A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Proverbs 25:28)
Walls around the cities of old provided protection from invaders without and freedoms for the people within. Many cities today still have some of those ancient walls and provide a stunning visual reminder of that protection. Lugo, Spain, Xi’an, China, and Jerusalem, Israel are some of the few beautiful walled cities remaining in the world.
What do city walls have to do with us today? I can’t help but think of the disorder we continue to see play out in our country and what Proverbs 25:28 has to say about it. Walls around New York City, Minneapolis or Houston won’t stop the looting and violence happening there, but self-control by God’s Spirit could. Just like walls around a city provide protection from without, self-control provides a man or woman protection from within.
Self-control is the last aspect of the Spirit’s fruit that we’ll examine. Let’s meditate today on how to cultivate self-control in our daily lives.
The Apostle Paul wrote the most about self-control in the New Testament. Peter mentioned it twice (1 Pet. 4:7; 2 Pet. 1:6), but Paul either wrote about it or is mentioned talking about it 15 times. When he was on trial before Felix, Paul’s message was about “righteousness, self-control and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:25). Paul mentioned self-control as crucial for single and married believers (1 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Corinthians 7:9), essential for older men (Titus 2:2), younger men (Titus 2:6) elders (1 Timothy 3:2), women (1 Timothy 2:9) and every believer (Galatians 5:23)! Self-control is crucial for Christian growth and helps to enhance every other aspect of the Spirit’s fruit.
But how hard it is to exercise self-control! When someone comes to you with the same problem for the tenth time it’s hard to have self-control when you know they won’t listen to sound advice. It’s hard when you see a sweet dessert and take an extra piece… or two. Some are in crucial need of self-control so they don’t use drugs, look at pornography or turn to drunkenness for false support. You know and I know that we need self-control. But sometimes our inner lives feel like the riots we see happening on the streets: our desires running amok, causing trouble, and fighting against our better desires. What can we do to grow in self-control?
1) Remember that self-control is a gift; a Fruit of the Spirit. God purposed when He saved you to make you a self-controlled person. But He has not left you alone to become that. Jesus our Lord was self-controlled always. He won the battle against all temptation. When He said “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” He didn’t give in to the weakness of the flesh. But for all the lack of self-control you are guilty of, Jesus died. For the weaknesses of your flesh, Jesus suffered and died. This is our ground of hope, and we can only cultivate self-control when we come to Jesus in faith, recognizing that in Him and by His strength we will grow in self-control.
2) Self-control is also a fight. The fight is not against other people but against our own wrong desires. Take this encouragement to get in the fight! Long ago a post by John Piper called A.N.T.H.E.M. encouraged me when I had seemingly no control over my feelings of anxiety and depression. Looking up the article you’ll see that it’s about combating lust, but the solutions Piper mentions are helpful no matter what your lack of self-control. Above all, get in the fight.
3) Self-control is a community project. I’m struck by Paul’s continued appeal for self-control from everyone in the church – every age group, each gender, regardless of marital status. It is crucial that we bring areas where we are out of bounds and have no self-control into the light. One of the indispensable ways to do this is to open up to a trusted friend who will hold you accountable and point you to the hope of Jesus Christ. Remember that article I shared above? I first got that from a friend that I had confided in about my battle with depression and anxiety. He was always faithful to pray for me and urge me to keep fighting. Where are you walking in the dark with no self-control? Who should you talk to about that today?
Friends, above all, seek the Lord for self-control. It is His desire that you learn to rule your spirit, and He will produce the fruit of self-control in you.
A song in closing? How about Give Me Self-Control. This is a kids song from Sovereign Grace Ministries that we’ve listened to as a family on car rides. “Lord, I’m needy, so I’m pleading: Come and fill me; help me to be self-controlled.”
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control