Can You Control Yourself?

Biblical Authority Devotional: The Spirit vs. the Flesh, Part 11

by Erik Lutz on August 4, 2011

Erik Lutz, AiG–U.S., discusses one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit that is often overlooked.

But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

Today’s big question: can you control yourself?

Before I received the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, I first had to acknowledge that I was out of control. I was a slave to sin as Jesus said, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). At times I may have felt like I had control of my life, but in reality I was lost, enslaved, and unable to save myself.

For the unbeliever, self-control is simply an exercise in human willpower. An unsaved person’s ability to accomplish or resist something rests entirely upon his or her own desires. And since unbelievers live according to the desires of the flesh, they do not live righteously nor do they practice true self-control.

So whoever sins is a slave to sin, but Jesus also said that “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). This means that believers are free from the power sin once had over us. “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). We serve a new Master, the Lord who alone is worthy of our devotion.

Christians are no longer slaves to unrighteousness. God has defeated sin for us through Jesus Christ and given us the Holy Spirit who enables us to live as He desires. Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to have godly self-control, but with the power of God, believers can subdue the lusts of the flesh. This is why self-control is listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.

We must learn to control our bodies and deny the sinful passions that wage war on our souls. The Apostle Paul urged the Roman believers, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts” (Romans 6:11–12).

Many Christians live with a defeated mindset, as if they have no choice but to give in to sin. But this is contrary to Scripture, which calls us to stop walking according to the flesh and begin living in the Spirit. We have a promise and command from God’s word: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Get away from distractions so you can spend time in prayer and reading the Word of God. Memorize Scripture and call it to mind throughout the day. The truth of God’s Word is crucial to walking in self-control and living in victory over sin.

Today’s big idea: Christians can and must exercise self-control in the power of the Holy Spirit.

What to pray: praise God for giving you the strength to live with self-control.


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