Developing the Spirit's Fruit of Self-Control - p1

Steve Viars June 10, 2000 Galatians 5:13-26

- In the Old Testament, there’s the story of a man named Nehemiah.
- this man was Jewish, but he was living in the capitol of Persia and serving as the right hand man to the king.
- the Bible tells us that some of Nehemiah’s acquaintances came and gave him a report of what was happening back in the Jewish capitol of Jerusalem, and the report was not good.
- while their temple had been rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity, the problem was that the walls around the city were still in ruins.
- the specific message from these men recorded in Nehemiah 1:3 was - “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach.  The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.”
- It’s interesting to note how Nehemiah responded to that news...
- he switches to the first person and says...”When I heard these words, I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”

- it’s probably hard for people in our day and age to relate to the strength of Nehemiah’s reaction to the news about these walls.
- we don’t have walls around our houses, or walls around our cities....

- but in Nehemiah’s day, what made this news so troubling was....
1) The lack of fortified walls made the city ripe for attack...
- there were exposed to all sorts of enemies and violence and wicked deeds...
2) and it wasn’t just the fear of something bad happening, they were also missing out on the benefits those walls could provide....like peace, and security, and strength.
3) And worse, ultimately it was a spiritual issue, because the city’s lack of fortified walls cast a disparaging image on their God.
- so they were open for something bad, they were missing out on something good, and their condition was a poor reflection on the God they said they served.
- in that day and time, a city without walls wasn’t much of a city.

- now the reason I’m asking you to think about that this morning is because King Solomon used that same picture in the book of Proverbs to describe a human being.
- Proverbs 25:28 - Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.

- now please think carefully about that picture.
- Solomon is saying that self-control is to a person, what walls are to a city.
- if a person does not have control over his spirit, he is like a city that is broken down and without walls.
- and it creates the same three problems a moment ago....
1) the lack of self-control makes a person ripe for all sorts of attacks and attendant sins....
2) it also robs a person of the joy and peace and security that comes from not continually falling to the attacks
3) and of course ultimately, a person who has learned the skill of self-control is a wonderful testimony to the power of God.
- with that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible this morning to Galatians chapter 5.
- if you’re here and you’re new to studying the Bible or you just don’t have a copy of the Bible with you this morning, you’ll find Galatians 5 on page 149 of the Bible in the pew in front of you.
- at our church for a number of weeks now, we’ve been doing a study on the fruit of the Spirit.
- that’s a marvelous list of nine characteristics that the Holy Spirit of God wants to be developing in us.
- so far we’ve talked about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness, and gentleness.
- for those who have been with us through the whole study, can I ask you....is God giving you opportunities to put His Word into practice?
- this past week, were there any situations where you really needed to be gentle?
- so first, is the Lord giving you opportunities, and second....are you taking the opportunities?
- are you cooperating with the work that the Holy Spirit wants to do in you?
- and thirdly, are you seeing progress?
- and I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t some here who would say....not only am I seeing progress, but I am seeing it at times even more rapidly than I expected...
- and friends remember, we’re talking about the Spirit’s fruit...and yes we have to work at it, but we can expect the Spirit of God to supernaturally bless us as we work....

- now, I’d like to take a minute and lay out the plan for the next several weeks....
- I think it would be helpful for us to spend more than one week on this matter of self-control...and we’re also coming into a couple of holidays on the calendar.
- so the plan is to work on one aspect of self-control today....
- then Lord willing next Sunday we’re going to break away and do a special related to Father’s Day
- the last Sunday of June we’ve look at another aspect of self-control....
- then the Sunday after that is July 4th where we’re going to talk about biblical truth related to contemporary culture and government.
- after that, we’ll probably need one more Sunday to finish up self-control.
- the point is, we’re looking at three messages spread over five weeks.

- let’s read our key text, then we’ll talk about the plan for the rest of the morning.
- READ Galatians 5:13-26.

- We’re talking this morning about Developing the Spirit’s Fruit of Self-Control.
- we’d like to divide the rest of our time up around these key ideas....
I.  What is Self-Control?
II.  Why is Self-Control Important?
III.  How Does a Person Develop Self-Control?


