Self-Control - Galatians 5

Dr. Steve Viars April 9, 1991 Galatians 5:22-23

- tonight we're going to study the last component of the
fruit of the spirit
- let me just ask you a question about last week's study
- were you meeker this past week?
- can you think of definite times where you thought about
how you could implement that important fruit of the
- I know I had a number of opportunities to think about
this subject, some positive and some not so positive
and I hope you did as well

- let me mention to you that thought we're studying the last
component of the spirit's fruit tonight, I would like to do
at least one more study on this subject next week
- there are some things about this whole topic that we
haven't had time to discuss that I think are important to
study before we conclude this study

- Also, I'd like to have you actively involved in that study
in several ways
- I'd like us to spend some time brainstorming the subject
"How can we teach these truths to our children"
- in other words, I'd like you to discuss with your
spouse or with a friend about ways we can teach our
children to be loving, or to be meek
- I'd also like to have some folks ready with some
testimonies of specific instances where they've tried to
grow by developing the fruit of the spirit
- It could be a positive example where the Lord helped you
take of step of growth and you want to give Him the credit
- It may be a negative example where you blew it but then
thought about these truths
- be thinking about those and we'll take some time next week
to hear how the Lord has helped you to apply His Word

- tonight we're talking about self-control
- read Gal. 5:22-23

- As has been our habit, let's begin by talking about:

I. What Is Self-Control?

- now, you might say - well, PV, that’s obvious!
- let me present to you first of all tonight that I'm not
so sure the definition is so obvious
- in fact, there's at least:

A. Two options
(on white board)

1. "self-control" where self is negative and needs to
be controlled

- often when you hear someone talking about
denying themselves - they would be using the
term that way
- the self is something negative and needs to be
2. "self-control" where self is positive and does the

- when you hear someone talking about a self-help
group, they are using the term "self" in a
positive way

- there's obviously a lot of difference, and in
order to learn what Paul is talking about when
he says we ought to have self-control, we need
to know which option is in focus

- perhaps one of ways of answering this question is
looking at some of the definitions of "self-control"

B. Definitions of "self-control"

"restraining passions and appetites"

"the power to keep himself in check"

"that quality which makes a person able to live and
walk in the world, and yet keep his garments
unspotted from the world"

- these definitions are consistent with "option #1",
where self is viewed as something that’s negative
and has to be controlled

** - However (and this is very important), we would be
incorrect if we understood "self" in this passage to be
referring to our whole person, or our whole personality

- here's what I mean - when Jesus said - deny yourself,
He wasn't saying "deny Steve Viars in total"
- self-control doesn't mean "suppress yourself and
everything about yourself

- instead, self in these passages means:
- sinful habits that I still have to address
- that part of my person that I've not yet brought
into submission of Christ
- the "sin in me" as Paul said in Romans 7

- now you might say, PV, are you just dickering with us
theologically? - and the answer is "no" - its very
important to make this distinction when we talk about
self-control because of where the failure to do so has
led some

C. Why this discussion is important

- go through Solomon (GFI) material

- problem with this chart is, it doesn't line up with
the Scriptures

1. why did God make you a "new man" if you're
supposed to turn around and deny that?

2. why are there so many metaphors in the NT that
describe growth in Christ as involving human
effort? (race, war, fight)

3. failure to believe otherwise will lead to a lack
of responsibility

D. Point of this discussion

- self-control does not mean denial of your whole

- its learning how to control those sinful:
- desires
- passions
- those sinful habits of thinking and behaving
that don't please the Lord

- but you, yourself, must be actively involved

- therefore, perhaps the best definition of self-
control which keeps this issue in balance
theologically, would be:

"your new self (which is created after God in
righteousness and true holiness) learning how to
control the desires and habits of your old self"

- really, while the word-meaning goes with the first
option we mentioned, both of those options are
correct biblically and have to be understood as
part of the definition of self-control

- implications of that definition are:

1) what needs to be controlled belongs to you. You
can't blame it on someone else. they are your
habits - you developed them, you intensified
them. It belongs to you. (Self-control)

2) you are responsible, with God's help, strength,
and enablement, to control those desires and
habits. (self-control)

- questions?

II. How Important Is Self-Control?

INPUT - Self control is a very broad term. What areas of
life are especially affected by self-control?
What areas of life especially need to be

(be sure to develop body issues, like eating,
drinking, sexual desires, -- also issues like
anger, etc.)

- we're asking the question - how important is self-

- let's hear from Solomon on that one:

A. According to Solomon

Prov. 25:28 - He that hath no rule over his own
spirit is like a city that is broken down and
without walls.

INPUT - what is Solomon saying about this kind of city
that is also true of the undisciplined person?

(no longer useful, unprotected, pitiful sight
- Nehemiah cried when he heard Jerusalem was
in that shape)

- we could think about this same point from the
perspective of:

B. According to the context of Gal. 5

- let me ask you to turn back to Gal. 5:19-21
- as you recall, those are the negative verses that
list the works of the flesh - the opposites of the
fruit of the spirit

- which of those works of the flesh could be
attributed to a lack of discipline, self-control?

