Self control is something everybody thinks they have, until they don’t.
True self control is more than mastering discipline, routine, and the forming of new habits. Real self control is freedom that comes from mastering the lusts of the mind, referred to by the apostle John as: “the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” 1 John 2:16 NKJV.
And this mastery is the control over our tendency to over do things, take things too far.
It’s not bad to eat, everyone needs to. But gluttony is too far, it is a lust of the flesh. Money is not bad in the sense that we need to make our way in society, working, buying, selling. But when the accumulation of goods becomes our god and focus, we have gone too far.
Humanity is in bondage to lifestyles that focus on self. Our fallen culture constantly stimulates behavior that revolves around ourselves with little consideration of others. So we get all we need, then, and having plenty, lust for more and more. We become slaves.
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? Romans 6:16 NKJV
They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. 2 Peter 2:19 NLT
Part of our redemption in Christ, though, is deliverance from slavery to sin. Even though many, maybe even most, Christians remain imprisoned to some fleshly vice, the cell door has already been unlocked. Jesus’ victory over sin has set us free.
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 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. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:11-14
The virtue of self control is one of the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. As we cultivate a Spirit-filled, Spirit-directed life, these healthy fruits should begin to grow and develop in our lives. Just as the presence of the Holy Spirit brings freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17), the fruit of the Spirit replace the formerly corrupted focus of our lives on our selves, with the Christlike ways of love.
Mastery over the lusts of the mind and flesh through self control will lead us to experience the beauty of God’s design for our lives, free from fleshly entanglement, free to live simply, freedom from the guilt that comes from the double minded flesh, freedom to be who we are create to be.