"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."Self-control in this context is not so much me controlling myself as it is me allowing the Holy Spirit to have control of myself. Notice where it is in the order of the fruit of the Spirit. If the other characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit are in order (love, joy, peace, etc.), then it will be so much easier for self-control to happen.
This kind of self-control only comes through the spirit. The other kind of self-control comes through the soul. What's the difference? Man has three parts. The spirit is that core of us that communes with our Creator. The soul is made up of our mind, will and emotions. Our bodies are what we are walking around in. When sin entered the equation with Adam and Eve, their spirits died. Since then, all of us are born in sin. So all of us have a void where our spirits should be until we are "born again" by having that spirit come alive within us when we accept Christ's sacrifice that actually reconciles us to God again. How awesome that Christ's Spirit, the Holy Spirit, actually comes in to make residence within us!
Before that happens, self-control happens in the soul--our mind, will and emotions. This is when it is more me controlling myself, my way, and has tendency to end up in seeking control and manipulation over others as well. What I see happening in this is that the will sinks down, and the mind and emotions rise to the top. When this happens, the person makes decisions with their will based on their thoughts and how they feel. The outcome can be disastrous! That's probably another blog post if we were to get into what influences thoughts which influence feelings. Let's just say without being transformed by the renewing of the mind (as Romans 12 says), self-control ends up being much more bondage than freedom.
If we look back up to the scripture listing the fruit of the Spirit, we notice that it starts with a "but." That is a conjunction. We have to see what precedes it to get the full comparison of these two types of "self-control." Let's look at Galatians 5:19-21:
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."Wow! That's what self-control without the Spirit leads to, and that is bondage. Read over those two scripture passages again (Gal. 5:22-23 and Gal. 5:19-21). Which would you rather have? Which would you rather those with which you have close relationships to have?
How do we do it? How do we get the freedom of self-control that brings peace and joy and not live in the bondage of control and manipulation? We have to look at the verses that precede and that follow the verses we've already read. First, let's look at the preceding verses of Galatians 5:16-18.
"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law."Now let's look at the verses that follow all this by reading Galatians 5:24-25.
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."I pray that reading this post will help to spark a desire deep within the readers to want the kind of self-control that is from Galatians 5:22-23 and not the kind in Galatians 5:19-21. It's an awesome journey that leads to abundant life! One in which you can relax and take deep breaths of relief instead of hiperventalating trying to control your world!
One more thought...remember we are three parts? Spirit, soul and body? Well, our bodies benefit or suffer depending on which self-control you allow yourself to have. There are many reasons for sickness. I venture to say, though, that a big portion of our sickness is due to messed up thoughts, emotions, and wrong decisions. Remember? That's the soulish self-control. Sometimes we pray for people to be well, but we forget to pray for them to let go of the selfish kind of self-control so that they can be well! I pray that for you today! (and me!)