- we could also argue that positively that the
development of many of components of the fruit of the
spirit that we've been discussing are dependent on us
growing in self-control

- point is - the answer to the question "how important is
this characteristic" is - "it's very important"
- if we're not growing in this area, we have:

1) hindered the development of other important
components of the fruit of the spirit.
2) opened ourselves up for the development of any
number of works of the flesh
3) we have allowed ourselves to be like a city with
broken down walls
- ineffective, pitiful, and open to all sorts
of danger

- Paul said it this way in II Tim. 1:7 - "For God has not
given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love
and discipline." (NASB)

- now that brings us to some questions (by now you know
some of these questions by heart)

1) How would you rank yourself on your development of the
spirit's fruit of discipline or self-control?

2) When those around you think of words or phrases to
describe your character, is discipline or self-control
one of the phrases they'd think of?

3) What area(s) of your life are most lacking in
reference to this subject?

4) What lengths are you willing to go to in order to see
growth in this vital component of the spirit's fruit?

- Lord Joseph Daveen was as American who was the head of an
art firm that bore his name
- In 1915 he made plans to send one of his art experts to
England to examine some ancient pottery
- He booked passage on the ship Lusitania
- Then the German embassy issued a warning that the liner
might be torpedoed
- Daveen wanted to call of the trip because he didn't want to
risk the young expert's life.
- the young man said, don't worry, I'm a strong swimmer, and
when I read what was happening in the Atlantic, I began
hardening myself by spending time every day in a tub of ice
- At first I could only sit a few minutes, but this morning I
sat for 2 hours.
- The expert sailed, the Lusitania was torpedoed
- The young man was rescued after nearly 5 hours in the
chilly ocean, still in excellent condition.
- His self-discipline had prepared him for the worse of

- God wants you and God wants me to be growing in self-

- let's talk about some steps we need to take:

III. How Is Self-Discipline Developed?

- Paul discusses this subject in some detail in I Cor.
9:24-27 (read)

A. Have the right direction

1. the example of the athletes

- Paul says that what makes a great athlete stand
out is his goal orientation
- he disciplines his life because he's got in
- now, that's a very important part of self-
- we're not just talking about self-control for
the sake of self-control
- we're talking about developing this fruit of
the spirit because of the goal we're seeking to
- INPUT - now we could describe that goal using
different terminology, what are some words or
phrases that describe the Christian's goal?
(include "well done, thou good and faithful

- Paul goes on to say that even though athletes are goal-
oriented, there's:

2. the problem with the athletes

- INPUT - what is the problem according to verse
25 (the crown they were pursuing is
- historians tell us that the prize was a crown
made of pine or sometimes even withered celery

- in the words of today’s teenagers "big whoop!"

- but that is exactly why you and I sometimes
fail in our discipline

- we weren't shooting for the right goal

- let's take the issue of dieting
- someone told me this week that they read that
over 90% of persons who lose weight put it on
within five years
- what wrong goals might they have been
pursuing that would have caused them to lose

- we could talk about many areas of self-discipline
from that same perspective

- that’s one of the things that concerns me about much
that’s being written today to help Christians handle
sinful habits

- if you examine what's in the bookstores carefully,
you'll find that many of the Christian self-help
groups are based on a variation of AA's 12 step
- now its true that they mention the existence of a
"higher power", and there's a lot we could say
about how that's deficient - but what I especially
want to point out is that in those programs, God is
some sort of special power source that helps you
get what you want out of licking that habit
- but there's no mention of conquering that
habit because it pleases God
- the motivation is not there because whatever
is put in the place of pleasing God is
corruptible, its passing away, its like a
crown made out of withered celery (big whoop)

- but for the believer - we have a goal that is
- believers who are goal oriented are people who are
working at self-control because they want to get rid of
whatever is hindering them from accomplishing that goal

B. Have a training regimen

v. 25 - everybody that competes in the games
exercises self-control in all things

- Paul says - look at the athletes - they have a
rigorous training regimen
- you can't help but notice their discipline and
- if they'll do that for a perishable crown, how much
more ought we to do that for a spiritual crown

- let me ask you - do you have a spiritual regimen?
- have you made strict time in your schedule for
Bible study, for prayer, for time serving God, for
teaching your children, for telling others about
Christ, for discipling, and other spiritual

- illus - Barb Conard - worked for months before she
took her anesthesiologist exams
- she was disciplined about it and she passed

- should we be any less disciplined about the things
of God?

- church growth - 100+ - but we'll be in a mess if we
don't have more and more folks who are serious
about this subject

- we're talking about folks who are goal oriented, have a
training regimen

C. Be persistent at it

- in verses 26-27, Paul tells us what he does

- all the verbs - I run, I fight, I beat are present
tense verbs indicating continuous action

- we're not just talking about something that's done
- not something he does when he feels like
- or when its sunny outside

- Paul says - being disciplined and self-controlled
means you're going to be persistent at it

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video