The Forgotten Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

selfcontrolBy Tim Rowe

If there is any quality lacking in Christian lives today there may be no greater one than the spiritual fruit of temperance or self-control. Christians are getting defeated in every area of their lives because they lack self-control. Without this fruit of the spirit of self-control it is impossible to walk with God in any great degree or grow into full maturity as a Christian. Without self-control there can be no great faith, no great love and no great spiritual fire for God. Without this spiritual fruit, our lives will be a mess and we will never be a disciple in practical day to day living for the Lord Jesus Christ. We are spinning our spiritual wheels without self-control. It is the last fruit listed in Galatians 5:22, 23 but it may be the most critical for all the other fruit to work effectively and to their maximum capacity.

Galatians 5:22,23 (Wuest):But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control. Against such things as these there is no law.

Pastor Steve Cole: In my almost 30 years of pastoral ministry, I would say that the presence or absence of self-control is one of the most determinative factors in whether you will do well or have serious problems in your Christian life. It affects how you manage your time; your money; your ability to overcome temptation; your development of godly character qualities; controlling your temper and your tongue; regulating your health (through proper diet, exercise, and rest); and, most importantly, whether or not you spend consistent time in the Word and prayer.
God knew we needed the spiritual fruit of self-control to be able to resist the lusts of the flesh. We cannot resist our old man nature in our own will power or mental fortitude. There is a fight within the heart of every believer for control of our heart. Will we walk by the flesh or by the spirit? This is a daily decision we must decide and the spiritual fruit of self-control is critical for us to arise above the flesh, the world and the devil and walk in Christ rooted and built up in Him. God builds a man for His purposes when we exercise this supernatural fruit in our lives.

The ninth quality of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians is self-control. Self-control in the Greek means: “holding oneself in or the ability to take a grip of oneself; power over one’s passions, appetites, and desires; to be master over oneself, and self-restraint.” It is the restraining and controlling of the desires, passions, and appetites of the sin nature. It is a supernatural inner power to control the cravings of the old nature inherited from Adam. Self-control is to get a grip of our thoughts, words, and actions so they reflect the Christ in us. It is to hold off the sudden impulses of the flesh, resisting the urge and pull of the flesh to do the works of the sin nature. We hold off anger and pride; we hold off sarcasm and strife; we hold off envy and bitterness. By God’s spiritual power and help, we take power over all thoughts and actions that do not bring glory to God. We take control of our self and do not let our mind run loosely, but have the spiritual discipline to keep our heart on track with the heart of God. We take control of our self through the power of the gift of holy spirit.

Galatians 5:25: Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

Self-control is mastering one’s emotions instead of being mastered by them. Inherent in this spiritual fruit is the ability to have the very same self-control and self-restraint that Jesus Christ had when he was tempted and tested in every way we are, yet he exercised self-control and did not sin. Christ was the epitome of self-control, as he never allowed his heart to wander away and do anything inconsistent with his Father’s will and his own divine nature. He was the master over his mind and heart and fixed them on his Heavenly Father.

Steven Cole, in his Sermon entitled “Learning to Control Yourself,” says:

Self-control is the inward rule or regulation of every area of your life under the ultimate authority or control of God’s Spirit in line with His Word…The Jewish writer Philo described it as having superiority over every desire…By definition, self-control means ruling your emotions because you have a higher goal. Because you want to please and honor God you have to go against your feelings of the moment…He produces in us the ability to control every area of our lives in line with His holy purposes. This implies active responsibility on your part… Self-control is not self-willed but it is connected with your will…the self-controlled person is submitting himself to God’s will as revealed in His Word…Self-control is not legalism…legalists attempt to look spiritual to others by keeping their man-made rules and they judge those who do not keep their rules…Self Control is not asceticism. Asceticism is denying yourself certain legitimate comforts and imposing certain hardships for some spiritual value…Paul does mention the example of an athlete who exercises self-control in all things in order to win…Self-control is not rigid but flexible…The aim of self-control is always to enable us to love God and to love others. Self-control is like a sentry, a guardian to the heart that wards off and protects the Christian believer from the attack of Satan’s kingdom. Self-control keeps us out of the bondage and captivity of the flesh. Self-control is the opposite of self-indulgence, as it allows the beauty of the new nature to shine forth from our lives. Sin is always very selfish, arrogant, and defiant with self-indulgence at its root. The book of Ecclesiastes is the record of Solomon engaging in every self-indulgence of the flesh and realizing that it is like chasing the wind, as it never brings true peace, enjoyment, satisfaction, and happiness. God wants us to enjoy life, but we need self-control in order to grow in and deepen our relationship with God and walk in the good works and purposes He has planned for our lives. Self-control is a necessary quality in order to be set free in heart and soul and not be held in captivity by any of Satan’s devices. Your life use to be playground of the enemy. Now we set up a guard, a boundary around the heart. That which is gained by Christ is protected by Christ. We do not give our life or heart over to enemy again.