I.  What is Self-Control?


- for these few moments, I’m going to need to be a bit more technical than we might typically be on a Sunday morning.
- but the bottom line is, defining “self” is “self-control” can be tricky business indeed.
- but to fail to think carefully and precisely and of course biblically about this definition will short-circuit our growth in this particular characteristic about as quickly as anything.
- the question is, what is the “self” that God wants us to control?
- maybe it would be best by setting this up with a question that frankly is almost a trick question here.
A.  Should Christians love themselves?
- now, our culture’s answer to this question, at least in the last 15 years or so, would have been a resounding “yes”
- many would say that we should work hard to love ourselves.
- one Christian writer says that he stands in front of the mirror in the morning and tells himself, “I love you....you’re a wonderful person.”
- this same man says that when he’s traveling and begins to feel lonely or discouraged, he’ll send himself 2 dozen roses, with a card that says, “I love you.”

- so in this way of thinking, everything about a person is good, and regardless of our performance or our behavior, we should invest large amounts of time and energy into loving ourselves.
- by the way, this was one of Sigmund Freud’s contributions to our culture....he taught that human beings were a three part energy system, the id, the ego, and the super-ego.
- the id was the spoiled brat of personality....ruled by the pleasure principle
- the ego was the executive branch of personality....ruled by the reality principle
- and the superego was the judicial branch of personality....ruled by the perfection principle....

- and Freud taught that the problem with human beings was that the ego paid too much attention to the super-ego.
- all of these moral codes and standards were putting too much pressure on the id, or the real person.
- and there needed to be some way to cut off the superego, and ignore the superego, so the id could come out and freely express itself.
- so in this approach, the self was good...and problems in life come when we’re not true to ourselves.

- Carl Rogers came along and founded what is known today as 3rd force Psychology, teaching that human beings were basically good, and that the reason people have problems is because their environment, the people around them....don’t allow the petals of the flower to naturally unfold.
- so again, in this approach, the self was good, and with a little help could even be better.

- Christians picked up on that, and there has been a significant amount of Christian literature devoted to helping God’s people to learn to love themselves.

- the challenge with that theory is, what do you do with a verse like Galatians 5:23?
- in what sense are we to practice self-control?
- and why did Jesus say on several occasions that we are supposed to deny ourselves?
- if self is all good, is self is something we’re to exclusively love, then why in the world would we ever want to control it?..or deny it?
- wouldn’t we want to do just the opposite?

- then perhaps the question should be:
B.  Should Christians hate themselves?
- there are some Christians who would say, the self is all bad.
- the goal in the Christian life is to make you disappear.
- you, and everything about you, is to be put to death.
- some would go so far as to suggest that you are to hate yourself, to loathe yourself, to be repulsed by yourself....
- their position would be....that’s why Paul said we are to practice self-control.
- that’s why Jesus said to deny yourself.
- and the way that especially affects the Christian life is that these folks would say....any effort you try to put into the Christian life is going to be wasted.
- you’re too evil to enter into the struggle.
- you simply have to die and let Jesus live through you.
- so on one hand you have people who suggest that you should love yourself, on the other you have people who say you should hate yourself....which view is right?
- what do you think?

- biblically speaking, both are wrong....at least in the way I presented the options.
- but here’s the crux of the matter....
- what’s wrong with what I just presented is....it confuses the definition of self.

- so we’re back to the question....what “self” is it that I’m supposed to be controlling [or denying]
- a related question that is very important is, does “self” in the Bible always mean my total being?....everything there is about me?....my entire personality?
- and the answer to those last questions is “no”
- the reason for that answer is....if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior....
- if there’s been a definite time in your life where you’ve admitted your sin and trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord....
- the moment that decision was made, God made you a new person in Jesus Christ...
- Paul said it this way in II Cor. 5:17 - Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

- now please think carefully about this one, why would God make you a new person in Jesus Christ if you’re supposed to turn right around and deny that?...or control that?
- and if you’re saying, PV, what’s the point of all of this?
- the answer is --- when God talks about controlling the self, or denying the self....He is not talking about your entire person, everything there is about you, certainly not your new person in Christ.
- He’s talking about that part of you that is not yet like His Son.
- those sinful habits and patterns and thoughts and desires and actions that you brought into the Christian life, and perhaps even ones you developed after you were saved....
- but things that are so ingrained in your being that if you’re not careful, they come out automatically, and naturally, and skillfully, and unconsciously.

