The fruit of self-control
Jesus was truly a man of self-control! He was totally submissive to God’s Word and strengthened by it and by the Holy Spirit of God. Consequently, he possessed an inner power and purpose that enabled Him to fulfill his father’s will perfectly. It is important to observe that the source of His strength and direction came from God.
The false fruit of self-control
Self-control is not a renouncement of our personality, in the way that God has given it to us. All of us are special creatures, made for a special place in God’s plan.
Self-control is not a legalistic prison in which our lives are limited by the religious laws of man. The fact that we are divinely self-controlled brings us spiritual liberty and not enslavement.
Self-control is also not the control of our lives through our own strength or will power. We do not possess the interior resources of power or of wisdom sufficient to fulfill the perfect purpose of God for our lives.
Separated from the Word of God and the Spirit of God, we are like a boat with no compass, no sails and no rudder. The winds of this world – the spirit of the age – always lead us away from the path of the plan of God for our lives.
It is true that we can establish and reach earthly goals through our own efforts, but these will not serve any heavenly or eternal purpose.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36)
In addition, we are unable to break some influences and habits in our lives, no matter how hard we try. We simply cannot control ourselves with our own resources. What then is the answer?
The true fruit of self-control
The Greek word translated “self-control” is enkrateia. En means “in”, and kratos means “strength”. The two terms refer to a “dominating power” that proceeds from the inside, an interior control. The nature of this control will be determined by whatever or by whoever is on the throne of our lives. Will it be the world, the flesh (our ego) or the devil? Or, will it be our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ? The answer to this question is very important. It determines the direction and course of our lives, not only now but from now on. We cannot afford the luxury of making a mistake.
What is the biblical significance of the word enkrateia? How does it relate to the fruit of the Spirit and our life in Christ? The noun form appears only two times in the New Testament, other than Galatians 5:22:
Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” (Acts 24:25)
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
The verb form occurs two times:
But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:9)
And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. (1 Corinthians 9:25)
The adjective form occurs one time:
For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, (Titus 1:7, 8)
The fruit of self-control clearly refers to the control, denial and discipline of the life of our ego. As I stated earlier, it is not a denial of our ego or of our personality, which God gave to us. Each one of us is a special creation of God, possessing great value in His eyes. The denial refers to the controlling discipline of our ego or the life of our soul through the Word of God and through His Spirit. Our soul is the throne of our reason, will and emotions. The Spirit of God must govern these functions if we wish to become everything that God intends us to be and reach the objective that He originally intended when He created us.
If God is not divinely controlling the life of our soul, we will be living an obstinate life that in reality is under the control of the world, the flesh and devil. Separated from God, we have neither the wisdom nor the power to fulfill our divine calling.
As strange as it may seem, true freedom comes into play, when we permit the Holy Spirit of God to become one with our spirit. He frees us to live an abundant, complete and creative life. This is what Jesus meant when he said:
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24, 25)
Our cross speaks of the denial, control and discipline of our soul or the life of our ego. The result is a life of obedience and freedom when we follow Jesus. The Lord did not come to destroy our lives but to free and redeem them:
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
To have the ego completely controlled by the Holy Spirit is the only way to true freedom for those who are completely involved in their own little world. We are not able to free ourselves with our own resources. The wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit of God are necessary for this.
The rotten fruit of the flesh
It is not difficult to define the contrary fruit of the flesh. When we speak of the flesh, we are really speaking of our abilities when we are separated from the control of God that are so easily seen in the life of those who are undisciplined, immoral and rebellious against all authority.
These people become a law unto themselves, very similar to the Israelites during the period of the judges:
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6)
In other words, there was no designated divine authority. Everyone did whatever he or she felt like doing. There were no limits, rules or controls. Each person was a law unto himself.
The people soon were scattered and fell into doubting each other, disobedience, immorality and idolatry. God was far from their thoughts words and actions. The results were tragic. Their enemies attacked, defeated, and lead them captive and in many cases killed them.
What was God’s remedy? He would raise up a judge that would take their focus off themselves and restore it to God. They would then repent and return to the law, the order and discipline of God for their lives. When they found themselves under divine rule and control, God once again restored them to a place of freedom and grace.
The results of the obstinate life are the same today: defeat and despair. The remedy is also the same. We can repent and return to the benevolent reign of God over our lives.
The life led by the Spirit is the true life “lived out through us”. Only the Holy Spirit can free us from the slavery of the flesh and place us in the liberty and fullness of the character of Christ.
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18)
Some final words from the apostle Paul
The apostle Paul summed up – and outlined the fruit of the Holy Spirit – with the following very significant words:
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 5:24, 25; 6:8)