Today I’d like you to think about self-control. A Christian is expected to exercise self-control, no matter what comes our way in life. In our times of difficulty, and in our times of sadness, and in our times of anger, and even in our times of celebration.
Self-control, is one of the “fruits of the Spirit”, listed in Galatians 5, verses 22 & 23. It says in those verses; “But the fruit of the Spirit is, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control..”
And I suppose that some of those other “fruits” that are listed there, might be dependent on how much self-control we have. For example, longsuffering, or in other words patience; I’m quite sure patience requires a lot of self-control; Otherwise we’ll become impatient. And impatience can lead to.. impulsiveness, and unforgiveness, and intolerance, and anger, and condemnation, and probably a few other things that aren’t so good.
And what about faithfulness? Don’t you have to have a good bit of self-control, to remain faithful, under any and all circumstances? And I think that you’d also have to possess a good bit of self-control, in order to conduct yourself with meekness, and with kindness, and peaceably, and with love. You simply must control yourself, in order to remain faithful to God.
And it seems that most of the deeds of the flesh, that are listed in Galatians 5, verses 19 & 20, are quite the opposite of self-control. Things like, strife, and jealousies, and wraths, and drunkenness, and revellings. Do you know what revellings are? They’re basically wild parties. No limits on what goes on. That’s what revelling is. Actually in ancient times, it referred to drunken festivals.
Ephesians 5:18 says; “And do not be drunken with wine, which is riot, (some versions say, “which is excess”) but be filled with the Spirit.” If we fill ourselves with the Spirit, we’ll be filled with self-control.
But self-control isn’t something that comes natural to a human being, it’s not a natural instinct. Our physical side has an animal nature, always looking out for our own interests and our own way. Self-control is pretty much like manners, they have to be taught, and learned, and so does self-control. And of course that’s exactly why we have the bible, to teach us self-control. And I suppose you could say that the bible teaches us manners also.
Like in Philippians 2, verses 3 & 4; “..But in lowliness of mind, each one counting the other as better than himself. Not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.” That’s manners, and it’s respect, and it’s self-control; Letting others go first, giving them priority, considering them as more important than self.
Why Exhibit Self-Control ?
Why should we learn self-control? I suppose the obvious reason would be, because the bible tells us to. But there’s a reason that God tells us to learn, and to exhibit self-control. Our own self-control, or lack of it, could very well make the difference between heaven and hell. Self-control, is how we put to death, the deeds of the flesh. It’s how we overcome our natural “animal instincts”.
There’s a war going on isn’t there? God says there is. There’s a war going on inside of each and every one of us, between the spirit, and the flesh. Between our animal instincts, and our desire to please God. There’s a war going on, concerning our salvation.
Romans 8:13 says; “For if you live to the flesh, you must die. But if by the Spirit, you put to death, the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.” Listen to what verses 6 thru 9 have to say; “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; Because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be.”
“And they that are in the flesh, cannot please God. But, you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”
So then the Spirit of God must dwell in you, if you would be saved. And there’s only one way for His Spirit to dwell in you, and that is through your obedience to His word; And the only way for you to be obedient to His word, is for you to learn and exhibit, self-control.
Self-control, to stop you from doing the things that are against the will of God; In other words, to stop you from being controlled by your animal instincts. And self-control, to make sure that you do, the things that God commands of us.
Doing the will of God, is an exercise in self-control. But how can we do it? How can we learn, to have the self-control that we need, to do God’s will? Well, the bible says, that we learn self-control, by learning to love.
What do I mean by that? Well, Jesus said, in John 14, verse 15; “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” In other words, If you truly love God, your love of God, will give you, the motivation that you need, to exercise the self-control that you need, to save your soul.
The Love of God Constrains Me
Listen to what the bible says, in 2 Corinthians 5, verses 14 & 15; “For the love of Christ CONSTRAINS US, because we thus judge, that since one died for all, therefore all died. And He died for all, that they should no longer live unto themselves, but unto Him who for their sakes, died and rose again.”
Now those verses might be self-explanatory, but I’m going to explain them anyway. And I’ll begin with the opening statement; “The love of Christ constrains us..” The love of Christ, refers to OUR love for Christ, not Christ’s love for us. It is because of the fact that we love Christ, that we are constrained.
