Galatians 5:22-23 ESV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The word fruit, in our scripture, is singular. It is one Fruit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are the qualities that make up the Fruit. There are not nine different fruits—it is a nine-part Fruit. The Fruit is like an orange, and inside the orange, there are numerous slices. So, imagine that each slice of the orange is one of the aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit.
The “fruit” of the Spirit is the expression of our renewed nature as it is seen by others.
Self control is the last characteristic listed as a fruit of the Spirit. Self-Control is being able to keep one's self in check. It’s not letting our circumstances cause us to lose control. Self-control exhibits moderation, temperance, and discipline. It’s choosing, under significant pressure, to chase after the important instead of the urgent. Self-controlled people show restraint and are not impulsive. They are able to say “no” to our fleshly thoughts and lusts.
The very concept of “self-control” implies a battle between a divided self. It implies that our “self” produces desires we should not satisfy but instead “control.” We should deny ourselves and take up our cross daily, Jesus says, and follow him. Daily our “self” produces desires that should be “denied” or “controlled.”
Luke 9:23 (ESV)23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
One of the proofs of God’s working in our lives is the ability to control our own thoughts, words, and actions. It’s not that we are naturally weak-willed. But our fallen nature is under the influence of sin.
Romans 6:6-14 (ESV)6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
One definition of sin is "filling a legitimate need through illegitimate means." Without the power of the Holy Spirit, we are incapable of knowing and choosing how best to meet our needs. Even if we knew what would be best, another need, like comfort, would take precedence and enslave us again.
When we are saved by Christ’s sacrifice, we are free.
Galatians 5:1 (ESV)1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
That liberty includes, among other things, freedom from sin. Now, as the Spirit gives us self-control, we can refuse sin.
Romans 7:21-25 (ESV)21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
We need defenses in our lives. These defenses might include avoiding close relationships with sinners, meeting with other believers, and meditating on the life-giving Word of God. We don’t exhibit self-control if we continually casually deal with that which would enslave us.
Self-control naturally leads to perseverance as we value the long-term good instead of the instant gratification of the world.
2 Peter 1:3-7 (ESV)3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
Self-control is a gift that frees us. It frees us to enjoy the benefits of a healthy body. It frees us to rest in the security of good stewardship. It frees us from a guilty conscience. Self-control restricts the indulgence of our foolish desires, and we find the liberty to love and live as we were meant to.