When her husband Elkanah found her weeping he asked her, “Why is your heart sad?” Literally that word “sad” means “bad.” He was admonishing her for her bitterness.
Then we see Hannah pouring out her heart to the Lord; she went her way and ate and was no more sad. What accounts for the change? She was still childless—but she repented of the bitterness and selfishness and trusted that God “doeth all things well.”
As Christians our lives are to be characterized by joy, happiness, and peace. We must use self-control to “keep our hearts with all diligence,” that we may “adorn” the doctrine of God in all things.
On Sunday mornings we hear a lot about the grace of God and how it should affect us. Our lives should be characterized by joy and thankfulness—and we can’t fake these feelings. Surely, as those who have been redeemed and blessed in such marvelous ways, we should use self-control to find areas in which to be joyful and thankful. So I have an illness that is incurable—should I not thank God that He has given me something that will bring me to Himself?
We have looked at exercising self-control over eating and our thoughts; now let’s look at our behavior, which involves so many areas of our lives; our speech, finances, time, work, and habits of life: a huge area.
There is one area of our behavior, if diligently pursued that will help us exercise self-control in every area of our lives. It is the practice of daily meeting with God. C. H. Spurgeon said, “It is easier to serve than commune.” That is especially true for the very busy wife and mother. But meeting God each day is a way of acknowledging that we are totally dependent upon His grace. We are like that tree in Psalm 1: our leaves won’t wither in drought. We will prosper in what we do.
What about self-control with regard to our tongues? Turn to Matt 12:36-37: But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. There is much said in the Scriptures about our tongues!
Even though we have been talking about self-control—controlling self—that doesn’t mean we do it by ourselves. We develop this virtue only through his “better strength.”
Phil. 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
John 15:5 . . . without Me you can do nothing.
Self-control carries over to the subject of chastity. “Chaste” means purity, pure, free from carnality, modest, uprightness of life; avoiding any immorality of thought, word, or action.
Turning to Colossians chapter three we are instructed to set your mind on things above (vs 2) and to put on the new man (vs 10). Being chaste—pure—modest—involves every area of our lives.
It involves our mind. (vs 2) We must use self-control to keep our minds pure. Ladies, what do we read—watch—listen to? David made a commitment in Ps 101:2-3: . . .I will walk within my house in a perfect way. I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; . . .
But being chaste also involves our outward appearance. This modesty is a state of mind or disposition that expresses a humble estimate of one’s self before God and others. It does not seek to draw attention to oneself or to show off in an unseemly way. Chastity and modesty are linked because chastity means moral purity in thought and conduct.
In some periods in history modesty has been in fashion, but not today. Today’s fashion is tight and revealing. This generation isn’t the first to be called to modesty in a culture of immodesty. The “flappers” of the 1920’s rejected their mothers’ long skirts and modest ideals. And I remember the mini-skirts of the 1960’s. I wore them too until a godly lady at church gave me direction from the Scriptures.
We don’t need to dress like the Amish, and we don’t need to all dress alike. Remember what modesty says: purity and humility. Not sex, pride, or money. Not “look at me.” Our dress will reflect our hearts.
Turning to I Peter 3, let’s read verses 3 and 4: Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
Ladies, I know we all like to look nice. But when following fashion contradicts modesty we must obey the Scriptures. Remember, we are commending our Savior, adorning “the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.” (Titus 2:10) Are we adorning the gospel of our Savior?
Teaching these things and challenging each of you—and myself—isn’t easy. I really didn’t want this responsibility but our pastor’s recent messages on grace have confirmed to my heart that this study on Titus 2 was of the Lord.
Finally, think about the challenges to “wholly follow the Lord”—in every area of our lives.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Titus 2:11-13
The grace of God teaches us to live
Soberly—(inside us)—this means discrete self-control; not carelessly.
Righteously—(outside us)—we are to live righteously before others—to commend the gospel with our lives; to live modestly, exercising chastity and self-control.
Godly—(vertically)—we are to live lives that are wholly following God’s instructions and ways.
Always being reminded of our blessed hope: that the Lord Jesus is coming again.
Two final thoughts on self-control or modesty:
1. The world cries, “SELF IMAGE.” It isn’t about self-image—it is about being an image-bearer of the Lord Jesus Christ.