The spiritual fruit of self-control, while guaranteed to be effective, is not a quick fix. It requires a lifetime habit of discipline for the purpose of godliness.

Timothy. 4:7b,8 (ESV): Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

We are in the spiritual Olympics and every day we must train ourselves for godliness. We are athletes of the spirit engaged in a spiritual contest where we wrestle against the principalities, powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world and against spiritual wickedness in high places. A disciple is a disciplined one and we exercise disciplined training of our mind, thoughts, emotions, words, actions and heart to line up with the Word of God and bring glory to our God.

Discipline (present imperative – not a suggestion but a command to make it your habit gymnazo [the Greek verb for discipline] yourself – working out in “God’s gym” of His Word, prayer, fellowship, breaking of bread, etc) yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life (literally “the now life”) and also for the life to come (literally “the coming life” = it’s already on its way for believers). It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this (the promise which godliness holds forth — that it may be fulfilled) we labor (intensely toiling to the point of utter exhaustion!) and strive (agonizomai = an intensely struggling for victory or more accurately for believers “from victory”, the Victory having been procured for us at Calvary by Christ), because we have fixed our hope (our certainty) on the living God, Who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. (1Timothy 4:7, 8, 9, 10; 1Timothy 4:7; 4:8; 4:9; 4:10)
Just as ceasing to exercise physically results in loss of muscle and bone mass, decreased strength and endurance, etc, so too, the same dynamic occurs in the spiritual realm when we cease to discipline ourselves for godliness.

I Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV) Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Voice: Athletes in training are very strict with themselves, exercising self-control over desires, and for what? For a wreath that soon withers or is crushed or simply forgotten. That is not our race. We run for the crown that we will wear for eternity. 26 So I don’t run aimlessly. I don’t let my eyes drift off the finish line. When I box, I don’t throw punches in the air. 27 I discipline my body and make it my slave so that after all this, after I have brought the gospel to others, I will still be qualified to win the prize.

One of the great qualities of every athlete is self-control. How much greater should we exercise self-control as we are running the race for an imperishable crown, an eternal reward that will echo through the halls of eternity forever. Without self-control we will have little rewards when we stand before the bema, the judgment seat of Christ. We can let our eyes drift off the finish line because we lack self-control. One of the problems with many pastors and spiritual leaders in the church today is they are lacking this spiritual fruit of self-control and have disqualified themselves from receiving the prize. Lack of self-control has ruined more ministries then maybe any other spiritual fruit.

Paul argues that athletes exercise self-control because they are motivated by a clearly defined goal and understand that in order to achieve that goal, they must (at least for a time) resist the distractions that originate from their bodily passions and desires. In a similar way, believers are charged to control their flesh (not the physical body but the evil disposition that still lives in our mortal bodies), with its corrupt, deceptive passions and desires, rather than allowing themselves to be controlled by them. However, what is referred to as self-control is actually (and only) the result of letting the Spirit take control (Spirit enabled “self” control), so that one is walking in Him, walking by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit.

