sociopath: noun 1. a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense or moral responsibility or social conscience.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22-23
I hope that you are starting to notice a pattern emerging from this series. I talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit an awful lot, and there is a good reason for that. A few months ago I wrote a post about love, the most important fruit we have, but today I want to focus on the key to being able to use the gifts of the Spirit at all times, even when we don’t feel like it. Today we are going to talk about self-control.
The Makings of a Selfish Sociopath
If selfish ambitions have been the prison in my life, self-control has been the key that opened the door for my release. What does that mean? Well, if you look at the works of the flesh (found in Galatians 5:19-21), you will notice that self ambition is on the list. Self ambition, which means that you care more about yourself and your desires than others, will cause us to fail at every single one of the fruits of the spirit. But why? Well in our flesh, we are selfish. That means that we are capable of doing whatever it takes to get whatever we want. It means that I am capable of becoming a sociopath. That is in direct contrast with loving, being peaceful, being kind, being gentle, and so on and so forth — you get the idea. Apart from the Holy Spirit, every single one of us is capable of murder, molestation, rape, and adultery, just to name a few. This may shock you. If you believe that you are above committing any of these sins, you are being deceived. According to the Bible, our hearts are deceitfully wicked, and the works of the flesh are evident. Look at these two verses with me:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” -Jeremiah 17:9
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” -Galatians 5:19-21
Let me go on the record to state that I know that I personally am capable of doing all of those things on that list. I am capable of murder, lewdness, adultery, idolatry, outbursts of wrath, and the list goes on. I will say it in plain language. I know that I am capable of harming another person, planning a murder, and doing perverted things (lewdness). You may be tempted to say something like, “Don’t say that Kristin, I know you! That isn’t true at all.” But it is. It is true for all of us, according to God’s Word, if we give into our flesh and our heart’s deceitful desires. We think that there are levels to our sin, and we say that certain things are worse than others. But God only makes two distinctions when it comes to sin; blaspheming the Holy Spirit in Matthew 12:31 (denying and deciding permanently that God doesn’t exist), and stumbling a child in Luke 17:2. On this scale of mild sin to severe sin, we deceive ourselves into thinking that even though we may lie and envy, that we would never commit murder or heresy. But that isn’t biblical, and that kind of thinking gets us into serious trouble. That is the exact place that Satan wants us to be, caught off guard by our own sin.
How Can I Stop This
The only way to be set free from the punishment we deserve for our sin is believe entirely that Jesus Christ took the punishment for all of my sins, and cleansed me on the cross. But is there a way that we can stop sinning? The answer is unfortunately, no. However, believers do go through a process called sanctification, which is a kind of purification. Let’s go to 2 Timothy for a clearer explanation.
“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the later, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” -2 Timothy 2:20-21
Wood and clay are full of imperfections that can never be taken completely out without completely destroying them. Silver and gold however, can be purified by being melted down with fire, and be an even stronger vessel. If we avoid the imperfections, aka sin, and allow God to purify us, over time we will become vessels of honor for our Master, aka God. But how can I start the process of sinning less? How can I possess the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Those are great questions.
Self-Control – My New Best Friend
As a baby Christian, I never realized how valuable self-control was. It is the last fruit of the Spirit on the list, after all. Shouldn’t that mean it is the least important? I think it is at the end of the list because without it, everything before it would be impossible to achieve. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel like being kind or long-suffering. I definitely don’t always feel like loving, and many times I want to embrace grumpiness and forget about joy. So often, my pride demands that me being right is more important than peace, and faithfulness, that’s just too hard. But if the Bible says that I should have these gifts if I have the Holy Spirit in me, then why is it so hard to do them?
The key is self-control. We have to choose how we respond. Every time I have an opportunity to be kind, I can utilize self-control to make sure I am kind. When my deceitful heart tells me I can’t be longsuffering right now, I can tell it to shut up, and I can choose to be longsuffering. But self-control isn’t just talking yourself into doing something, it is a gift that God has given us, as believers, and it means that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have control over what we do. I love that, don’t you! We aren’t under the control of our sinful flesh anymore. Praise God! Hallelujah!! I’m using exclamation marks because I really mean it.
