By Tyson Thorne

February 22, 2018

selfcontrol large

Over the past couple days we've been discussing the non-sign gifts of the Holy Spirit Paul discussed in 2 Timothy 1.7. So far we've looked at the first, power, and the second, love and today we complete the series by examining self-control. The idea of self-control is all about restraint and is based on the Greek word sophronismou which means moderation and soundness of mind. It is an appropriate time for this discussion, as we exercise self-control during this season of Lent. The Holy Spirit empowers us to successfully complete our promise to God but it begs the question, if the Holy Spirit helps us is it really self-control?

Because of our sin nature, our will is directly influenced by our desires, hungers and weaknesses. One of the proofs of God's work in a believer's life is the ability to control our own thoughts, words and actions. We are no longer a "slave to sin" (Romans 6.6) but have the ability to make godly decisions. Is this God working in us? Yes, but it is something more too. We are different from who were were before we met Christ, and different from those who deny him. We have a new nature. Paul states it thusly:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good. So communicate these things with the sort of exhortation or rebuke that carries full authority. — Titus 2.11-15a

This new nature enables God to do a good work in us, changing us, making us more like him. What this means is that the more we become like God, the more self-control we have. The more self-control we have, the more perseverance we acquire. This permits us to have the vision of long-term good instead of focusing on instant gratification. There are still more benefits to God building in us our self-control. We are subject to both external (temptation) and internal (sin) forces and self-control strengthens us to so that we might have victory over both. Finally, while not as majestic sounding as power and love, both of these hinge on self-control. How can one love unconditionally without the perseverance provided by self-control? And how can one rightly handle power without the vision afforded by self-control?

This work in us is uncomfortable, sometimes painful and always sacrificial. Just as the animals of the Old Testament era smelled blood and death at the alter and stubbornly balked to climb the steps to be sacrificed, so too our old nature rears and fights for survival. It must die, however, for the new life to grow in us and make us more like the God we serve. We go about such sacrifice prayerfully, asking for Spirit's power, love and self-control to put our old nature on the alter.



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