Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Power of Self-Control

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control“ - Galatians 5:22

I am truly stubborn.  I don’t say that out of pride, but humility.  I’m stubborn in the worst way – the strong-willed child of God way.  I know to do good, and don’t do it.  What I often do is let my inner me overcome the me I want to be.

This morning I was reading in Judges how the Israelites moved into the Promised Land, and within one generation they turned to idols, and forsake God.  I sat here thinking, “How could they? What was it they saw in these idols that God did not give them?”  The answer was immediate. 

Rebellion feels good.  Admit it – that’s why most of us were troublesome in our teen years.  Even now, those tiny things we hide are our pleasures.  Sneaking the piece of chocolate while we diet. Taking a break from social media but checking it anyway.  Telling a lie just for the sake of telling it.  We love to rebel. It’s in our nature.

Jesus warned us that our will would get in the way of our work for Him.  Matthew 26:41 he said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  The spirit He speaks of is with a small “s” – meaning our spirit – not the Holy Spirit.  While we’re willing to do good, our flesh is so very weak and inclined to sin.

There’s a battle raging inside every child of God.  It’s the battle of wills – God’s will for you, or your own will.  Paul describes it in detail in Romans 7:15-25 (NLT):
“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.  But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.   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.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.   I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

I know that’s a brain twister when we first read it with 10 Do’s and 5 Don’ts, but Paul explains the battle inside so well!  The condensed version is this:  Yes, there’s a battle of wills inside us. But through the Holy Spirit given by Jesus Christ at salvation, we can be free from the chains of sin. That Holy Spirit gives us a fruit called self-control.  Self-control is our weapon against temptations. 

I used to pray that God would give me more love, the first fruit of the Spirit. But now I realize that if I have self-control, I can become a fruity Christian!  I am able to love when my nature wants to hate, make peace when I indeed want to lash out, be longsuffering instead of spiteful and grudgeful, be kind (even at Wal-Mart!), show good to others, be faithful to my God’s will, be gentle instead of rambunctious like a bull in a china store!  With self-control, I can be obedient to God’s will.

Lord, grant us an abundance of self-control! Holy Spirit remind us with that internal nudge when we are going off track that we have control – we just have to surrender, and choose to do what is right.  Remind us of the blessings, the fruits that can be born from our obedience in our lives.  And Father, thank you for your undying love and patience. Amen.

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