2 Peter 1:2-11, 1 Cor. 9:24-27,
The mention of the phrase ‘self-control’ undoubtedly brings to mind different images for people depending on their particular circumstances. Many probably think of combating dominating habits that can range from the simple to the more complex and debilitating e.g. too much food, drink, drug abuse, sexual immorality, anger and exaggeration.
Regardless, self-control is very much an important part of maturity. One of the basic characteristics of infancy is a lack of self-control.
Let us look into God’s word and see what kind of self-control God desires of us.
Self-Control is allowing God to be in control of your will and heart and seeking His Spirit to enable us. It is then we will know what not to do and guard the areas we are weak in. This allows us to have discipline and restraint with obedience to God and others.
Self-Control as the fruit of the Spirit is of great importance in Christian life. For without self-control, we would not be able to become good ambassadors of Christ. If we don’t have self-control, we will die and be lost. This folly make our lives become a defenseless city with broken-down walls; we easily fall prey to temptations such as adultery, fornication, quarreling or drinking which may result in losing the joy of our salvation which has been given to us through the precious sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
Fundamentally, self-control is the ability or power to rule or regulate one’s personal life so that we are neither driven nor dominated, as the apostle John puts it, by the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, or the pride of life (1 John 2: 16)
Self-control means to be in control of one’s attitudes or thought processes, desires or passions, and patterns or habits so they do not dictate one’s behavior. Speaking scripturally, self-control is a matter of the control of the self-life from within by spiritual means, i.e., by God’s weapons of spiritual warfare as described in the Word of God (2 Cor. 10: 3-5).
1. Why is it necessary for us to pursue self-control?
The New Testament has three major purposes for it.
- a) Self Discipline: In 1 Corinthians Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:25. “Everyone who competes in the games practices what is referred to in Greek terms as enkrateia. They go into strict training. The athletes in the Corinthian games discipline their bodies. They do it to obtain a laurel wreath and the adulation of the crowds. How much more then, says Paul, should we be willing to discipline ourselves in order to obtain a heavenly crown?
- b) To stand in the way of Fruit of the Flesh: Self-control is sometimes presented as a virtue in its own right. That’s the case in Galatians where it is given as the ninth fruit of the Spirit.
- c) It is a consequence of our faith in Christ: Thirdly, self-control is sometimes presented as a consequence of faith in Jesus Christ. A good example of this is Acts 24:24-25 where Paul is presenting the gospel to the Roman Governor Felix.
We might say, in summary, that self-control is the act of agreeing with the Holy Spirit by bringing my actions into line with his guidance.” Or as Richard Foster puts it: “self-control is the way of disciplined grace”.
2. How can we pursue to induct Self-control in our daily lives?
(a) When Possible, Avoid Temptation
We can’t always avoid exposure to sin. “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5: 9-10). Since we can’t avoid every sinful influence, we must learn to live in the world without allowing sin to have a negative impact on us.
It’s important for us to avoid temptation, thereby decreasing the pressure to turn away from God. “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15: 33).
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5: 21-22).
We greatly decrease temptation by associating with good people. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to avoid exposure to everything that’s sinful. In such instances, we must be strong enough to control our thoughts, so we’re not tempted.
(b) Are You In Control OR The Holy Spirit?
As Christians, we have the ability to control our thoughts, in obedience to God’s commands.
“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3: 2).
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4: 8).
The problem occurs when we don’t control our thoughts.
Paul wrote in Galatians 5: 16, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Can we allow the Holy Spirit to control our thoughts & action?
C. Don’t look back
If we are to grow in the area of self-control, we can’t let our past mistakes persuade us that we will never live an overcoming life. Some let their failures paralyze them and they quit trying.
Paul said, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal.” [Philippians 3: 13 – 14]
(d) Enslave Yourself to Righteousness & Abhor Evil
We make ourselves slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness.
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6: 16-18)
(e) Set Your Mind on Things Above
As slaves of righteousness, we seek the things above, setting our minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (Colossians 3: 1-2).
Therefore, we “consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Colossians 3: 5).
3. What are the devastating consequences for the lack of Self-control?
Another motivation for self-control that must never be ignored involves the law of the harvest. Simply put, we reap according to what we sow. There are always consequences to our behavior. To ignore this truth is to be deceived or extremely foolish. Paul states the principle shortly:
Galatians 6: 7-9 Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, (8) because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. (9) So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up.
Regarding the consequences of a lack of self-control, we have the sober warnings of Scripture:
1 Timothy 6: 7-10 “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.”
Titus 3: 3 “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”
Conclusion: We should avoid sin whenever possible. But we live in the world, and it’s impossible to avoid all exposure to sin. As Christians, we control our thoughts and avoid temptation by enslaving ourselves to righteousness, abhorring evil, and setting our minds on things above, considering ourselves dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed.
Pastor Oluwayimika Anibaba
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