The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control
When the Lord laid it on my heart to do an in depth study of the Fruit of the Spirit and its nine attributes, I had no idea just how powerful it was going to be in my life. We began on June 7 with the attribute of love and have discussed each of these attributes found in Galatians 5:22-23. I hope by now you have memorized this passage and you can say it along with me right now:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Some are dealing with an attitude towards God. Some are dealing with an attitude towards others. These last three, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control deal with an attitude of self. It is interesting again to note that each one of these begins with love. This love is of God and from God and cannot be effectively carried out unless it is through God. The last sentence, “Against such things there is no law,” reminds us that there is no excuse to keep us from practicing these nine attributes. It reminds us that doing these things cannot be legally enforced. We are reminded that a vine that produces fruit does not do so because of an act of Congress or by a law put into place by a government. Rather, it is the result of what happens when a believer loves the Lord with every bit of the heart, soul, mind and strength. It is the result of what God has done for us through Christ. These attributes are not making us ready to be justified, they are the result of being justified and come after justification is freely given. The Spirit-led Christian will exemplify these nine attributes.
I believer there is a reason they are placed in the order we have them. As I have stated numerous times, it must begin with love- love of God, love of others and love of self. As love is produced, the result will be joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and then carried our through the discipline of self-control. As our study continues, we will examine self-control by looking at the purpose of self-control, the preparation for self-control, the prevention with self-control, and the proclamation by self-control.
The Purpose of Self-Control
The Purpose of Self-Control
God must have known we would be bad choices. After all, He gave us the best we could have and then gave us the ability to choose it or not. Jesus told His disciples in John 14:27 that He was going to leave peace with them and give them peace. The implication is that they could choose to receive that gift or not. The same is true in our discussion of these attributes. Each one is attainable and each one can exist with the others, but we have to choose to make that happen. The way we do this is by making good choices and practicing self-control.
Self-control the virtue by which one masters his or her own passion and desires. The Greek word is enkrateia which means mastery, chaste, or self restraint.
Proverbs 25:28 defines self-control this way:
Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
In other words, if we lack self-control, we are letting the barriers down and any enemy can come attack us.
The Apostle Paul wrote much about self-control and he even demonstrated it in some of his preaching.
Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”
Felix was obviously under conviction and opted out of this discourse. For those that are unrighteous and lack self-control, I am sure the judgement part would be quite scary. Self-control defined and demonstrated denotes self-mastery and curbs one’s fleshly impulses.
Notice next the preparation for self-control.
The Preparation for Self-Control
The Preparation for Self-Control
My youngest daughter sent me a quote she found on social media that said: “If you think COVID-19 and the riots are scary you have never given your dad the wrong wrench for the third time.” I have a pretty good knowledge of tools because of the fact that there was many times I gave my dad the wrong one that he asked for. Everyone needs to understand tools and how to use them. Self-control prepares us to be more Christ-like. It is a tool in which we can successfully utilize for many purposes.
Self-Control is a tool for leading.
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
Right in the middle of this list of the characteristics of a good overseer is self-control. We see it listed again this way in Titus 1:7-8:
Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.
We also see in Titus that self-control is a tool for teaching.
Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.
As a tool for teaching, self-control is to be taught to everyone, specifically naming old and young men and women.
Self-control is a tool for watchfulness. In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he says to be alert. Alert means to be watchful and always aware of what is going on around you.
So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.
Self-Control can also be a tool for action. We can talk about theories, ideas and plans, but unless we take action, we are just making noise. Self-control is a step in taking action.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Being disciplined in our minds, hearts, souls and bodies prepares us to be people who are called to action.
Self-control can finally be seen as a tool for prayer. The greatest discipline we can ever be part of is that of prayer. I am not talking about prayer at meals or even bedtime, I am talking about gut-wrenching, down on your knees kind of praying. That kind of prayer that pleads God to reveal Himself more and more to those for whom we are praying.
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
This passage tells us that the prerequisite of prayer is to be clear minded and self-controlled. Sounds like this discipline is not a suggestion but a point of necessary effectiveness. This is the kind of prayer life we need to have where self-control helps us with prevention.
The Prevention with Self-Control
The Prevention with Self-Control
Self-control is one of those attributes that will help us prevent lots of unnecessary pain and agony. It keeps us from becoming a product of our stupid mistakes. In case you did not know, there is an evil working in this world right now whose main purpose is to divide and destroy.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
This is nothing new as it has been happening since the Garden of Eden and the beginning of time. However, I firmly believe that the end is near, so the evil is working overtime to carry our its mission. Self-control helps us with this.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Being self-controlled helps prevent us from being devoured. It also helps us from being tempted.
Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
This shows us that without self-control, we are subject to satan tempting us and it implies that self-control can prevent such a temptation.
Self-control also can be used as a method of prevention in keeping us from godlessness.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—
Sounds familiar just now does it not? Are you a lover of pleasure rather than God? If that is the case, I would encourage you to look at how you are doing with self-control.
We see the purpose of self-control, we see the preparation for self-control, and we see the prevention that can come with self-control. But what happens when we proclaim self-control?
The Proclamation of Self-Control
The Proclamation of Self-Control
As one studies scripture and claims the authority of God’s word, there are many proclamations that could be stated regarding self-control. First, we can see that self-control s the result of determination.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We see in this passage the directive to “make every effort” to add these things including self-control. By doing so in increasing measure, the Bible tells us we will be effective and productive in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. The implication is that the more we know about Jesus, the more we will want to be like Him and live like Him. That is the direct result of our determination. Now be reminded, this is not something we have earned or deserved, but the result of receiving the free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus.
Not only is self-control the result of determination, but it is the resolve of discipline. I miss sports right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although baseball and basketball are happening with limitations, I miss being able to watch in person. When an athlete competes, they train and practice so they can win the game. They are determined and they are resolved to do whatever they can do to be faster, stronger and mentally sharper to defeat their opponent, whether is a clock, weight or another person.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
If you are a person who practices self-control, you will also have that mindset. You realize this is not just the flavor of the month, but you are resolved to be disciplined and train effectively.
One last thought that helps us understand the proclamation of self-control is that by doing so, we will be the remnant of the Day. You may notice on the outline that Day is capitalized.
You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
This passage speaks of those that pursue the activities of the day rather that those evil things that happen in the dark. It also refers to the DAY when we will all be called to appear before the throne to be judged. The practice of self-control will separate us from those do not have such discipline. Those that do practice self-control will be indeed a remnant. They will be able to hear, well done. The final blessing of 1 Thessalonians 5 will be more true than ever:
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Let’s continue to practice these attributes, all day, every day. Our world needs it!