Saturday, November 20, 2010

Under Control?

The debate is hot and heavy; whether the Black Eyed Peas have ruined a classic song through their remixing and updating. Their new release, last week 'The Time (Dirty Bit)' uses the chorus of '(I've Had) The Time of My Life', the finale song from 1987 movie Dirty Dancing.

Yesterday I got in the car and missed the opening section, so didn't realise it was that song. Will.I.Am was rapping, and it was then that I heard this line, which set me thinking about how a Christian is to be counter-cultural in the realm of control.

So come on, let’s go
Let’s lose control
Let’s do it all night

The way to have a good time, it seems, is to lose control, to let go of yourself. As I considered it for a moment or two, I realised that the Black Eyed Peas are not the only ones in today's culture promoting this message.

Eminem urges us to 'Just Lose It', while Beyonce's new song declares that 'we only find ourselves by losing all control', and The Saturdays are 'gonna lose control tonight.' The message is clear, to have fun you have to lose control, and go wild.

It's not surprising, then, that we find the counter-cultural message of Christianity loud and clear on this very point. It's right there in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5: 'the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.'

I was reminded of this important element of the Christian life through the teaching of Vaughan Roberts from Paul's letter to Titus at NIMA this week. Self-control is mentioned a number of times as one of the signs of godliness which comes about through the grace of the gospel.

It's one of the qualifications for the elders / overseers (church leaders) (1:8); it's required of older men (2:2), young women (2:5), younger men (2:6), and is implicit in the behaviour of the older women too (so that you don't feel left out!). Why the repeated emphasis on self-control? Why is it so very important as to be mentioned time and again?

For Paul, the grace of the gospel brings about conversion and change in the lives of those who hear and repent. Grace must lead to godliness, so that previous ungodly desires, passions and pleasures are removed and godly desires and works are produced, as we become more like Jesus. It's most clear in one of the three summaries of the gospel within Titus:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)

In contrast to the world around us, we no longer have to lose control to feel good; we no longer have to go wild in order to be free. The God whose service is perfect freedom releases us to live self-controlled lives, testifying to the power of the gospel to change us and make us more like Jesus. We become self-controlled not because we are repressed, or because we're strict legalists, or because we're hypocrites, but because the grace of God changes our passions, pleasures, affections and desires.

To be self-controlled is to shine out like a light in the dark sky in this world, where the culture urges no forms of control at all. In doing so, we shine for the glory of God, as a testimony to his grace and goodness.

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