“I just couldn’t help myself!”

Yesterday we explored human diversity, and concluded that our unity depends, at times, upon our ability to “rein in” our own preferences and prejudices. But what if they are strong and ingrained? What if I’ve demanded my way for so long that I’ve become a little too aggressive in getting my own way?

Rather than resolving to turn over a new leaf or otherwise making promises you can’t keep, a good place to begin is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). The Spirit’s fruit is the evidence, or, evidences, of God’s life within us. It includes love, joy, and peace, along with patience and goodness.

But one of the more overlooked segments of spiritual fruit is the last one Paul mentions, namely, self-control. That one got my attention decades ago, during the charismatic revival when folks seemed to be saying that the Spirit made them do things, bypassing their will. They spoke of being “controlled” by the Spirit (often due to an unfortunate translation in Romans 8:6), as if we were passive.

The implications of the Spirit enabling and empowering our self-control are staggering and practical. I no longer can blame my temper on my ethnicity or family history. I don’t have to cave in to addictive behavior because of my personality type. I need not ask for power to resist temptation.

Instead, I can appropriate the power that the Lord already has given, in the person of His indwelling Spirit. I can “just say ‘No!’ when I need to do so (1 Corinthians 10:13). But this places the responsibility back on us, doesn’t it? We make the decision to believe God and answer the temptation, whatever it may be, in the power of God and the reinforcing of our will through His Spirit. It is grace, transforming grace, which enables and empowers and transforms my very will (Galatians 2:20).

This tracks precisely with what Paul says is evidence of our having God’s life within us as we, “through the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the flesh” (Romans 8:13). Just as Jesus came to take away our sin, He also came to give us power to oppose sin within us.

In other words, when God gives us a command, He empowers us to carry it out. As we believe His Word and appropriate His power, we can break away from the sins that bind us, even the sin of constantly demanding our own way.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of
power and love and self-control.”
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)

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