Paul’s point is that each believer should be like a highly trained athlete who exercises control over his or her body (the seat of the strong desires) during the period in which they are training for the Olympics. While the athlete says “No” to these bodily desires in their own strength, in contrast, Spirit controlled believers are enabled to exercise supernatural self-control in the strength of the Holy Spirit. When we say “Yes” to the Spirit, we cannot say “Yes” to the flesh for these are in opposition to one another

Self Control (KJV = temperance)(egkrateia or enkrateia from en = in + kratos = power to rule the stem krat- speaks of power or lordship) means literally a holding oneself in or the ability to take a grip of oneself. This meaning reminds one of our modern slang expression “Get a grip”! Egkrateia refers to the restraining of passions and appetites that originate from the Old Self.

To be self-controlled is to not live in bondage to the desires, passions and appetites of the flesh. The physical human body is a good servant but a miserable master!

But I say, walk (present imperative = not a suggestion but a command to make it your lifestyle or your habitual practice to conduct all of the aspects of you life) by the Spirit and (here is the conditional promise – conditioned on choosing to walk by the Spirit) you will (absolutely) not carry out (not that you won’t still experience them but that you won’t act on them!) the (strong) desire of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

The Theological Lexicon of the NT says that egkrateia is
from kratos, “force”; the enkrates is the person who is master of himself; the akrates is the one who cannot contain himself, who is lacking in power.
The people of the end-times will not have it (2Tim 3:3-akrates); it is not so much that they lead a dissolute life, but rather that they cannot control themselves, and so they no longer act as human beings—they are amoral beings.

Piper: The very concept of “self-control” implies a battle between a divided self. It implies that our “self” produces desires we should not satisfy but instead “control.” We should “deny ourselves” and “take up our cross daily,” Jesus says, and follow him (Luke 9:23). Daily our “self” produces desires that should be “denied” or “controlled.”

In Titus 1:8, Paul says that an elder is to be self-controlled, but in the previous verse, he says that an elder must not be self-willed. Clearly, both are connected with our responsibility to choose (our will). But the difference is, the self-controlled person is submitting himself to God’s will as revealed in His Word, whereas the self-willed person is acting for his own selfish desires, disregarding what God wills.

Barclay says

Egkrateia is that great quality which comes to a man when Christ is in his heart, that quality which makes him able to live and to walk in the world, and yet to keep his garments unspotted from the world.

Self-control means mastering one’s emotions rather than being mastered by them.

Romans 6:6, 12, 13 (ESV): We know that our old self] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

We must exercise this spiritual self-control so sin does not reign in our mortal bodies and so we can present ourselves at God’s disposal for His purposes rather than as instruments of unrighteousness.

The false teachers in 2 Peter claimed that “liberty” was a warrant for licentiousness rather than life as it should be lived in the Spirit. These men instead of self-control were “sensuality controlled”, enslaved to greed and fleshly desires. They believed and taught that knowledge freed people from the need to control their passions. Peter countered their false doctrine that claimed that knowledge emancipates men from the obligations of morality.

Solomon gives a vivid picture of the danger of the lack of self-control writing…

Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit. (Proverbs 25:28)

As alluded to earlier, the city states of those days were walled for protection from marauders. No wall around a city meant no protection. No self-control by analogy means one is wide open to attack from the Evil One and the old sinful flesh nature (flesh)! Without self-control, they are not able to resist those things that can destroy their lives and the lives of others. Such a man or woman is an easy victim when attacked by tempting desires and impulses. The Bible offers numerous illustrations of those who failed to “build a wall around the city” of their heart and mind, but instead kept the “opened wide the gates” to the wisdom of the world, the flesh and the devil. Woe! Take for example, the sad saga of Samson and his self-destruction and defeat at the hands of a seductive temptress. (Judges 14; Judges 15; Judges 16). Like Samson, we all have the deceptive flesh lurking and waiting for a moment of weakness (we are tired, frustrated with others, disappointed with our circumstances, we have just been successful in some venture be it secular or spiritual, etc) and would do well to heed Solomon’s advice (which sadly and paradoxically he himself did not heed, miserably failing to exercise self-control, especially in 1 Kings 11:1-13 – read the last half of the chapter for the wide ranging consequences!)…

In the Book of Nehemiah, the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and “a city, in ancient days, without walls, had lost its sense of identity and all its defenses. It was prey to every kind of enemy, natural, as well as human”. A life that lacks self-control is similar to a city with broken down walls because it lacks defense and every conceivable evil seeks to enter in. An uncontrolled body and an uncontrolled spirit is at risk for destruction and spiritual decay.

