Monday, March 16, 2015

First, conquer yourself

A young man asked me recently how far he could go with his girlfriend and not sin. I asked him if he thought he would marry this girl one day and he shrugged. I said that if his future wife was ‘out there’ somewhere, what did he hope other guys would be doing with her? How far would he want them to go with his future bride? He got the point. Young men are to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness,” not just in the dating or courtship stage, but at all times before marriage. Young men, this is almost impossible without help. Seek out an older Christian brother to hold you accountable. Young husbands, you may have come into the marriage with a track record of giving into your lusts, and now you realize that doesn’t disappear magically when you say “I do.” You need help to resist giving in to them, and what better partner to help you than your own spouse? Many times it is the younger wife who is the stronger spiritually, especially when it comes to these matters. I know it was that way with Cindy and me, and I am so thankful that she had the courage to say to me several times early in our marriage, “I don’t think we should watch that movie.”

A younger man is almost always ruled by his desires. It might be a desire for sexual pleasure that finds its empty fulfillment in sinful substitutes for the marriage bed. Or it might be a desire for entertainment pleasure, which can find its fake fulfillment in bingeing on video games. Or in being consumed by anything with a screen. It might be a lust for power or for success, which can lead to sacrificing everything on the altar of climbing the economic ladder. The truth is, you don’t break the commands of God; you break yourself against them. The longer and the harder you throw yourself into any pursuit other than God, the more you hurt yourself, and those around you. But when you submit yourself to the Lord and allow Him to teach you self-control, there is no end to what He can do in and through your life.

In the 1960s and 70s, psychologists at Stanford conducted the now-famous “Marshmallow Test.” They handed a child a marshmallow (or a cookie, whichever they liked best) and told him or her, “If you wait 15 minutes without eating this, I’ll give you two marshmallows.” Then the researcher left the room. Some of the kids gobbled up the first marshmallow or cookie; others waited. The way in which the second group waited is hilarious. Many kids paced the room. Some would pat the marshmallow or just stare at it. Others turned around so they couldn’t see it at all. Nonetheless, they chose delayed gratification. When these researchers tracked the kids’ progress over the years, they found that the second group far exceeded the first in life skills: they had higher SAT scores, were in better physical shape, even had a lower BMI (Body Mass Index) thirty years later, and were more likely to be happy in life. The only difference between the two groups in this study was self-control.

An interviewer asked Sir Edmund Hilary, the first man who conquered Mount Everest, about his passions for climbing mountains. He said, "It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." Younger people, God calls you first to conquer yourselves. It will look a lot like taking up your cross daily and following Christ.

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