- please think of it like this....if you’re a believer in Christ, picture yourself like a statue....
- and the center portion of that statue is your new man, or new woman in Christ.
- its what God wants you to be....
- its what you’re already in the process of becoming....
- its you....in Christ....and Christ.....in you.
- and there’s a genuine sense in which that’s you....the shed blood of Jesus Christ has the power to make fundamental changes in you....
- however, picture a marble statue that has all sorts of mud, and clay caked onto the outside.....which distorts and covers the true image.
- you are a work in process.....
- and that mud and that clay and those un-Christlike deformities are what the Bible speaks about in places like Galatians 5:23 when it talks about your “self”
- its not your total personality....its not everything you are....
- but it is those habits of life that are not pleasing to God...
- those characteristics that are sinful and wrong...
- the Bible also refers to this as the lusts of the flesh, and the deeds of the flesh.....
- and it is those characteristics that you and I must learn how to control.

- so you could say it this way, we’re talking about your spirit controlled self learning how to CONTROL those aspects of your being that are not yet like Jesus Christ.
- so you might say, but PV, you didn’t even answer your own question...are we supposed to love ourselves or hate ourselves?
- what’s the answer to that?
- the answer is....neither.

C.  God wants you to develop a biblical view of self.
- the Bible says, in places like Romans 12:3....that we are to think soberly of ourselves...or accurately.
- in other words, we are to take a cognitive look at ourselves, at how things are going....
- and for the things that are happening that are right...we ought to praise Him...and recognize that He is in the process of remaking us in His image....
- and there’s nothing wrong acknowledging those things as long as we’re quick to give Him the credit.
- but that cognitive look is also going to reveal some things about our selves that need to change....
- and we ought to examine those areas and then make a careful plan for how to control them, and bring them into submission to Christ.

- by taking that kind of a balanced view, we avoid the ditch of simply loving everything about ourselves and never being willing to acknowledge certain thing that need to be brought under control....
- but we also avoid the ditch of concluding, self is so bad it can’t even enter into the struggle, and wind up with some sort of passive approach to the Christian life that really doesn’t accomplish any lasting good.

- now let’s try to take this another step forward....


II.  Why is Self-Control Important?


- even if we try to view this topic in a biblically balanced way, we still have the huge issue of trying to learn self-control.
- our world seems to say, we should indulge ourselves....we should be true to ourselves....we should seek self-actualization....
- even after defining self the way we have, why should we be concerned about controlling any aspect of ourselves?
- I’d like to give three brief reasons that correspond to what we were saying in the introduction:
A.  Because of the lack of self-control opens the way to many other sins.
- if you’re still in Galatians chapter five, please look at the list in verses 19, 20, and 21 which proceed the fruit of the Spirit....
- these are called the deeds of the flesh....
- let me ask you this....how many of them are related to self-control?
- or, how many of them would require self-control in order to put off?

- I think we would say, all of them.
1) if you’re going to put off immorality, you have to learn self-control
2) if you’re going to put off strife and outbursts of anger, you’re going to have to learn self-control...
3) If you’re going to put off drunkenness, alcohol or drug abuse, you’re going to have to learn self-control.....
- I think we could go through the entire list of the deeds of the flesh and make that case.

- that’s why Solomon was so right when he said...a man who has no control over his spirit like a city that is broken down without walls.
- that person is ripe for invasion.

- can I just stop there and ask you friend about the height and strength of your walls?
- are you developing the Spirit’s fruit of self-control so that your life is closed off to many sinful habits....
- or do you lack self-control to such a degree that a number of attendant sins have free reign?...and the possibility of controlling others in the future is not very high?

- you could think of it from this perspective....our adversary is always coming up with new ways to tempt people, and destroy people....
- for example, all the smut that is on the internet....
- if you were already working hard at self-control....if the “city of your life” had walls of self-control that were high and maintained....then Satan’s newest form of temptation wouldn’t have had impact on you....
- but if your walls were already down....if your self-control was lacking....your life was ripe for sin in that area.
- friends, the Bible would suggest that self-control is very important....has it been that important to you?
- now, it doesn’t stop at the issue of simply avoiding what’s wrong.
B.  Because self-control leads to God-control.
- we would be unbalanced if we thought of this simply in a negative way.
- the beauty of learning self-control is that it gives way to God-control.
- its not simply a matter of saying no to sin but its also a matter of saying yes to Christ.