Egkrateia – The New Strength (The Inner Clout):(Self-Control) The Strength of God made manifest in the Saints in order to garrison the Body – shield it from every fiery dart of the enemy. It’s a God-enabled governing of every operation of the body – a divinely empowered control over appetite, sleep, and sexuality. It’s letting not sin reign any longer in the body.

Self-Control is the Sentinel – The Body Guard – The Wall of Protection-The Inner Clout as We Walk by the Spirit
1. The Inner Alarm – It’s the constant examination of motive, inspection of behavior, and evaluation of the spiritual thermostat in the heart.
2. The Ready Response – It’s the sword drawn readiness to respond to any sign (no matter how small) of heart deterioration, moral lassitude, or the encroaching nearness of sinful pollutants.
3. The Decisive Blow – It’s the exertion of presidential authority – it’s a license to kill, a governmental mandate to spiritually “take out” that which threatens the Christ-life forming in the heart.

2 Corinthians 13:5 New Living Translation (NLT): Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. (Proverbs 16:32)

Remember that when we take time off from disciplining ourselves for godliness we don’t remain “static” spiritually, but we begin to drift back toward the subtle, seductive lures of the world, the flesh and/or the devil. Do not be deceived thinking you are “okay” if you are taking a “spiritual hiatus”! In fact, you are in grave danger, for fleshly lusts continually wage war against your soul (1 Peter 2:11)

Self-control is not legalism. If you develop this fruit of the Spirit, some Christians will label you as legalistic. But this quality appears in the Book of Galatians, which was written to combat legalism. Legalism is the attempt to earn standing with God by performing certain duties or
behavior. Also, legalists attempt to look spiritual to others by keeping their man-made rules and they judge those who do not keep their rules. To live as a godly Christian, you must live openly before God, who examines the heart (1 Thessalonians. 2:4). Living under God’s grace, by the way, does not mean that God gives you a bunch of free passes on sin each day, or that you can live a, hang-loose, sloppy, unproductive life. Paul wrote (1 Corinthians.15:10), “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them [the other apostles]; yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

Piper: How do we “strive” against the our fatal desires? Paul answers: “I labor, striving (agonizomenos) according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Colossians 1:29). He “agonizes” by the power of Christ not his own. Similarly he tells us, “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (Romans 8:13). “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). We must be fierce! Yes. But not by our might. “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD” (Proverbs 21:31).

Colossians 1:29: For this purpose also I labor, striving ( agonizomai) according to His power, which mightily works within me.
The Self-controlled person is submitting himself to God’s will as revealed in His Word, whereas the self-willed person is acting for his own selfish desires, disregarding what God wills. Because God has given us new life in Christ and has given His Holy Spirit to indwell us, we have both the responsibility and the ability to yield our self-will to His revealed will….

Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

Tthe strong desires of the flesh that war against the Spirit. If you do not conquer these desires, you will not grow in godliness. You don’t win wars accidentally! You must devote yourself to the battle, committed to fight with everything you’ve got. Anything less will result in defeat. To walk by the Spirit means to depend upon and yield to the indwelling Holy Spirit moment by moment every day. Walking is not as spectacular as leaping or flying, but if you keep at it, you’ll get where you’re going.

Also, the picture of fruit implies a slow, deliberate process. There will be setbacks and difficulties along the way. The question is, are you actively, purposefully walking by the Spirit, coming back to dependence on Him when you have fallen, so that over the long haul, the fruit of the Spirit, including self-control, is growing in your life?

When we are in the Word of God, we are a controlled person. How many diets have you been on? You lose some but then you gain it right back. Remember that Scripture repeatedly links idolatry and immorality (Numbers 25:1,2). Immorality and a person with an uncontrolled appetite are closely related all the way through Scripture. Believers because of Christ within them, possess the potential to control their temper, to exercise control over their desires, the power to say “no”, the power to set godly priorities, the power within them so that they can turn off the television and go to bed early so they can arise early to be fresh with God in the morning, the self control to get out of bed in the morning to be alone with God, etc. And all of this self-control comes out of our faith. (2 Peter 1:5) We don’t have to go to a course or read a book on how to become self-controlled! That control is within us and if we are diligent to see results, then we will see God work it out in our life and move us into His victory.

