The definition of control in the dictionary is “to exercise restraint or direction over.” Some synonyms are “dominate” and “command”. That seems to mean that self-control would be how we exercise restraint over ourselves.
At first glance, it looks like self-control is me taking the bull by the horns and using my willpower to do the right things and stop doing the wrong things. I found out I can do that – with some things.
Outward signs of self-control are the easiest to achieve. However, self-control is more than just “being good”. Even when I was lost, I could “be good” in front of people like my mom or my grandmother, or people at church.
How many of you know that we can hold it together on the outside, at church or in public, when there is still a lot of out-of-control stuff happening behind closed doors or in our hearts and minds? Trying to present a nice front for other people is not going to work for long.
Self-control is my will yielding to His will by His power.
After Kelly and I were married, I really struggled with controlling my tongue. If we had an argument, I would say we should get a divorce. I never meant it, and I KNEW this was not God’s will, but words seemingly just rolled out of my mouth. I know that I hurt him many times when all that was going on. Here I was, a pastor’s wife, and I was yielding to my hormones and my sharp tongue! I felt miserable and guilty almost all the time, and I stayed under condemnation because I didn’t seem to know how to stop this cycle. It was all about yielding – to the evil words, to bad temper, to feelings.
God has the answer for us.
Self-control is my will, my hormones, my feelings, and my temper yielding to His will by His power.
The book of Romans has so much to say about the issue of control.
Romans 6:12-13 says, “Do not let sin control the way you live. Do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.”
That’s good! That’s what I want to do! How?
13b goes on, “Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have a new life. So, use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”
Instead of giving in, or yielding, to my smart mouth, I must give my mouth completely to God! And that’s going to take some discipline on my part.
It takes practice to be able to continually yield any part of our bodies to the Holy Spirit instead of yielding to our old nature. And that practice is called discipline. When discipline is required for something, I’ve learned that the enemy comes in with his lies to tell us things like:
- This is just the way you are.
- You’ve already made too many mistakes.
- You will never be able to stop this.
The enemy says these same lies, whatever it is that you are trying to overcome.
Condemnation is another tool of the enemy to keep us from turning to God and from yielding to the Holy Spirit. Even a person who is saved can be living under condemnation when they have not received the truth about the gift of grace. Each time I failed, I developed a worse and worse opinion of myself. I thought that I would eventually drive my husband away, and I didn’t know what to do about it. He always forgave me, but I feared that I had done irreparable damage to our marriage. Something had to stop the cycle!
I had been so focused on what I was doing wrong that I could not overcome it! When we spend so much of our time thinking about the sins we have committed and worrying about how to make ourselves stop doing them, we are dominated by our sinful nature. We are not living in the freedom from sin that we have in Christ.
Letting go of condemnation and receiving forgiveness is a big part of yielding to the Holy Spirit. It removes our focus from our sins and places our focus on who we are in Christ. Then we can yield to the Spirit and not to our fears or condemnation.
The key to self-control is yielding everything I understand about my mind, my will, my emotions, and every part of me to everything I understand about God by power of the Holy Spirit. Self-control is living in the freedom of Christ!
We want to thank Sheri Warren for sharing this post.