- that’s the argument of Ephesians 5:18 - And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,
- John Sanderson in his book “The Fruit of the Spirit” says of this verse, “There is an analogy between drunkenness and being filled with the Spirit.  In each case the individual gives up the control and dominion of his life to another--in the case of the drunkard, alcohol, in the case of the Christian, the Spirit of God.  That is why drinking in excess is so heinous; it places a beverage where only God should be.”

- but the beauty is, when self-control is in place....when the walls of the city are up and strong, then there’s the peace, and the joy, and the security, and the satisfaction that comes from Jesus Christ being in charge.
- for example, please think of the area of your life where you used to struggle with self-control the most, but now God has helped you get to a better place.
- is it true that this is not just a negative topic, but a positive one?
1) Someone here might say, I used to really struggle with my temper....I was like a city that was broken down and without walls and you never knew when I was going to explode...
- and there was a whole trail of broken relationships because of my sinful anger....
- But now God has helped me develop self-control.....
- and sure I still struggle....but not anything like I used to.....
- and it sure is nice not to have to deal with all the problems my temper used to cause me....
- having my sinful self under control, and having Jesus Christ in charge is a delightful thing.
2) Someone else might say that about vengeful thinking....
3) Or drug abuse...
4) Or time management...
5) Or gossip....
- or whatever form self-control needed to take in your life.....

- but the blessings and benefits of this aspect of the fruit of the Spirit are enormous.

- a third reason why self-control is so important is:
C.  Because self-control glorifies Jesus Christ.
- Can you imagine what it was like for the perfect Son of God to live among sinful human beings?
- do examples come to your mind where people around the Lord were doings things or saying things that would have required a great amount of self-control for Him to not immediately pronounce judgment?

- how about when Peter said, “Even if everyone else denies you, I will not”?
- how about the way He was treated prior to the crucifixion?
- how about when the thief was cursing Him on the cross?
- how about when He said, father, forgive them, for they know not what they do?

- self-control....and when a believer chooses to work hard at controlling those sinful impulses, and controlling those sinful desires, and controlling those sinful thoughts, and controlling those sinful words, and controlling those sinful deeds....
- Jesus Christ is honored by that....It brings Him great glory.

- friend, can I ask you this morning, how are you doing at this particular aspect of the Spirit’s fruit?
- the Word of God would indicate that developing self-control is very important for a variety of reasons....each of us should ask if we have made it as high a priority as God would desire.
- Is there a particular area of self-control that God would especially want you to work on as a result of our study?
- and is it possible that for someone, God would want to use this topic to actually draw you to Himself....
- because you would say, I don’t have a personal relationship with God, and I know it would be impossible to develop self-control without that.

- Now we don't have time to develop this as fully as we will in some of the other messages, but can I ask you please to turn over to I Corinthians chapter 9, where Paul makes some very important points under the heading of “how to” develop self-control.
- I Corinthians 9 is on page 135 of your pew Bible.
- in these verses, Paul talks about the self-control of an athlete.
- read I Cor. 9:24-27.

III.  How Does a Person Develop Self-Control?

A.  Remember that self-control in one area helps you in others.
- v. 25 - exercises self-control in all things.

- for a runner, they are not just self-controlled in the way they run....
- there’s self-control in the way they eat, in the way they sleep, in a number of different areas of life.
- that’s why its so important to ask --- Lord, in what area do I really need to focus on self-control, because self-control in one area can help in many others --- we’re to exercise self-control in all things.

B.  Remember the value of the reward.
- in the athletic contests in the city of Corinth, we’re told that the victor’s crown was often made of pine cones, or even a wilted piece of celery.
- that’s why Paul refers to it as a “perishable crown”

- for believers in Jesus Christ, we’re talking about eternal rewards at the judgment seat of Christ, that we can in turn cast at the feet of our Savior....
- friend, don't you long to hear from our Lord the words “well done thou good and faithful servant?
- some of us will not be rewarded nearly like we could have been because we didn’t do business with a particular area of self-control.

C.  Take the battle with self seriously

- Paul says, I’m not just shadow boxing....
- this isn’t something that I only take about half-serious.....

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

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

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