11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.
As we continue to look at cultivating Christ like character we come to the last, but not least, fruit of the Spirit:
Now each of the different characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit focuses on at least two relationships, how we respond to God and how we treat other people. Joy and faithfulness are expressed vertically while peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness bear directly on how we interact with others. While the juiciest fruit, which is at the center of our spiritual fruit salad, love, has both a horizontal and vertical dimension. But nestled among the Spirit’s produce is this seemingly out-of-place fruit of self-control. This fruit reminds us of a third relationship that of self, for this characteristic of a Christ-follower focus on me as well as my relationships with other people. We need to exercise self-control not only when we are with others but also when we are the only person around. In fact, sometimes the hidden, private moments when no one else is looking is precisely when we need self-control the most. But when we properly exercise the fruit of self-control, it will benefit both us and those around us. In some ways, we could consider this virtue the most important because without self-control the works of the flesh cannot be overcome, and the other elements of the Fruit of the Spirit will be severely limited. The Greeks illustrate self-control with statues of people that were in perfect proportion. To them, self-control was the proper ordering and balancing of the individual. Aristotle once said, “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self.” Plato believed that our animal urges must be governed or else they will produce “a feverish state in the soul, a city of pigs” which knows no limits. The reality is that when we’re not self-controlled, our life is like a pigsty. Many of us are living in a mess instead of living out God’s ministry because of a lack of self-control in our lives. It’s the picture of the prodigal son living in the pig pen because his life was out of control. Now the word translated “self-control” is rendered “temperance” in the King James Version and comes from the word “strength.” It means, “one who holds themselves in.” To be self-controlled means to master one’s desires and impulses. To not live in bondage to the desires, passions and appetites of the flesh. My body is a good servant but a miserable master. Now while “self-control” is a good translation of the Greek word, it’s a bit misleading because it doesn’t take us long to realize that we can’t control ourselves simply through our own willpower or self-determination. Contrary to what the culture tells us, self-control is more than just self-help. Something which Paul points to as he speaks of our dilemma in Romans 7:18: “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.”So, what is self-control? Well Paul provides a fuller meaning in his extended discussion about his ministry in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”In this passage, Paul contrasts exercising control over his body with running “aimlessly” in verse 26. He argues that athletes exercise self-control because they have a clearly defined purpose or goal. They cannot afford to be distracted by every passion or desire that comes along. So, we can define this final fruit of the Spirit as the “control of self by the Spirit of God for the sake of the gospel.” What looks like self-control is actually the result of letting someone else take control. Biblical Self-control is walking by the Spirit, under the Lordship of Christ. A self-controlled life is the result of a Spirit-controlled life. The truth is it’s not really about self, it’s about the work of the Spirit. The only way to live a controlled life is to let Christ be in control of our lives and that starts at the cross. Because you can’t have the Spirit of God without the salvation of God. So, let me ask you are you saved? Has there been a time in your life when you have admitted your sin and cried out to Jesus to save you from your sin? If you have then His Spirit will not only come into your life but take charge of your life. Today we are so afraid to let Christ be in control. But what are we afraid of that the Messiah will mess up our lives? The truth is that when we try to retain control life quickly becomes chaos. But when we let Christ be in control instead of a destructive life we end up living a constructive life. So, who is holding onto the reigns of your life? Because the hand that’s holding the reigns determines the heading of our heart. Who is in control of your life, self or the Spirit?