Trying to Get “Self” Out of Self-Control

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:23 NLT)

On many levels I believe it’s safe to say that for many of us when we first come to Jesus, we’re out of control. Our passions and lusts drive us in directions that rule our lives and can become very hard barriers to cross as we’re seeking to grow in and serve the Lord.

The word used that’s translated “self-control” means “the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his/her sexual appetites.” (Strong’s) It can also be translated “temperance,” which means: “habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions; especially moderation in or abstinence from the use of intoxicating drink.” (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Two of the most predominant desires or passions of a human being are sex and alcohol/drugs. We have basic human needs that center on air to breathe, food, and water, that, when we’re deprived of those things, can give rise to survival instincts that can drive us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. But that’s not what “self-control” is addressing in this passage.

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Desires and passions first and foremost are a battle in our heart and mind. Whether we ever act on them or to what extent, depends on our willingness to submit the authority of our heart and life to the Holy Spirit. Notice in the verse at the top of the page, the Apostle Paul says: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit…self-control!

To say it’s humanly impossible to curb the desires and passions that torment and ravage our lives may be an exaggeration, but not by much. Jesus said in John 10:10 that the devil’s goal is to “steal, kill, and destroy,” and the primary ways that he seeks to accomplish that is by distorting our desires and passions.

Our “bent” as humans is selfishness. We want what we want when we want it. James writes in 4:1-3: “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure.” And these scathing words are written to “believers!”

It reminds me of Paul’s dilemma in Romans 7:24-25 when he wrote: “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord!” He’s our only hope of deliverance and freedom to be all He died to enable us to become.

Remember, Peter is outlining the road to living a holy life, more specifically, he says we must “supplement…knowledge with self-control.” What’s the point? Biblical knowledge without self-control is valueless. Unless and until we can allow the Holy Spirit to enable us to harness our desires and passions, our lives will simply mock our efforts to live a holy life.

It doesn’t matter “what” we know or what we seek to teach others. It only matters “Who” we know. Only through the priceless blood of Jesus can we be cleansed and purified and enabled to live a holy life. It’s always and only by faith – in Jesus!

Blessings, Ed 😊

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