Reflections of Grace 32: Walking in the Spirit – Self Control

 

Today we are going to talk about the last fruit of the Holy Spirit which is:

Self Control.

Paul listed nine godly virtues that constitute the fruit of God’s Spirit—the inward and outward effect of having the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. They are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”(Galatians 5:22-23)

  • What a stark contrast they are to the actions of man’s rebellious nature that Paul listed in the previous three verses!

(Where the New King James Version has “self-control,” the earlier King James Version used the word “temperance,” meaning self-restraint.

  • Is the sequential order of the nine godly virtues significant I wonder? The first listed, love, is clearly the most important (1 Corinthians 13:1-2, 13).
  • Perhaps self-control is listed last as the capstone—since it takes a lot of self-control to exercise the other eight virtues! It takes a lot of self-control just to “bridle” one’s tongue (James 1:26; 3:2).

Clearly these nine virtues work together and support each other. Consider long-suffering, which is the opposite of short-tempered. Many people are ruled by their feelings and can’t control their anger. In fact, one measure of maturity is emotional control. Some adults still have temper tantrums!

  • The best form of self-control may be fleeing
  • We all face temptations to blow it in our walk with God—all our lives. When confronted with temptation, we must strive, as far as possible, to get away from it— flee! Even if you think you have a lot of self-control, don’t put it to the test unnecessarily.
  • Consider some of the things we are told to flee: “Flee” from a “stranger” (a teacher of lies), “flee sexual immorality” (as Joseph had to literally flee, Genesis 39:12), “flee from idolatry,” flee “all kinds of evil,” “flee also youthful lusts” (John 10:5; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:10-11; 2 Timothy 2:22).

We need self-control to avoid not only outright evil but also too much of the good things. Proverbs 25:16 cautions: “Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit.”

  • People often lack the self-restraint to stop when they should. People overeat, over-drink, overspend and overindulge in lots of things. We must rule over our appetites rather than letting our appetites rule us. Overindulgence can lead to intoxication and/or addiction. In either case, the person is then really out of control!  And why do we over indulge?  Are we trying to escape pain we need to deal with?  Are we numbing ourselves?  Are we staying in denial?  Watch out for these traps.  I share in my book how I fell into ministry addiction, a seemingly good thing, to escape dealing with a failing marriage in addition to not even beginning to deal with my childhood trauma of sexual abuse.  The result was my life imploded.
  • Because of lust, even smart people do stupid things. Just think of all the prominent people who’ve been caught cheating on their spouses! They may be “ruling” over many people, but they fail to rule their own lives. They trade integrity for instant gratification, and everyone loses.

Jesus and the apostles made it clear that God holds us strictly accountable for even our thoughts as well as actions. We must wage spiritual warfare, “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

Is willpower powerful?

  • Paul plainly said that “the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so” (Romans 8:7,). Thus, the normal human mind by itself is not capable of being in complete subjection to the law of God!  We need “power within” that comes from God!
  • Jesus said, “our spirit [attitude] indeed is willing but the flesh [human willpower] is weak” (Matthew 26:41). For example, 11 of Jesus’ disciples intended to stick by Him, but when things got really scary, they all deserted Him
  • Therefore, “self-control” can be somewhat misleading. Effective self-control is not ultimately self-controlling self. To have truly effectual control over our lives, we need God’s power to be in control.
  • Just before Jesus’ ascension to heaven, He said to His disciples, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). Luke 24:49 adds that the disciples were to wait in Jerusalem until they received this “power from on high.”
  • What are the benefits of having the Holy Spirit? There are many, but of crucial importance is that it enables spiritual understanding —the capacity to truly understand the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:9-11, 14).
  • Then, once we have spiritual “knowledge,” we must add “self-control” (2 Peter 1:5-8
  • In other words, God’s Spirit imparts the strength of character to apply and live by that knowledge. And as it transforms us, we can increasingly see the effects or “fruit” of having God’s Spirit within us.
  • Jesus Christ wants you to be His disciple. He said, “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples” (John 8:31, Good News Bible). Therefore discipleship includes learning the self-discipline of obedience. And that has great rewards! Choose to follow Christ—choose to be His disciple!  His friend and companion
  • God will not take away a person’s free will to make choices in life. But as long as you keep inviting Him into your life, He will empower you “to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV).
  • Two proverbs draw a stark contrast between not having self-control and the priceless value of having it. The first says, “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28, NIV). He is defenseless and doomed to defeat.
  • The second states: “It is better to be patient than powerful. It is better to win control over yourself than over whole cities” (Proverbs 16:32, GNB).

As with all of us, certainly your biggest spiritual enemy has been yourself. But take heart. With God’s great help, you can increasingly conquer the enemy!

Remember this:  A teacher cannot impose knowledge, understanding and wisdom upon a student. The listener must cooperate in the process. Without this, little or no fruit is produced. I could share truths with you forever and you could never see it manifested in your life unless you make a decision to apply what you hear.  The Bible shows the Spirit of God as influencing, suggesting and, if we choose to permit it, dominating—perhaps even controlling—our lives. This is good because God is good, and if we will yield, the fruit of His Spirit will be produced in our lives.

  • If we examine the fruit of the Spirit, we find that they all have something to do with our minds. Words are a large portion of the mind’s working material and therefore play a huge role in what the person produces with his life. It is no coincidence that Jesus is the Word of God, and the Bible, the written revelation of God and His purpose, is also the Word of God! God is trying to tell us something. He is concerned about our minds because what goes into them will determine what we produce with our lives. Will it be fruit leading to eternal life or fruit leading to death?  We get to choose friends!   Choose life!!

About Jefferson Drexler

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