Some versions say; “The love of Christ controls us..” And some say; “The love of Christ compels us..” But no matter how you say it, the point is, that it’s our love for God, and for Christ, that makes it possible for us to have the self-control we need, to live a Christian life. Without self-control, you cannot live a Christian life. Without a love for God, you cannot live a Christian life.
Consider the meaning of that word “constrain”. To be constrained, means to be “pressed from all sides”. To be “held together tightly”. Your conduct, and your behavior, is restricted, and governed, by your love for Christ.
Listen to that verse once again; “The love of Christ constrains us, because we thus judge, that since one died for all, therefore all have died.” That’s the conclusion that we as Christians should come to; That since Christ died for all of us, all of us must die right along with Him. And what do we die to? We die to our own lusts and to our animal instincts.
Listen to the rest of the verse; “And He died for all, that they should no longer live to themselves, but unto Him, who for their sakes, died and rose again.” Because Christ died for us, we are obligated to die unto ourselves, and live unto Him.
And that’s exactly what Paul said in Galatians 2, verse 20; “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.” He gave Himself up for us, and if we truly love Him, we will give ourselves up for Him. Our love for Him, will give us the self-control that we need, to keep His commandments.
We’ll be constrained, we’ll be held tightly together, so that when the temptations confront us, we’ll simply say; I just can’t do that; My love for Christ won’t allow it. You simply must remain faithful to Him.
Isn’t it just like your love, for your husband or your wife? If you have the love that you should, it won’t allow you to be unfaithful. And it’s just like your love for your children. You can’t do anything willingly, to harm your children; Your love for them won’t let you. You’re constrained, you can’t do it. That’s exactly how our love needs to be for Christ. You can’t willingly sin, if you love God, and if you love Christ. The temptation comes, and you say; I can’t do that. I just can’t.
And closely linked to our constraint, and our self-control, is our moderation. Philippians 4, verse 5 says; “Let your moderation be known unto all men; The Lord is at hand.” When it says, “the Lord is at hand” it means.. “the Lord is near”. It doesn’t mean that His coming is near, but rather that the Lord is always near to us; He’s there for us. Remember when Paul was addressing the people of Athens, after he was observing all their idols? He said to them, in Acts 17, verse 27; “..that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope after Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”
And He’s especially near to the Christian. We’re told in Ephesians 2, verse 13; “But now in Christ Jesus, you that once were far off, are brought near, by the blood of Christ.”
“Let your moderation be known to all men; The Lord is near.”
That verse is kind of saying; Let everyone see that you’ve got yourself under control. Trust in the Lord, He’s always near to us, He’s “at hand”, and He’s there for you. The next verse, Philippians 4, verse 6 says; “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known unto God.” Don’t get all excited, don’t get all worked up; Take it down a notch, and let your moderation be seen. You might say, let your self-control be seen. Trust in the Lord, because He’s always here for you.
There’s actually just a couple of translations that use the word “moderation”. Some of the other words used here are.. gentleness, reasonableness, fairness, and forbearance.
Listen to what it says in Colossians 3, verses 12 thru 15; “Put on therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving each other.” Once again, you can see self-control being at the core of all those godly traits.
Do you know what “forbearing one another” means? To put it pretty plainly and candidly, it means putting up with one another’s faults. And we’ve all got our faults don’t we? To forbear, means.. to “bear with”, and to “endure”, to “hold up”, like in holding up under pressure, or trial, or difficulty. To “suffer with”, to “have patience with”.
“Forbearing and forgiving one another”, the scripture says. That takes patience, and it takes self-control, and it takes humility, and most of all, I suppose it takes love. Love for one another, and love for God and Christ.
“For the love of Christ constrains us..”
Hopefully. you will feel constrained, to do God’s will, in everything. In becoming a Christian, and in remaining a faithful Christian.
Allow yourself to truly “hear” His word, and to truly “believe” every word. First and foremost, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; And then confess your faith; Go around telling people about your faith in Christ; And truly repent of your sins; And be baptized for the forgiveness of those sins, so that you can be added to His kingdom, and so that you can have the promise of eternal life, at the resurrection.
And then of course allow your love for Christ, to give you the self-control you need, to remain faithful unto death.
God is calling. How will you respond? The invitation is yours.