Summary: This is the final sermon in the Series on "The Fruit of the Spirit" from Galatians 5:22-23."
The date as I can best recall was Saturday, June 4, 1977. It was about mid afternoon, and Liz and I were returning from Annual Conference at McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois, to Marissa, to begin our fifth year in my first pastorate. We were about to enter the little village of Lenzburg, four miles north of Marissa. As I came over the hill just outside the village, I was stopped for speeding by an Illinois State Trooper. That was my last traffic violation. I did not have another one for over twenty-seven years, until this past Wednesday, June 23, 2004. I was leaving home for the Church. I came to the corner of South Shores and 8th Drive, right at the corner where South Shores splits from Franklin Avenue, directly in front of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church. I was not conscious of the speed I was driving. A Decatur police officer was parked in front of the first house on 8th Drive.
It was almost as if my engine had simply accelerated on its own. Suddenly I looked down at my odometer and noticed that I was over 40 mph. I immediately prayed, “Oh, Lord, please don’t let me get a speeding ticket.” As soon as I got to the stop light at South Shores Shopping Center, the officer was right behind me with his lights flashing. He told me that he had clocked me on his radar going 44 mph when the speed limit was clearly posted at 30. He said that he would have to issue me a citation. I reassured him that I was not intentionally speeding and asked for mercy, perhaps simply a “warning this time.” His response was, “Most people are not intentionally speeding; I will have to issue the citation.”
Well, after over twenty-seven years of grace, for I have had a couple of near misses in those twenty-seven plus years, I guess a time comes for justice to be served. I got what I deserved. However, I have discovered these past four days that I do not naturally possess in my own strength and power “self-control.” I have to deliberately concentrate to keep my speed at 30 mph in the South Shores neighborhood, and Liz does too. Unless you intentionally keep a diligent eye on the odometer, you quickly are going 35, 40, or more mph. Self-control does not “come naturally.”
Although the ancient Greeks highly regarded the virtue of self-control and often lauded it in their literature, the Bible rarely mentions it. Self-control is the ability to manage your own actions and emotions. As Christians we are to always be controlled by the Holy Spirit Himself. For the Christian self-control is the result of a life entirely directed by the Holy Spirit.
The Biblical prerequisite for self-control is self-denial.
Self-denial is the surrender of my own personal interests and desires in favor of those of others. As a Disciple of Jesus Christ it means I completely abandon my right to demand my own way and let the Holy Spirit take complete charge and control of my life. As a result, doing the will of God becomes second nature to me. My daily walk with Jesus under the direction of the Holy Spirit has been renewed so often that it seems completely natural or inborn to do things His way, not mine. We cmust never forget the commandment Jesus gives us which Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” [Luke 9:23-24, NIV].
For the Christian self-control is a spiritual grace. In the secular world we often associate self-control with willpower. Self-control or willpower would embrace such things as dieting, quitting smoking,
exercise, gambling, alcohol, work habits, ethics, and living within your means. These are only just a few; each of you can add many others to this list. In our Christian walk nothing is ever accomplished by our own personal works, efforts, or merit. The entire Christian life is a walk of grace in total surrender and dependency upon the Holy Spirit. Paul affirms self-control is a spiritual grace in II Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” It is God who gives us the spirit of self-control or self-discipline.
It comes by grace through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, not by any personal effort on my part other than total surrender and obedience to Him. Christian self-control always honors Jesus, not myself. Prayer is an important factor in Christian self-control. The Lord does not want us to be lacking in any area of spiritual graces. Jesus promises us in Luke 11:13, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” In giving us the Holy Spirit He will cultivate in us the fruit of self-control when we need it, and when we ask Him for it.