By Susan Nero
Self-Control is a Fruit of the Spirit and is the change in our character that comes about because of the Holy Spirit’s work in us.
A couple of weeks ago I quoted Paul’s command to the church at Ephesus: …. “be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)
Just a few verses before this Paul said, “Be very careful then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (vs 15-17)
It looks like Paul was saying we need to keep on being controlled by the Spirit if we want to live wisely, to understand the Lord’s will for our lives, and to make the most of every opportunity. If we are not Spirit-controlled, we will miss out on being what God wants us to be.
So here is a question: If the Bible makes it clear that being controlled by the Spirit is so vital, what prevents so many of us from fully surrendering ourselves to the Holy Spirit?”
LOSING CONTROL AND GAINING POWER
We are naturally concerned about self-preservation, so giving up control can be very scary.
The irony of Spirit-filled living is that we have to give up power in order to gain a greater power. How many times have we come to a place where we struggled to do something so we just try harder? Like having the self-discipline to read our Bible more or pray longer? How about trying harder to love an unlovely person? or to be bold when we feel afraid? Trying harder has absolutely never worked out for me!
ROMANS 8:9 “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit of God living in you.”
Quoting Jim Cymbala, “Christianity is not a self-effort religion but rather one of power - the ability and might of the Spirit. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13) The Spirit is the only one who can produce self-discipline, love, boldness and self-control. But to do so, He has to control us daily.”
Paul’s last letter was written to Timothy. “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you….” “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7)
Paul wanted Timothy to fan the flames of the Spirit. He warned Timothy not to neglect them, but to stir up the fire and keep it going. To prevent the fire from being extinguished; he was to give attention to the Spirit’s work in him.
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT (3)
When we are born again we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; and become a new creation, a new woman, because a spiritual seed is placed inside our hearts. When cultivated and grown this seed blossoms into a tree that bears spiritual fruit.
Last week, Diane gave us a great parable or example of God’s work in the believer’s heart. It was the Parable of the Sower. She described the Father as the Master Gardner or Sower; the Son as the Word or Seed and the Holy Spirit as the “field hand” working the seed.
As we previously realized during the study in the “Helper”; we are reminded that we have a constant need to be filled with the Spirit of God in order to live and grow in holiness. We need Him to continually “till,weed and amend” (change/convict) our hearts in order to reach the purest holiness, or as Diane said “peak fertility.” She also warned that “He has to weed and water more than once, in fact continuously.”
How do we become more fruitful in our self-control? By asking for and receiving the Spirit’s filling every “moment”/continuously.
IT IS NOT HOW MUCH MORE OF HIM WE HAVE, BUT OF HOW MUCH MORE CONTROL WE ARE WILLING TO GIVE HIM!
One commentary expressed it this way: “The amount of fruit you bear is dependent on how much you tend to the seed and grow it….meaning how close you are to God; how much control you are surrendering to the Spirit and how much you are obeying His Word.”
IN WHAT WAY IS SELF-CONTROL A FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT?
The first thing to note is the fruit of the Spirit refers to a general outcome or result. The result of the Holy Spirit working in a person’s life is love, joy and all the rest. The second thing is that these “fruits” are the results of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of believers. They are not the product of hard work or self-improvement. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit, but it is still the Holy Spirit doing the work in us.
Self-control as a fruit of the Spirit is a bit of a paradox. How can the ability to control oneself be the result of being controlled by someone else?
The Bible teaches that, in a certain sense, the unbeliever has no free will. There are influences beyond his control. Unbelievers are “slaves to sin.” (ROMANS 6:16-20)
The sinful nature causes us to choose selfish, harmful behaviors, and our fallen world aids the process. Without Christ, one is not free to completely release their thoughts and actions from sinful influences and simply choose what is good.
As “born again believers” we need only refer to:
“We know that our sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”
OR ROMANS 6:22 “But now you are free from the power of sin and can become slaves of God. Now you can choose to do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.”
That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. As He works in a believer’s life, the fruit, or result, is that the believer is able to pull away from the sinful nature and make a truly independent choice. That is the first step of “self-control”, to submit (or give control) to the Holy Spirit. His Word brings life. The Spirit allows us to be what we were designed to be; to display the glory we were created with. His Spirit produces self-control in us, the ability to say “no” to fleshly desires and choose to live in moderation and wise constraint. Indulging in sin enslaves and destroys; Spirit led “self-control” frees us to live for Christ.
“Believers have the power through the indwelling Holy Spirit to “exercise self-control” (self discipline).”
God said: “Today I have given you the CHOICE between life and death, between blessings and curses. Oh! that you would CHOOSE life, so that you and your descendants might live!”
“…If you, CHOOSE to obey the Lord…your life will be spared and all will go well with you.”
“Tell all the people, this is what the Lord says: “Take your CHOICE of life or death.
In conclusion I would like to refer to 2 Scripture verses:
2 CORINTHIANS 3 16-18:
“But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord - who is the Spirit - makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.”
Thankfully, God gives us His Spirit to:
“Equip us with everything good, that we may do His will. He is working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.” Amen
“WHERE DOES SELF CONTROL COME IN? EVERYWHERE”
It takes self-control to show true godly love instead of lust
and infatuation—to love others not as the world loves, but as
Christ loved(s) us.
“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given
Himself for us …”
“Love your enemies…”
It takes self-control to love your “enemies”, to pray for those
who persecute you. This cannot be done in your own effort.
It takes self-control to have godly joy when we are facing a
difficult situation in life.
“Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing
that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
We are tested to the breaking point of our abilities so we
will learn to trust in the Holy Spirit instead of ourselves.
It takes self-control to get along with others and make peace
instead of constantly getting into conflict.
“The wisdom from above is first above pure. It is also peace loving…” “And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
It takes self-control to patiently bear with others rather than quickly condemning them.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:14
“It is very hard to be patient with all.”
“And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.”
It takes self-control to not automatically look out for yourself, but kindly look out for other people.
“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others too.”
“She opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness.”
REACT VS. RESPOND
It takes self-control to do good; to go through the narrow gate toward life rather than the evil, wide gate toward destruction.
MATTHEW 7: 13-14
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to destruction is broad and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only the few find it.”
“CHOOSE this day who you will serve!” CHOOSE GOODNESS
“Oh the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.”
“But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”
“They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”
“But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.”
“They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly.”
“For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.”
It takes self-control to be faithful and not have our faith shattered by the mocking of scoffers or be rejected by family, friends or co-workers.
“For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.”
It takes self-control to be a gentle servant of the Lord, showing compassion and mercy with real love as God does with us.
2 TIMOTHY 2:24
“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone…and be patient with difficult people.”
“Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Our teacher is the Holy Spirit, our example is Jesus our Lord.