Monday, September 19, 2011

Weight Gain, Self-Control, and the Grace of God

You should be familiar with the basic plot of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  The short story by Robert Louis Stevenson has been subjected to numerous adaptations. In 1931, there was an Oscar winning movie version, but most versions have been b-grade movies at best. 1951 saw the birth of Son of Jekyll, so to speak. Six years later came Daughter of Jekyll. In 1944 Mighty Mouse met Jekyll and Hyde Cat and Abbott and Costello had a run in with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1953. Perhaps the most creative adaptation, which I have only heard about and not seen, was The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Rock ‘n Roll Musical.

But just in case, let me review the basic details of the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: a scientist concocts a potion that divides him into two personalities: the benevolent, kind Dr. Jekyll and the evil, murderous Mr. Hyde.  At first, Dr. Jekyll enjoys the freedom to commit various crimes under the guise of Mr. Hyde. However, as time progresses he finds the anecdote that turns him back into Dr. Jekyll to be less effective and the demon that is Hyde grows stronger and stronger until he is overpowered. No longer is Jekyll able to resist the power of Mr. Hyde. He is trapped.

It should come as no surprise to you that many adaptations, such as The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Rock ‘n Roll Musical fail to capture the finer nuances of the story. It was not originally some sci-fi horror story. It was written in the late 1800s by Stevenson not about the horrors of scientific hubris but rather about the horror within every human heart.

Dr. Jekyll struggles against his sin nature and speaks of the struggle in terms similar to Romans 7. The potion that he concocts was designed to free him of these rather unpleasant urges; to separate him from his evil side. However, the power of his evil side begins to overwhelm him. This is not just a story about a creepy scientist—it is about every person and the terror of the power of sin!

This should be a struggle that every believer feels.  We have a desire to control our sin nature but at times are completely overwhelmed by it. 

I've felt this reality in my struggle with gluttony.  I knew that my metabolism would slow down when I made the transition from my 20's to my 30's, but no one warned me that my metabolism in my mid-30's would be slower than my metabolism of my early-30's.  I am approaching the point where my gluttony can't be concealed by a fast metabolism!

Let me quickly present four principles on self-control from the book of Titus, especially Titus 2:11-14. 

1. All of us are to exercise self-control.

Throughout the book, various groups are either explicitly or implicitly told to have self-control: children of leaders of the church (implied, 1:6); leaders themselves (1:8); older Men (2:2); older women (in relation to wine); young women (2:5); young men (2:6); and slaves (2:9)

God expects the members of His church to be able to live sensible lives—to be in control of their actions.  This attacks the insinuation of many that some people are incapable of controlling their baser urges. 

2. Our ability to exercise self-control is the grace of God.

In Titus 2:11, Paul says that "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men."  This grace "teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness... and to live self-controlled... and godly lives in this present age" (v. 12). 

Salvation protects us from ungodly behavior and promotes self-controlled, godly behavior.  Self-control is itself a fruit of the Spirit.
3. Part of the motivation for our self-control is our future.

When I'm failing to practice self-control in my eating, I'm thinking very little about the future.  I'm thinking about the present enjoyment of another chocolate-chip cookie.  But Paul tells Titus that we are to live in expectation of "the blessed hope" which is "the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior."

I'm not motivated by slogans or cute sayings.  I'm motivated by the future appearing of my Lord Jesus Christ!

4. The provider of our self-control is our savior.

Finally, Paul tells Titus, the one who provides our salvaiton and ability to practice self-control is our savior.  He "gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (2:14).
I hope you find these principles encouraging.  Self-control is a challenge each of us has.  May God lavishly bestow His grace upon us!


Anonymous said...

Yes - for God's glory & my good!

Anonymous said...

In my recent Victorian Lit class, my professor said that Jekyl and Hyde is all about giving in to one's homosexual nature. I argued that it was about man's dual nature and was a metaphor for Romans 7. He said, "None of that traditional Christian babble in here." Thanks for confirming the spiritual implications of the old Victorian classic.

Anonymous said...

Been thinking about this very idea today's world we have so many man-made solutions for outward issues (weight, finances, relationships, parenting) when the root of all those issues is our own sinfulness. The solution (diet, financial plan, etc) should really be to accept the solution God has given be transformed into the likeness of His Son by the Holy Spirit. I think until we begin to make decisions in a Godly way and learn to be content with the results we will continue to fight a battle that will not be won.