The discipline of self-control

Published 3:55 pm Saturday, March 17, 2018

We climax a two month journey, through the” Fruit of the Spirit” by looking at self-control and the Christian life.  As with the other virtues in Galatians chapter five, the Christian concept is vastly different from a world view of self-control.

Simply stated, self-control in the life of a Christian is “the power of God implanted in the life of the believer enabling them to reflect the spiritual transformation that takes place when they are ‘born again.”  Non-believers who don’t understand the nature and power of God cannot understand how He can function like this in us.

Many people today have a similar view to what the ancient Greeks espoused two thousand years ago regarding the body and soul.  While Christians view them as a united entity under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the Greeks separated them.

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They understood that the body was inherently wicked with no hope of being changed through any kind of religious experience. As a result, they often indulged in every kind of physical or immoral activity without fear that their soul was being affected at all.

Such a view of life doomed people to a high level of frustration.  It was the life changing message of Jesus Christ that gave them hope and a confidence for the future.  It was the virtue of Self-control aided by the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit that ignited their passion for holistic living.

The Christian understanding of self-control is based on the belief that the human body was created by God, with its desires and capabilities.  Even though sin and disobedience corrupted our nature, redemption included a transformation of both spirit and body. The Holy Spirit enables us to exercise self-control thus managing the desires of the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual capacities of our lives.

Some Christians today are reverting back to the philosophical ideas of the ancient Greeks by separating spirit and body.  Because they are separated, immoral and unethical behavior are acceptable because there is no need to practice self-control in the non-spiritual realm.  As a result, many of these individuals tend to exhibit the debauchery of their unbelieving counterparts rather than the Spirit filled and Spirit led Christian we are called to become.  I am reminded that the Bible teaches us that we are to “love God (unconditionally) with our spirit, soul, mind, and body.” In doing so we cannot separate ourselves into compartmentalized states with one aspect of our human nature having no responsibility to the others.

For this reason the Apostle Paul relates self-control to the rigors of athletic training.  Olympic athletes must practice discipline. Their rigorous self-control keeps them in focus with the goal of winning the gold medal.

Paul makes several comments in his letters that he practiced self-control so that he might not fail in his witness.  We need to be reminded of that statement in our pluralistic society.

Self-control begins in the mind, the control center for our body and emotions.  We exercise sound judgment compounded with the wisdom we receive from God in our daily walk with Him.  Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  That is a game changer for contemporary Christians. We must not resemble our unbelieving counterparts and still call ourselves Christian.

Because the desires and passions of our bodies are very real, we exercise discipline rather than indulging in these appetites.  This goes beyond the notorious sins of immorality and lasciviousness, to the realms of gossiping, and idle chatter.

We live in a day that is difficult to practice self-control. For the Christian, it becomes imperative that we exhibit it well so unbelievers can see that it works at every practical area of our lives.  Others need to witness the power of the Holy Spirit working and living through us. God’s grace is always sufficient to strengthen us in our weak moments and enable us to become stronger as we allow the Holy Spirit to guide and control every area of our lives.

We live in a society that lacks self-control.  We can’t withdraw from the world, but we can display the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives by reflecting the Fruit of the Spirit in all we say and do. To simply say that “the Devil made me do it” is not sufficient or acceptable in a day when God promises and provides the virtues to make life “Simply Beautiful.”