Vol. 2 Issue 10March 7, 2008
The weekly newsletter of True Potential Publishing
â€œBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.â€ (Galatians 5:22-23)
Itâ€™s probably fitting that â€œself-controlâ€ is the last fruit of the Spirit in our nine week study. It may be the most personal of all the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. Itâ€™s certainly the most inward looking. The struggle for self-control goes on entirely inside an individual, but the results of self-control, or lack of it, show up entirely on the outside of a person.
Our struggles with fear, anger, addictions, indulgence, laziness, escapism all happen inside of us. Our struggle is with ourselves; itâ€™s private. Yet the evidence of the struggle, defeat or victory, is very public.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness can all be demonstrated on others. I can only demonstrate self-control on me.
But if self-control is me acting on me, why is it listed as a fruit of the Spirit? Isnâ€™t it, by definition, self-generated; something Iâ€™m supposed to do on my own?
If we look at the worldly (carnal) idea of success, self-control plays heavily. The self-made man or woman is supposed to demonstrate self control; a person that has mastered his desires, exercise regimen, eating habits, positive mindset, and time management.
Self-control seems to be a pretty worldly facet of success. If weâ€™re Christians, isnâ€™t God supposed to be in control of us? Havenâ€™t we surrendered our wills to His? Shouldnâ€™t we be shooting for God control rather than self-control? It just doesnâ€™t seem to fit as a fruit of the Spirit.
Thereâ€™s got to be a reason itâ€™s on the list.
The apostle Paul had a lot to say about self-control. He said, â€œI donâ€™t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I canâ€™t. I do what I donâ€™t want to â€“ what I hate.â€(Romans 7:15) And â€œWhen I want to do good I donâ€™t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.â€ (Romans 7:19)
This is Paul talking. Heâ€™s the guy that came up with the fruit of the Spirit list in the first place. It sounds like heâ€™s totally out of control. It sounds like he finds the concept of self-control completely unreachable.
The same Paul wrote to the churches in Corinth, â€œSo I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. Iâ€™m not just shadow-boxing or playing around.â€ (I Corinthians 9:26)
So Paul, super-apostle, tells the Christians in Rome, â€œâ€¦ I really want to do what is right, but I canâ€™t.â€ He tells the Corinthians, â€œâ€¦ I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step.â€ And he tells the Galatians that â€œself-controlâ€ is a fruit of the Spirit.
This guy is all over the place.
Was Paul a hypocrite? Maybe he was totally out of control when he wrote to the Romans but then developed the habit by the time he wrote to the Corinthians and the Galatians. After all, Romans comes first in the New Testament, then Corinthians and Galatians.
Nice try. Paulâ€™s letters in the New Testament arenâ€™t in chronological order. Fact is, Paul wrote his letter to the churches in Corinth and Galatia before he wrote to the Romans.
So how can he preach that heâ€™s got his act completely together; â€œI fight to win.â€ And then confess that he canâ€™t control himself? â€œâ€¦ when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.â€
Paul wasnâ€™t a schizoid or a hypocrite. And he didnâ€™t have behavior issues; at least not any more than you or me. He was trying to get a point across.
Paul was telling the Christians in Rome about human nature. Itâ€™s human to want to behave one way but behave another. Itâ€™s human to try to do right, but end up doing wrong. Itâ€™s human to be totally out of control.
No matter how much it looks like a person has his act together, if heâ€™s operating on his own power, from his own will and direction, heâ€™s not really in control at all. The surface may look calm, but down inside thereâ€™s a war going on.
Thatâ€™s why the worldâ€™s idea of human potential, purpose, success and self control doesnâ€™t work. Man canâ€™t do it on his own. Thereâ€™s a piece missing. Itâ€™s in our nature â€“ something we can get rid of.
Unless. We get rid of our human nature and take on another nature.
Now weâ€™re beginning to get Paulâ€™s point.
Real self-control goes against human nature. Weâ€™re a bundle of desires. We want what we want and weâ€™ll scream til we get it. No matter how hard we try to put a lid on our desires, theyâ€™re going to pop up somewhere, some way. Itâ€™s human nature.
The only way to get real self-control is to loose self-control. Sounds a little confusing, doesnâ€™t it?
The whole idea of Christianity, of being a follower of Christ, is to take on His nature. To identify with Him. Christ was crucified, hung on a cross until his body was dead, to make payment for manâ€™s sin. In our identifying with Him the Bible says that we have to â€œcrucify ourselvesâ€ if we want to be His followers.The Bible doesnâ€™t mean it literally. We donâ€™t have to have Romans nail us to a cross until we die. It means it spiritually; we have to nail ourselves to a cross (spiritually) until we die (spiritually).
Weâ€™ve been studying the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, for nine weeks now, right? You want to know what the next verse, Galatians 9:24 says?
â€œThose who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.â€ There it is. Itâ€™s the secret to self-control. Itâ€™s the secret to every item on the fruit of the Spirit list.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are not aspects of human nature. Theyâ€™re aspects of Spirit nature. Thatâ€™s what Paul says in the next verse, Galatians 5:25. â€œSince we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.â€
It goes against our human reasoning to say that in order to get self-control you have to give up self-control. It goes against our human reasoning to say that in order to live youâ€™ve got to die. But thatâ€™s just what weâ€™ve got to do.
The Savior of man had to die in order for men to live. In accepting that death He took on life for all men. When we identify with Him by taking on our own spiritual death, killing spiritually the sinful man we were born with, we take on His life. When weâ€™re alive in Him, His Spirit lives inside of us. His Spirit living inside of us begins a change in our natures. As His Spirit does itâ€™s work, our human natures begin to loose control and His Spirit nature begins to take over. That begins to show certain results in our lives, you could call it fruit â€¦ fruit of the Spirit. Yeah thatâ€™s it, fruit of the Spirit.
Until next week, may His Spirit live inside of you.
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