Teaching My Kids Self-Control
I feel like the most important thing I could teach my kids, aside from the loving salvation found in Jesus Christ alone, is how to have self-control. Before my kids get saved, it is not a topic that we discuss. I don’t expect them to be able to have self-control apart from the Holy Spirit. The Bible doesn’t tell me that I should expect non-believers to have self-control. But as soon as my kids profess and accept Jesus Christ (we are waiting on one more… he’s still a bit young through), I start talking about self-control, a lot. I bet my kids are tired of hearing about it, to be honest. Last week, my daughter was mad about the way I brushed her hair. She started to throw a fit, crying, and thrashing around her room, throwing things. My husband told her that she had two choices, she could stop throwing a fit and she would be able to go to the park, or if she continued to throw a fit, she would have to stay home. She chose poorly. I checked on her a few times after my husband and the other kids left for the park to meet up with friends. At first she still had anger in her eyes. When she is angry, it is written all over her face. A few checks later, I could see it. Repentance. She was sorry that she missed going to the park.
I went in and asked her a question, “Sweetie, do you understand that Daddy gave you a choice, and you chose not to go to the park?” “Yes,” she whispered. “If you would have chose to have self-control, you could have stopped throwing a fit.” “I know,” she said. “Listen, it is my job to teach you how to have self-control. Do you know why?” Cue slow blinking. I continued, “Because if you don’t have self-control now, with Mommy and Daddy to help you see which choices are good, you won’t be able to have self-control when you grow up. When adults don’t have self-control they can’t keep a job, no one wants to be friends with them, and most importantly they don’t choose to obey God. Does that sound like the kind of life you want to have?” “No mommy! I don’t want to have a life like that.” “Well, through the Holy Spirit, through God, we can use their power to have self-control. That’s what the Bible says. Ok?” “Ok,” she said, through her slow crocodile tears. The same is true for us as adults. If we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to empower us with the gift of self-control, we are going to miss out. We will miss opportunities to point others to Jesus through love, and we will miss out on our ability to encourage others through kindness, gentleness, and faithfulness. The gifts of the Spirit are tools that are only enabled to children of God, and we ought to be using them. But the only way to make sure we use them even when we don’t feel like we can, is through the gift of self-control.
Even In One Thing
After our mother-daughter conversation, which ended with hugs and kisses, God showed me something that shocked me. He showed me a picture of what my life would be like if I hadn’t exercised self-control in one choice, many years ago. While I was in college, God asked me to take a break from having a dating relationship with anyone. He asked me if I would be willing to go on a time-out, to spend two years getting to know Him better, so I could learn to depend solely on Him. I reluctantly said yes. I knew I needed it, and I wanted to deepen my relationship with God. I understood that I needed to learn how to let God be my everything. But it was really difficult. I was in college and there were cute guys all around me. I will admit that I was easily distracted back then. There were different opportunities where I could have pushed my way into a relationship, but I remembered what God had asked me to do. I decided to have self-control.
Meanwhile back in my kids’ , God showed me the consequences of the choice I had in made in college to have self-control in this area. Without that one choice I wouldn’t have met my husband, I wouldn’t have my three wonderful children, and I wouldn’t have the life I have now. These relationships that I treasure so dearly would have never existed.
For Every Believer
Don’t forget about self-control. It is available to you, as a child of God, and I suggest you use it every chance you get. I’m not saying that I never lose it. I do. But more often than not, these days at least, I remember that self-control gives me a choice and chance to respond to things in a way that honors God and allows me to be a better vessel for my Master.
Thank You so much that You have given us the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Thank You, Father, that we are no longer at the mercy of our flesh, and that you sent your Son to save us. Please help us to remember the gifts, to use them, and to have self-control. We know that without You, we wouldn’t have this amazing gift. Please help us to grow in our faith, Jesus. We love you so much!! Thank you that because of you, we have the liberty not to be slaves to the works of our flesh.
In Jesus name,
I know I still haven’t done a post about my new book, but I’m planning to have it up for free on Amazon on August 1st, so I will probably do a post about it then. If you can’t wait, click here.
Until next time, God bless you.