Self-Control

Intro: How would you fill in these blanks? The answers I am focused on is the same for each question.

People are unhappy and unfulfilled in their lives because they lack _______________.

People fail to make real lasting change in their lives because they lack______________.

People destroy the lives of the ones they love the most because they lack ______________.

People who love God and have righteous intentions will be lost because they lack ________________.

The apostle Paul was given one opportunity to preach to the Roman governor, Felix, as recorded in Acts 24. What did he talk to him about? Acts 24:25Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” Paul told him about what was right, his accountability toward God, and his need for self-control. I want to talk about self-control this morning.

I. How important is it? If we develop it properly, our lives are better in almost every way. When it is missing, our lives are made more difficult and unfulfilling. How organized our lives are is a result of our self-control. Whether we suffer from life changing addictions or bad habits directly correlates to our self-control. Our reputation as one who keeps their promises, or can be counted on, depends on our self-control. The development of a good work ethic, and possibly our lifetime ability to earn a decent wage, may be determined by our level of self-control. Controlling our tongues, maintaining healthy relationships requires self-control. Our spending habits are determined by how much self-control we have. Even our outlook about life in general is largely influenced by self-control. It is hard to over-emphasize the impact of personal discipline in our daily living. It is a primary factor in shaping who we are and who we will become. Proverbs 16:32 32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

II. Super Fruit: Paul’s two lists in Galatians 5 seem to, not only oppose each other, but to answer each other as well. Gal 5:19-23Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. The works of the flesh can be overcome through the fruit of the Spirit. I read an article recently where a Bible class teacher was comparing the two lists. He gave his teenage pupils a work of the flesh, and asked them to name a fruit of the Spirit that can defeat it. It went like this:

  • “immorality” – self-control
  • “uncleanness” -self-control
  • “outbursts of anger” – self-control
  • idolatry” – self-control
  • “murder” – self-control
  • “drunkenness” – self-control”
  • “revelries”– “self-control”

There are other elements of the fruit of the Spirit that apply and could answer the question. But the applicability of self-control was significant. It can be viewed as the “super fruit” necessary to the defeat of the flesh. Even young disciples understand that the battle we fight against sin is a battle with our own passions, emotions and will.

A. What is “Self-Control?” The word seems to be self-defining. “Control Self.” Webster’s – “restraint exercised over one’s impulses, emotions, and desires.”

1. The original Greek term comes from the root word egkrates (eng-krat-ace’) which means… strong, robust; having power over, possessed of (a thing)… mastering, controlling, curbing, restraining: (from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon) It implies something is controlled or mastered, and here it is the inward person (self). W.E. Vine’s – “the various powers bestowed by God upon man are capable of abuse. The right use demands the controlling power of the will.”

2. Peter also places self-control in a list. 2 Peter 1:5-85 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. He sandwiches it between KNOWLEDGE and PERSEVERANCE. Vine also points out that its position in this list suggests its dependence on knowledge. “it follows “knowledge,” suggesting that what is learned requires to be put into practice.” (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words).It follows perseverance as the exercise of self-control is the foundation of a consistent righteousness.

III. Things We Need to Control: Unfortunately, many people do not even realize they are not in control of themselves. They fail to make the practical applications in everyday living. What must we be in control of to please God?

A. Our thoughts: Some might conclude that one cannot help what enters his mind. Does God expect us to control our thoughts?

1. In Matthew 5, Jesus taught that the thought of lust “in the heart” was enough to condemn the adulterer, even before the outward act itself. (Matthew 5:27-28)

2. Romans 8:5– 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. – “set their minds” literally means to exercise one’s thoughts or affections toward… We are responsible for what we set our minds on.

3. Philippians 4:6-86 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. Paul assures us that God will guard our minds, yet commands us to think on certain things.

4. Paul describes the spiritual warfare we are engaged in as “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5)

5. In a world that is saturated with impure thoughts, easily accessible through TV and the internet, Christians need to work on self-control.

B. Our Eyes: This is connected to the control of our thoughts, as what we allow our eyes to see produces the thoughts that occupy our hearts. Luke 11:33-3633 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

C. Our Emotions: We are a people who are prone to lead with our feelings. God has always expected us to marshal our feelings in favor of what was right. Gen 4:6-7So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” God personally warned Cain against following his emotions (jealousy and anger). He was to rule over them. Eph 4:26-27– “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. V. 3131 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. James 1:19-2119 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Other emotions must also be brought into subjection; disappointment, despair, sorrow, pride, jealousy, etc. Proverbs 16:32 –32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

D. Our Words:This is a hard one to control. James says that our tongue resembles an untamable beast and a raging wildfire. How often have you regretted your words? Proverbs 10:19In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise. In Paul description of the new man he calls on us to “put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:8-9)

E. Our Bodies: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-53 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; As Christians we must “possess our own vessel” – We must control the use of our physical bodies, especially in regards to sexual behavior. Paul’s argument against sexual immorality is based on the view of the body as a temple of God. We must not allow that which is unclean or unholy to desecrate that temple. This is not an argument against eating certain foods, but against sexual immorality. 1 Cor 6:13 – …Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. V. 18-20Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

IV. How Do I Regain or Maintain Self-Control In My Life? This is a task for the Spirit of God. Rom 8:12-14Therefore, brethren, we are debtors — not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Paul is not being mystical here. He is simply telling us that we can only put to death the desires of the flesh through a submission to the Spirit of God. We must listen to His words and be led by Him. Spend time in the word of God and prayer. Ask other Christians to help you and hold you accountable. Do not give up.

But as we close, consider these three things from Joseph’s life. At the most vulnerable age, in the most vulnerable of circumstances, Joseph was under control. He mastered his thoughts, his eyes, his emotions, and his body and was led by the spirit of God to do the right thing.

A. Accept Responsibility: Genesis 39:6-96 Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Joseph could have blamed his brothers, his father, or Potiphar for his situation. He could have justified giving in to her, he took responsibility for doing the right thing. Self-control owns the moment.

B. Alter Your Environment: Genesis 39:10-1210 So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her. 11 But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, 12 that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. He recognized his vulnerability and fled the scene. The Bible repeatedly speaks of fleeing immorality and idolatry. Create separation and put not sinning as the first priority. If your hand sins, cut it off. If you are angry – leave the room; If you are tempted to wrong thoughts, turn off the computer, or change the channel.

C. Acknowledge the Presence of God: Genesis 39:9 – 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” He constantly recognized that God was watching and that he was accountable to God. Self-control was always necessary. Even later, as he contemplated the urge to seek revenge against his brothers, Joseph acted with God in view. Genesis 50:20 – 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. In any temptation, any impulse to lose control, take the time to pray and ask for God’s perspective and God’s strength to stay in control.

Conclusion: True self-control is submitting our will to the control of another –Galatians 2:2020 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Paul put himself under God’s control. This was the truest sense of self-control as a fruit of God’s Spirit. We all need to learn that we need to put our life under God’s control, and when we do, we will be blessed now and for eternity. If you are not a Christian, why not humble yourselves to the Lord and Savior of mankind and put your life under His control?