But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Spirit Fruit: Self-Control
There are a lot of members of the “Self” family. Self-abnegation, self-complacency, self-conquest, self-deception, self-defense, self-denial, self-esteem, self-interest, selfishness, self-love, self-reliance, self-respect, and a host of other cousins of the grandfather of all, Self. The word implies controlling the emotions, impulses, and actions of the human spirit. One of the most challenging of the self characteristics is self-control or self-restraint. Shannon Fife said self-restraint is “feeling your oats without sowing them.” The New Testament defines the word as “having power over oneself, temperance, and self-mastery.” The final fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control and yet one of the essential virtues of the Christian life.
Sin derives its nature from the lack of self-control. Eve was tempted to eat the fruit, but the sin was not in the temptation. The tragedy came when she saw the fruit was good to eat and to make her wise, and she refused to stay her feelings. It was not reckless abandonment as some may view sin, but because of her lack of self-restraint, she disobeyed the command of God. Sin was the fruit of her lack of self-control. Eating the forbidden fruit was a sin derived from a failure to control the impulses of the human spirit leading to the fall of man. Centuries later, Jesus would die as a man who completely controlled his emotions and desires and yet without sin. The epitome, perfection, and example of the Son of God was His ability to control self by the fruit of the Holy Spirit fully.
Paul describes self-control as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is not an easily mastered art in the human soul. Trying to rein in the emotions of a volatile spirit requires divine assistance. Exercising control of the human spirit without the Holy Spirit is trying to stop a runaway horse without a rein. It cannot be done. The strength and appeal of a sinful life is the lack of self-control. There are no boundaries when there is no control. Living in the Holy Spirit breaks the uncontrolled spirit of passion to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. A gentle spirit comes from a spirit under control. Showing love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit measured by the power of self-restraint. Without self-control, love becomes hate, joy turns into fear, peace is turned into war, and so forth. All of the attributes of the works of the flesh come from the lack of self-control, such as sexual immorality, idolatry, hatred, outbursts of wrath, and selfish ambitions.
Self-control comes from righteousness and the knowledge of judgment to come. Doing those things that are right in the eyes of God will diminish the desire to serve self. Understanding there will be consequences to actions and emotions left unprotected, the heart will find strength against unrestrained spirits. The fear of punishment is a powerful inducement to measure the actions of self against the wrath of God. From the Holy Spirit, the fruit of self-control keeps the soul safe from the wiles of the devil. Self-control is a learned experience requiring great patience and a willingness to seek the help of the Divine. As a fruit of the Holy Spirit, self-control becomes a badge of identity for the Christian. It is the strength of divine power that controls the passions of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The lack of self-control can only be blamed on one person: self. God’s final judgment is very personal because the only person being judged is self – not a neighbor, friend, or family member. When all humanity gathers for the final day of judgment before the throne of the Lord God, everyone will be standing alone with self to answer for self and whether or not self-controlled the right person. How are you doing self?