Ed Welch, “Self Control: The Battle Against ‘One More'” (not available online, published in The Journal of Biblical Counseling 19/2 [Winter 2001]: 24-31)
. . . the desire for self-control must be accompanied by a plan. If self-control demands thoughtfulness, and if it ultimately declares war on both our own flesh and Satan’s temptations, then there must be a strategy. If our battle was against an insignificant foe, then planning would be unnecessary.
However, given that our enemy is subtle and crafty, a strategy is essential. This is just one of the ways that New Year’s resolutions get thrown onto the scrap heap. Having eaten too much over the holidays, we make a resolution to eat wisely. But our decision usually lasts no longer than dinner the next day. Or, having been caught buying drugs, we figure that the vague sense of remorse will engender abstinence, and we don’t even think that next week we will feel the same drug-desires and have access to the same drug-users and drug-dealers. In these situations, there was no thoughtful plan, no consideration of the spiritual dominion involved, no calling out for the grace of God in Christ, no real desire to take one’s soul to task, and no pleas for help and counsel from other brothers and sisters.
A good indicator of whether or not you want to grow in self-control is this: do you have a clear, public strategy? Put another way, if anyone says, “I am really going to change this time – I don’t think I need any help,” then that person has yet to understand the biblical teaching on self-control. It is one thing to make a resolution; it is something completely different to repent, diligently seek counsel, and, in concert with others, develop a plan that is concrete and Christ-centered.
The heart of any plan, of course, must be Jesus Christ. Self-control is like any other feature of wisdom in that it is learned by contemplating a person. Strategically, this is unprecedented. We would expect God to yell at us and tell us, again, to shape up, but God’s ways, being much better than our own, are rarely predictable. Rather than give us twelve steps on which to rely, he gives us a Person to know. As Jesus is known and exalted among us, you will notice that self-control becomes more obvious. The double cure for sin is the foundation for all change. That is, in the gospel, we have been released from both the condemnation and the power of sin. We have been freed “to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his son from heaven, whom he rescued from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thess. 1:9, 10).