Summary: This lesson deals with the fruit of the Spirit, Self-control, and practical suggestions of how it positively empacts the Christian’s life.
Charles W. Holt
“But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control” (Gal. 5:23 NKJV).
One can easily get the impression--based upon news describing social/cultural events--that self-control ranks low on the “must do” list of today’s society. One might ponder how popular it is among rank and file Christians.
It is relatively easy to talk about love, joy, and peace (the first three fruit of Paul’s list in Galatians). These are the “feel good” buttons we all love to press. They are the stuff of contemplation, meditation, and the subject of calls that, “we need more of it” (meaning love, joy, or peace).
It gets a little sticky, however, when one sounds a call to practice long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness (the other fruit on Paul’s list). These deal with the grim realities of relationships. They are the “hands on, dirt under the fingernails” daily realities of which the majority of the Christian life is composed. As tough as they may be to practice they are nevertheless important fruit and ideal witnesses to the new life of the Christian.
Love, joy, peace, YES! But, SELF-CONTROL? Well . . . maybe. Although last in Paul’s list it is not the least. Every Christian should have more than a little interest in the growth and development of all the Fruit of the Spirit--including self-control.
Paul purposely places these nine virtues in one setting to paint a picture of a fully furnished inner life of the complete Christian. In the process he makes clear a very important principle. It is a principle that applies to all fruit. The principle is this: the fruit of the Holy Spirit is, “the work which His presence within accomplishes” (Amplified Bible). Or, as the Living Bible puts it, “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives He will produce this kind of fruit in us . . ." and lists “self-control” or “self-restraint, continence” (Amplified Bible) as a product or result of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling influence.
God’s will is clear on this subject. According to Jesus it is His will that we bear fruit--”much fruit” (John 15). His will is for us to manifest these traits that comprise the complete Christian life (Gal. 5:22-24). The potential is present within each believer. The possibility exists for every one who names Jesus as Savior and Lord. The ability is available because the raw material for making it happen lies within and flows out of one’s relationship with Him Who calls Himself “the Vine” (John 15).
All that’s left (seemingly) is to hear the command: ladies and gentlemen start your engines! (Or, have we heard that already?) But, if the engine is running and the power is flowing--why aren’t we moving, or better yet, growing? The answer may be as simple as saying, we aren’t moving because we are confused about who is responsible for doing what. Let’s talk about that.
For example, how many people do you suppose there are who think that because it is the “fruit of the Holy Spirit (i.e, HIS fruit)” which HE produces in the life of the Christian it means that, “HE is responsible for it . . . not ME.” Therefore if the Christian doesn’t have fruit it is because HE didn’t put it there. In other words, if I’m not acting in a loving or kind way or, if I’m not practicing self-control-- it’s because GOD hasn’t put love and kindness in me. God’s hasn’t given me the grip or grit that it takes to restrain my habits so it’s His fault--not mine.
“Oh,” we say, “it would be very good to have those things, I suppose . . . but I’m not responsible because that’s just the way I naturally am and if God intended for me to be any other way He would have made me that way!” “Why,” some might sincerely say, “I’ve even asked for it a couple of times and nothing changed . . . So, don’t blame me. It’s not my fault!” That’s a neat way for one to dodge personal responsibility by shifting blame. But, as the saying goes, “that ‘ole dog ain’t gonna hunt here!”
CLEARING UP SOME CONFUSION
“Self-control” or “SELF-restraint,” and “FRUIT of the Spirit” seem at first glimpse to be contradictory terms. SELF-control and SELF-restraint infers something I, myself, am in charge of doing or controlling. As if it is something I can personally handle or choose to do.
On the other hand, FRUIT of the Spirit infers the natural result of a growth process that is not based upon a choice but upon a principle of life. For example, a peach tree will produce peach fruit because it is genetically programmed to produce peaches. Applying this argument to human nature can quickly land one in the middle of a hot debate of what determines human behavior. Is it nurture or is it nature? Or, is it a little of both? The jury is still out on this debate and it is not the scope of this little booklet to deal with the subject.