The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-control

Well, this is the last message on the Fruit of the Spirit. It has been a great summer and a great study series. I have learned a lot and I pray that those who have followed along with these messages have been blessed to learn more about living a Spirit led life. I am a bit sad to see this series end. It reminds me of the armor of God series of last summer. If you have been following along, these links will be a review for you. If you have not been following along, these links will be a way to catch up and get into the flow of the series.

In the previous article from this series, we looked at gentleness, focusing on Jesus and Moses. Both were very powerful leaders, yet, that power was under control and they were both useful to the Lord. If we are followers of Christ, we have been given that same Spirit of gentleness. We go from being useless to God, ourselves, and the people around us, to useful to God, the people around us, and ourselves. This week’s lesson is about self-control, something that we do not have apart from Christ. Our sin nature makes us predisposed to a lack of self-control. I have written about this in another article entitled, “Breaking addiction’s devastating grip“. In order to be able to have self-control, we need the Holy Spirit to allow us to have self-control. Let’s take a look at what self-control is and how we can implement it in our daily lives.

I. Definition

The word translated as “self-control” is the Greek word “egkrateia“. It means having the power to overcome one’s appetites. The root word is “egkrates“. It means the ability to master something powerful, robust, even possessed. Because of our sin nature, we are mastered by our appetites, our lusts. Only when we come to Christ and accept Him as Lord and Savior do we receive the Holy Spirit which gives us the ability to implement self-control and overcome our sin nature. The Spirit gives us the ability to master something powerful. The Bible teaches us that the way to overcome sin nature and show self-control, is not to stand tall in the face of temptation. Instead, the secret to success is to flee from temptation and cry out to God for help in the midst of temptation. I would like to examine some Biblical passages that deal with two kinds of people; those who do not flee from temptation and those who do flee from temptation. One group does not practice self-control while, the other group does show self-control.

II. Negative Examples

Adam and Eve – God created Adam and Eve and gave them specific instructions on how to obey Him. In Genesis 3, we find Eve’s story. The first thing that we see about Eve is that she did not run away when the serpent questioned God’s Word and God’s motives. By not fleeing danger, she sets herself up to fall. This was how to show self-control, by running away from danger. There is a clear progression in this text as to what happens next. She sees and what she sees gets into her mind. Once in her mind, she is tempted and begins to desire what she saw. Once she has thought about this thing in her mind long enough, it leads her to action. She sins and encourages her husband to do the same. Immediately after sinning, they try to hide what they had done and they are afraid of God. They did not show self-control. They were overcome by temptation.

Achan – His story is very similar to Adam and Eve’s. He was given very specific instructions on what to do and what not to do. When temptation came Achan’s way, it stirred up his sin nature, a nature that Adam and Eve did not have before they sinned. At this point, Achan should have shown self-control and run away from the temptation. He did not. He allowed the temptation to remain and he began to dwell on it. Once Achan’s sin nature was aroused and fed, it overcame him. He took what he was not supposed to take and then he tried to cover up what he did. Achan did not show self-control.

David – His story has some similar elements to Achan’s and to Adam and Eve’s story. As King of Israel, he had to write his own hand written copy of the Law and then read from that Law every single day. David knew that adultery was wrong. David knew that murder was wrong. David knew that lying was wrong. He ended up doing all of these things because he did not practice self-control. He did not run away from temptation. David was supposed to be at war but he chose to be lazy and stay at home. He slept until the afternoon and was walking around his rooftop looking for something to do. He spied a young, beautiful woman bathing. David should have run away at this point. He did not. He looked at her and then inquired about who she was. He discovered that she was married to one of his soldiers, Uriah. He takes her, sleeps with her, and then tries to cover it up. He lies to Uriah and ends up having him murdered. David tried to cover up what he had done, just like Adam and Eve and Achan had done.

Amnon – He is David’s son. Amnon has a half-sister with whom he is in love. It is more like lust than love. His sin nature is tempted and stirred up. He does not flee from this temptation. He does not show self-control. He ends up raping his sister and then tries to cover it up. He ends up being slain by his own half brother, Absalom, Tamar’s full brother.

All of these examples have the same things in common. They did not show self-control because they did not run away from temptation. Are you like they are? Do you show self-control by running away from temptation? Let’s take a look at some positive examples of people who did show self-control.

III. Positive Examples

Joseph – He was a man, a young man just like all young men. He had a sin nature like all of us. While a teenager, he was taken prisoner and enslaved in Egypt. He had pretty much no chance of getting married. He was a handsome young man. The man of the house’s wife, an attractive, probably younger woman, came on to Joseph daily, asking him to sleep with her. This did not just happen once. It happened daily. Joseph was different from the previous examples because he ran away from that temptation. He was able to show self-control because of his plan to run away. He had already made his mind up that he would not hang around temptation.

Jesus – Although Jesus did not have a sin nature like we do, He was tempted just like we are. Jesus stood strong in the face of temptation and leaves an example for us to follow. We find His example in Matthew 4. Did you notice how Jesus did battle with the enemy? Satan wanted Jesus to doubt the Word of God. This sounds very similar to the ordeal between Satan and Eve. In Genesis 3, Satan asks, “Did God really say . . . ?”. God had already spoken clearly on the subject but the enemy tries to cast doubt. Look at his challenge to Jesus, “if you really are the Son of God . . . “. Jesus’ response is awesome, “it is written”. It is in God’s Word. Jesus quotes from the Old Testament. Satan pick up on this and responds with, “it is also written”. Satan’s quote from the Bible is twisted and taken out of context. God does say that He will protect His people but it is when they are being attacked and not when they are trying to harm themselves. Jesus responds with the Word used correctly to counter act Satan’s misuse. Finally, Satan wants Jesus to worship him instead of God. Satan wanted Adam and Eve to worship him instead of God. They failed the test. Jesus passed by quoting what God’s Word says. In order to do battle with the enemy, we must know the Word of God and know It properly so that we can use It in every circumstance. When we have to face temptation, this is our way to overcome our sin nature and practice self-control.

Joseph and Mary – These two people had to show tremendous self-control. Joseph and Mary were engaged to be married. Mary is chosen by God to be the mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Joseph is commanded to leave her a virgin until Jesus is born. So, for close to 9 months, Joseph and Mary are married and they must abstain from sexual relations. It is hard enough to abstain when you are not married and it is sinful to have sexual relations. It is worse when you are married and have every right to have sexual relations without sinning. Joseph had to show self-control. Mary had to show self-control. They both had to trust the Lord. There is no place in Scripture that says Mary was to remain a virgin after the birth of Christ. Those who claim that are not following the clear teachings of Scripture. According to the Scriptures, Joseph and Mary were to enjoy the joys and oneness of sex within the bonds of marriage.

What about you, my dear friend, are you able to practice self-control? Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to practice self-control and overcome your sin nature. Do you run away from temptation? When you have to face temptation, do you know the Word well enough to be able to use It to protect you? If you are a believer, you have the potential to be like either Adam, Eve, Achan, David, and Amnon or Joseph, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Which group do you fit in? May the Lord help us learn to practice self-control in all situations in life.

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One comment on “The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-control

  1. Pingback: Covenant, Lesson 11: Living in the light of the New Covenant | Erik and Elena Brewer's Weblog

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