The Spirit’s fruit of self-control
Self-control is the fruit of the Holy Spirit that enables us to deny self. This is not the ability to control ourselves, but it is the freedom from being controlled by the desires of the flesh. Through divine enablement we are empowered to say no to our personal desires. Here, we have been granted the divine ability to fulfill the will of God by saying yes to the desires of the Spirit.
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.Galatians 5:16–17, 24 NLT
Self-indulgence counterfeits self-control.
Yet self-indulgence, as counterfeiting self-control, emphasizes the putting off of personal restraint and giving in to the desires of fleshly longings. Only when the desire is certainly more painful than it is potentially pleasurable does one say no. The flesh will barely refuse gratification when certain pain is obvious and the destructive consequences are seen as immediate, undeniable, and depriving pleasure. Hence there must be a discernible level of self-indulgence found in self-restraint before the flesh is willing to concede. Otherwise, we opt to give in to whatever is pleasurable and self-fulfilling.
It is accurate to proclaim that the crown and glory of all the fruit of the flesh is self-indulgence. It is the expected reward for having labored in the vineyard of self-centeredness. Happiness is the illusive prize.
Everyone wants me to be happy!
School assignments required a variety of tasks to convey “All about Me.” Poems, narratives, songs, raps, art projects, picture displays, family trees, and a myriad of other activities were employed to describe characteristics such as “What makes me happy”; “Where I live” and “What I want to be when I grow up.” What a challenge to communicate everything that makes me happy! Even in our earliest years, happiness is featured as the ultimate goal in life. It’s all about me and what makes me happy!
We want to be happy. God wants us to be happy. We want our spouses to be happy. We want our kids to be happy. We just want everyone to be happy. We especially want everyone to be happy with us. This is the American dream—we all deserve to be happy. But the American dream spawns the American nightmare. The pursuit of this dream leads to addiction, deviance, mental illness, and death, because it is ultimately based in self-centeredness.
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.Romans 8:5–7 NLT
Make me happy!
Our interest in indulgence is proportionate to our self-centeredness. The more we are concerned with self-promotion and self-preservation, the more we yearn to be indulged. We say, in essence, “Because I want to be promoted, I want you to promote me. Without your efforts on my behalf, I feel I am being deprived of what is necessary to make me happy. I expect you to promote and serve my interest.”
I’m discouraged because you didn’t make me happy.
The continuous pursuit of pleasure-producing indulgences culminates in discouragement. The eventual outcome of self-indulgence is discouragement because we want what we want, but our wants are never satisfied. Then we move to a new set of desires, believing these new choices will produce the ultimate fulfillment. This may even be labeled as a midlife crisis. Perhaps you did not have the family you wanted, the body shape and size you desired, the socioeconomic status you preferred, or your ideal job. Maybe you have been striving to make someone else happy, or you want them to make you happy. But you never settle in the place of contentment, and so you continue your search, only to end in despair and discouragement.
Discouragement embodies the loss of hope that we can promote and preserve self in a fashion that will produce the greatest fulfillment. When provoked by the inability to effect environmental changes to generate love, significance, and security, we continue with self-indulgence. But discouragement pervades over the fact that we have failed to create a platform powerful enough to make a difference in our lives that would sedate our emotional concerns or stimulate our ambitious yearnings.
Here is an example of no self-control.
Consider this example of a husband with three children who is unfaithful to his wife. He does not want to leave his wife, but he wants to have his girlfriend. He lies, deceives, and connives to keep one a secret and the other satisfied. It all comes to be exposed.
You may be sure that your sin will find you out.Numbers 32:23 NLT
The children come to hate their father. The father wants the kids to love him, he wants to continue with his wife, and he wants to keep his girlfriend. Instead, he loses everything he had and everything he hoped to gain.
The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.Deuteronomy 6:4–5 NLT
True self-control only comes from God’s Spirit.
In short, there is nothing that can impart contentment apart from Christ. We flit from bloom to bloom looking for the nectar of life, but only God is able to provide true satisfaction. The spiritual fruit of self-control is experienced through dependence on the Spirit of God so we do not have to depend on ourselves. His divine enablement leads to personal empowerment. To summarize, if you find yourself experiencing the symptom of discouragement, consider what means of self-indulgence you are employing to counterfeit God’s fruit of self-control.
Will you choose the Spirit’s fruit of self-control?
As we submit to the Holy Spirit, we will see evidence of the Spirit’s fruit of self-control in our lives when we renounce self-indulgence that gives way to discouragement.
Prayer Pattern asking for self-control
Lord, I do not want to be dominated by my sinful nature that thinks about sinful things. I desire to be controlled by Your Holy Spirit and think about things that please Your Spirit. I know that letting my sinful nature control my mind leads to death. Instead, I want to let Your Spirit control my mind which leads to life and peace.based on Romans 8:5–6
- I remember a time in my life when I tried to pursue my own desires but ended up with discouragement even though I attained my goal. (Write the story.)
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By all means, don’t miss these previous posts:
- The Fruit of the Spirit is Love
- The Fruit of the Spirit is Joy
- The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace
- The Fruit of the Spirit is Patience
- The Fruit of the Spirit is Kindness
- The Fruit of the Spirit is Goodness
- The Fruit of the Spirit is Faithfulness
- The Fruit of the Spirit is Gentleness
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Excerpts from Desperate Dependency by J. Kirk & Melanie D. Lewis.
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