Self-control. Peter tells us to supplement our faith with—among other things—self-control, which can be defined as temperance or discipline or abstinence. Although it is an admirable trait, few really want to obtain this one.  It indicates giving up things and restraining ourselves from giving in to things. I don’t believe I have ever heard a sermon about self-control. Solomon (a very wise man) wrote that “a man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”1  Hmm. 🤔 In other words, a man with no boundaries. That’s a dangerous man. 

Interestingly enough, self-control is really about liberation though, because creating boundaries ironically gives us freedom. For if we do not have control of our desires, they have control of us. In fact, we will be enslaved by them. 😦 Freedom is the ability to say no. But how do we access the power to say no? Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians. He writes, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”2 Hmm. 🤔 I’m a bit confused. Is the Spirit keeping us from doing the bad things we want to do or is the flesh keeping us from doing the good things we want to do? Perhaps both. After all, they “are opposed to each other.” At any rate, we do possess the power to resist the flesh. It is when we “walk by the Spirit.”

So, how do we do that? The Spirit, the holy Spirit of Jesus, lives in us and Paul gives us a list of the “fruit of the Spirit,” and included in that list is “self-control.”3 Self-control, then, is a fruit. As we allow the Holy Spirit to live more and more in us, this fruit begins to blossom and grow. And Jesus tells us how this happens, but let me warn you—his words are hard to hear! 😯 He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.”4That sounds good, but there’s more. Listen carefully. “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes.”5So . . . let me see if I understand this correctly. If we do not bear fruit, we are cut off, and if we bear fruit we are cut down? 🤪 But pruning is the perfect analogy because there are several reasons to prune something. Pruning gets rid of dying branches, stimulates new growth, and revitalizes plants.

Growing in Christ is a process and sometimes we will not understand why it hurts so much, but it is always so that we “may bear more fruit.”5  And his promise is this: “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”4  Which brings us back to self-control. We cannot have self-control without the help of the Spirit. It might be the hardest of the things to manage on Peter’s list. You see, if we lose control of ourselves—our tongues (our temper and our language), our bodies (our lust for immoral things and food and drink), even our minds (our attitudes and our judgment)—we not only are miserable and enslaved—we jeopardize our testimony.

The key, then, is to abide in Christ. We are to immerse ourselves in his Word and “walk by his Spirit”6 by praying through our days. His presence and his power are enough. When Paul was struggling, he prayed to God for relief and God’s answer was this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”7  So, when we recognize, admit, and confess our weaknesses (like our inability to control our desires), we can rest assured that God’s power will rescue us. And here’s the best part. Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”8  We serve a wonderful God. 🙂

1Proverbs 25:28    2Galatians 5:16-17    3Galatians 5:22    4John 15:5    5John 15:2    6Galatians 5:16    72 Corinthians 12:9    8John 15:7

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