October 24th, 2011

I’m becoming convinced that lack of self-control is a big reason why many of us live defeated Christian lives, so I’ve put together a few facts and ideas about this “last but not least” fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5.

  • Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, not a gift of the Spirit. Gifts are free… fruit must be grown. There’s not a “spiritual supermarket” where you can buy it, and in most cases, I don’t think that praying for self-control to fall out of the sky is very effective. To grow fruit in the natural realm, you have to plant the right seeds and put some work into it. The spiritual realm is no different in that regard.
  • Developing self control is not as hard as one might think. The fruit of the Spirit grows when we cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work in transforming us. Self-control doesn’t come easily, but it’s definitely within reach. Unfortunately, many Christians tend to overemphasize teaching about depravity at the expense of teaching about personal holiness.
  • The idea of self-control scares us. When you start telling people that self-control is not just a possibility but an expectation, they sometimes freak out a little. Paul blew Felix’s mind so much teaching about it (and a couple of other hard topics) that Felix sent him away so he could absorb it all: "After several days, Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and summoned Paul. He listened to him talk about faith in Christ Jesus. When he spoke about upright behavior, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became fearful and said, 'Go away for now! When I have time, I’ll send for you.'" (Acts 24:24-25 CEB)
  • Self-control is not the same as letting God control you. I’ve heard people say, "Give God control of your life," but I’m not sure that’s what God wants. God isn’t a dictator who pushes a magic button to take over our free will. I think he’d prefer that we voluntarily bring our lives and purposes into agreement with what he wants to accomplish. God gives us the power we need and he expects us to master our flesh, our appetites, our passions, and even our tongues!
  • We shouldn’t try to control anyone but ourselves. I have a tendency to be a control freak, but God has been helping me get away from that. I’ve done a lot of mentoring, and I’ve found that when I try to push my advice on someone too strongly, it can have disastrous consequences. When God has anointed (or appointed) you to do something, you should figure out where your anointing ends and never cross into "unauthorized" territory. Guilt trips and lectures can easily become manipulation, and although our counseling efforts may be offered with the best intentions, we should guard against attempting to usurp someone else’s free will. Even when we give advice, we must allow people to make their own decisions.

What specific things can we do to develop self-control?


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