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Self-Control is Not an Impossible Goal

Many Christians have been deceived and sold a lie. The lie that it is simply not possible to control our bodies. Like all lies, it originates from the father of lies, Satan himself. Tragically, a lot of believers have bought into this massive deceit wholesale and have all but given up on even trying to control themselves. Not least when it comes to sexual sin.

The only way to combat a lie is with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. So, let me lovingly wield that sword in the hope that the Lord might graciously release some of us from this terrible deceit and from the slavery to sexual sin that inevitably springs from it.

Self-control is the fruit of the Spirit

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery…But the fruit of the Spirit is …self-control” (Galatians 5:19; 22-23). The Holy Spirit resides permanently within every believer in Christ. He is the Spirit of self-control. So, one mark of a person being full of the Holy Spirit is that they exercise self-control over their body.

To believe that it’s impossible to control myself sexually is to believe that sexual desire is greater than the immeasurable power of God the Holy Spirit. I’m saying, in effect, that there is something more powerful than the Living God who created and sustains the whole universe! That is a blatant lie.

Father, please help me to believe that you are infinitely more powerful than the strongest sexual desire or temptation that I can ever face.

Self-control is made possible by the Spirit

On those occasions where I’ve failed to control my body, it has been for one of two reasons. Either because I’ve simply rebelled against God and resisted the warnings of the Holy Spirit. Or because I’ve been genuine in my desire to resist and control myself, but have tried to do it in my own strength and failed miserably.

Conversely, there have been many times of temptation where I have stopped and prayed, often with tears, ‘Lord, please out of your glorious riches strengthen me with power through your Spirit in my inner being’ (see Ephesians 3:16). On those occasions, I have always exercised self-control and eventually the temptation has subsided. This is not surprising, of course, because the word of God says “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

This is not to say, of course, that all sexual temptations come directly from the devil. Most of my temptations – sexual or otherwise – come from within my old sinful nature. But the principle works either way. When we resist in the power of the Spirit, we will exercise self-control.

Father, please help me to overcome my self-reliance in times of temptation and to cry out to you for the empowering of the Holy Spirit to be self-controlled.

Self-control is taught by the grace of God

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

If God wills something for my life, then it cannot be an impossible goal. But the very fact that Paul teaches Christians to “learn to control your own body” provides great encouragement. Because learning suggests at least the possibility of us making mistakes along the way. So, if we do fall into sin, our loving Father calls us not only to repent but to learn from our failure.

The great news is that, as you learn to exercise self-control in the power of the Holy Spirit, you have your very own personal tutor. The grace of God “teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12). The Lord in his grace is not standing at your side to give the occasional bit of guidance or tell you off when you fail. No, He “works in you to will and to act to fulfil his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

So, have you enrolled in the school of grace and asked the God of all grace to teach you to be self-controlled? Because if you’re still trying to fight this battle in your own strength, that is one reason why you may have bought into Satan’s lie that self-control is simply not possible.

Father, please enrol me in your school of grace and teach me to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions so that I can learn to control my body.