2 Peter 1:5-11(ESV):
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Remember that the definite article (“the” in the Greek of 2 Peter 1:6) is before each godly characteristic so Peter is talking about the self-control, the very self-control and self-restraint that Jesus had, even as He Himself was tempted as all men are. And yet God gives us access to that same self-control! So that’s where the analogy breaks down…it’s not human energized self-control Peter is talking about but that which is available by faith (obedience) from Christ in us. The Christian ought to have control over his appetite.

To have self-control is to aggressively assert the claim of God upon the heart. It is to allow the heart to be God’s territory only and to erect barriers against all others.

Eric Ludy: Testing Your Personal Egkrateia. How is Egkrateia Measured?

1. By how quick you notice the invader (Is your spiritual alarm working?)
2. And by how quick you exert your position in Christ and make right what the enemy is attempting to make wrong (Are you strong to respond quickly and decisively?)

THE TEST

The Measurement of Purity: How well do you respond to temptation?

Purity is measured as the span of time that is allowed to pass between the initial moment that the temptation strikes the human heart to the moment when the heart issues forth its command to “destroy that intruder.” Never should the Purity alarm need to beep twice. The soldier of the Cross expresses his great faith and love by maintaining a constant, vigilant watch over his heart. Enemy messages are never entertained, never read, never pondered, and certainly not allowed to remain in and amongst the congregation of the saints of God. Hit these thoughts, these intruders, these tempters with the aggressive resolve of the twice born to remain untouched by this world. Whether it be visual temptation, emotional temptation, or physical temptation – the answer is always the same. “NO!!!”

The Measurement of Industry: How well do you respond to tiredness and physical weakness?

Industry is measured as the span of time that is allowed to pass between the initial moment that the physical, emotional, spiritual, and/or psychological tiredness strikes, and the moment that the Grace of God is beckoned forth to ensure soundness of body, mind, soul, and spirit. If the Spirit is working and in need of your watchfulness and energetic givenness, then the alarm should not need sound twice. Rise up in the
strength of Jesus Christ, Oh valiant soul! Stay focused, stay sharp, stay sober minded, and stay watchful! Ply your energies until the moment that God gives the word to cease from your labors.

The Measurement of Attentiveness: How well do you respond to Distraction?

Attentiveness is measured as the span of time that is allowed to pass between the initial moment that the side-swiping, distracting thought niggles at your mind. It need not be a sinful thought to necessitate being quickly addressed. Anything, no matter how important it may seem, mustn’t distract you from the Spirit-engagement and Spirit-assigned work that you are currently engaged in. Stay focused, stay on target. Do not let the alarm go off twice. Command your mind into order, and if need be, keep a pad of paper handy in order to disengage from the thought quickly so that it can be addressed at a more appropriate time. Don’t let anything usurp the God-priority of your life. A newly arrived email beep, a cell phone buzz, a phone ring, or even a knock on the door – if you are writing the King’s Name, do not budge from your position.

The Measurement of Faith: How well do you respond to the bait of doubt?

Faith is measured as the span of time that is allowed to pass between the
initial moment that your heart beholds the seeming contradiction to the
Truth of God’s Word, the efficacy of His Promise to His Saints and when
your heart cries out with unshaken, unstaggered confidence, “Here I stand,
I will not be moved! My God has Promised and He CANNOT Lie!” This
is the believing man’s heart responsibility – to believe His God even when
the entire world and all its illusions attempt to confute and refute the
realities of the Great Cross Purchase. The alarm must not beep twice.

The Measurement of Joy: How well do you respond to trials?

Joy is measured as the span of time that is allowed to pass between the initial moment that the trial of your faith, the false accusation, the betrayal, or the harsh, demeaning treatment begins and the moment the heart shouts out, “Rejoice, Oh my soul! Find your satisfaction, your confidence, and your delight in God Almighty! Consider this pure joy!” The Joy of the Lord is the saint’s secret strength. And, therefore, the alarm must not beep twice, in order that the enemy not gain any advantage in and through his wily attack.

The Measurement of Peace: How well do you respond to the bait of anxiety, fretting, and foreboding?

Peace is measured as the span of time that is allowed to pass between the initial moment that the “bad news” or the “anxiety-baited information” arrives in your mental inbox until the moment when you deliberately choose to exclaim within your heartl, “My hope is fixed on the Rock of Jesus Christ – and since He is not shaken, and He is not moved – neither will I allow my soul to disgrace Him by showing even the slightest
measure of anxiety in this moment!” Anxiety has no legal right to engage a believer’s heart, no legal right, that is, unless the believing heart chooses to entertain it and listen to its counsel. In other words, the alarm must not beep twice.

The Measurement of Kindness: How well do you respond to the needs of those around you?

Kindness is measured as the span of time that is allowed to pass between the initial moment you comprehend the need of another (recognizing also the leading of the Spirit to give yourself practically to the situation) and the moment you engage in being a practical answer to that need.

The Measurement of Gentleness: How well do you respond to harsh treatment from others?

Gentleness is measured as the span of time that is allowed to pass between the initial moment that you are poorly treated, offended, or otherwise harmed by another person and the moment in which you choose to respond in an opposite spirit, extend love in return, and choose to forgive their behavior with a blessing-drenched attitude.

The Flesh bait:

• Give it another look
• Give it a little longer
• You deserve this
• God knows you need a little break
• God will forgive this

The Sentinel’s Ready Response to Every Bait of Darkness: “No!”

Eric Ludy: The action of Faith causes Grace to overtake, empower, and renovate the believing life – turning the body of a man into the workshop of God. The result is an alteration of behavior and attitude. The result is that God’s divine behavior begins to manifest and demonstrate itself in and through the consecrated saint of God.

Ludy: First, “I” (Self) must be controlled, submitted, subjected to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Rule of the Spirit of God, and the Authority of the Word of Scripture. Then, it is no longer “I” (Self) who lives (controls the Body) but Christ who lives within the Body. Thusly, “I” is now in its proper position (crucified yet alive – denied and yet yielded) to behave as it ought. It is now able to exert the authority of Jesus Christ over the body, its impulses, its weaknesses, and its fleshly longings. Self is now controlled by Jesus in order to now control the Body as it ought. Notice that it is easily to fall into the trap of emphasizing the “self” prefix of self-control. Yes, the “en” in enkrateia does mean “in” and speaks of believers being controlled by an inward strength. This inward strength ultimately however is the power of the gift of holy spirit in us, not our own intrinsic power. We absolutely cannot control the flesh in our own power…not now and not ever! Don’t fall into this trap. The only One Who can control the fallen, anti-God energy of the flesh is the God! Our part is to walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16) – acknowledging we don’t have the power, crying out to Him in the time of urgent need (when our fleshly impulses feel like they will overwhelm us…which they will without God’s help), trusting in God’s provision of power to walk (for what God commands, He always enables), submitting or yielding to the Spirit’s leading, guiding and empowering and in the end experiencing the victory of Spirit enabled “self” control.

C Norman Bartlett writes that…

By temperance is meant self-control in the broadest and fullest sense of the term. We need to go into training for CHRIST and to keep ourselves spiritually fit at all times, for we never know when a critical test may come or a golden opportunity arise that will call upon our spiritual reserves. To this end we should be prepared to give up whatever mars our witness and hinders usefulness in the Master’s service. Attaining to the best may necessitate abstaining from the rest. The lesser must sometimes be sacrificed to the higher good. (C. Norman Bartlett: Galatians and You: Studies in the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, 1948).

Now is the time for Christians to rise up and cultivate the fruit of the spirit of self-control in their daily lives. For too long it has been lacking and its absence has destroyed countless Christian lives and their witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. Walk by the spirit and exercise self-control as an athlete of the spirit and see the amazing results and transformation of your spiritual life into the image of Christ. Self-control is the vital ingredient to spiritual growth. We live in perilous times where hardly anyone exercises self-control. We must not fall into this trap. God has called us to exercise this spiritual self-control in every detail of our lives so we can live for His glory and fulfill our purpose for this generation.

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