Fruit of the Spirit series: Self Control versus Out of Control
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control, against such there is no law. ” Gal. 5:22-23
The nine fruits of the Spirit are the nature of God manifesting in our lives as we abide in Him through all the various circumstances of life. The fruit of the Spirit is not our work or self effort.
“Against such there is no law.” With the fruit of the Spirit, there are no laws, no authority, no negatives that can be so strong to stop the fruit of the Spirit from growing because it is the work of God.
It may be a hard winter in your life– but there will be fruit when no one expects it. It may be a dry summer – but there will be fruit when no one expects it. No season, no circumstances can stop the fruit of the Spirit from growing. Only one thing can stop the fruit of the Spirit from growing in your life. If you quit believing God loves you and is for you, even in your weaknesses.
Joseph was falsely accused and in prison – But God grew faithfulness in him.
Moses had serious anger issues – God grew gentleness.
John the disciple was quick to criticize and judge people and ready to call down fire to destroy people – yet God turned him into the apostle of love.
Fruit comes by abiding, remaining in faith that God loves you and will never give up on you. Our confidence cannot be in ourselves – but in Him. Let me explain.
While preaching on all the different fruits of the Spirit you may have thought when I preached on love something like, “Okay I’ve got to be more loving and try harder at loving. Or when I preached on joy, you said, “Okay I need to get more joy in my life.”
So today when I preach about self control many will leave here trying to exercise a greater degree of self discipline. But self control is different – it is the fruit the Spirit that enables you not to react the way your flesh wants to react. It is the grace or enablement from God.
Fro example someone says something that normally you would react negative, but this time God’s grace enables you to not be disturbed.
God is enabling you to exercise self control over your emotions.
- Instead of panic you respond with peace. Instead of anger you respond with gentleness. The opposite of the flesh.
This is a work of the Spirit inside you. God is doing this!
Self discipline is disciplining or training yourself to eat veggies instead of bingeing. You do this.
Many are trying hard to change their flesh in order to please God. Self discipline is good, but it is not the fruit of self control.
The bottom line is many are trusting in their commitment to God rather than in God’s commitment to you.
Ill. Before the Passover dinner Jesus girded Himself with a towel and washed all the disciples feet. When He came to Peter, Peter objected. If I don’t wash you then you have no part with Me. What I am doing now you don’t understand now but you will understand it later. Peter said then give me a whole bath. Jesus must have laughed and then said,
“He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. You are clean but not all of you.” For He knew who would betray Him. John 13:10-11
How can they deny Him and still be clean?
Because there is a big difference between stumbling and a betraying heart. In God’s eyes it is not contradictory to say they are clean and at the same time they are going to stumble and fall in immaturity. That is not to say that your sin does not matter. It is vital to know that God sees the cry of your heart, even when you stumble, you have a willing spirit, you have a genuine love for God.
After the Passover meal Jesus said, “All of you will fall on account of Me this night for it is written (prophesied) : ‘ I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will scatter.’ Peter answered, “Though all men will fall away, yet I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Before the rooster crows in the morning you will have denied Me three times.” Peter said, “Though I should die with You, yet I will not deny You.” And all the disciples said the same thing.
Interesting that Jesus tells Peter before a rooster crows. It was a prophetic parable of Peter’s pride. Peter you are crowing like a proud rooster but I tell you that all of you, including you, will all fall away!
In Luke 22:32 we get added info where Jesus says to Peter,
“But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Lk 22:32
“Your faith should not fail” – not faith in your commitment, not faith in your faith, but faith in God’s love to pick you up when you fall.
Following this they go to the garden of Gethsemane, which represents a place of pressure, where olives are pressed for oil. The anointing in you comes out under the pressure. Here Jesus reveals Peter’s heart and ours. Jesus is letting them know the pressure is about to come upon them.
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mtt 26:41
Peter genuinely believed he would never deny the Lord. His faith is in his own commitment than in the Lord’s commitment to him!
Ill. When I first received Jesus as Lord I was so excited. I had this same attitude as Peter. The Lord could have said, “Gary, you are going to stumble because your flesh is weak, but you do have a willing spirit.” Later I remember how confused I was because of the weakness of my own flesh. I felt like a hopeless failure and listened to the lies of the accuser telling me that I did not love God and surely I was not saved.
When Peter stumbled, he still was a lover of God. Because of the work of Christ – he was still clean.
“For by grace are you saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, and not of man’s works lest anyone boast.” Eph. 2:9
“If death reigned through one man’s sin, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace AND the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One, JC.” Romans 5:17
So often after we sin we want to put ourselves on probation with God or into purgatory for a season until we feel we have somehow felt bad enough to deserve forgiveness! But when we do we are placing our confidence in something other than being confident in the grace that has already been manifested on the cross.
You know the story, before morning Peter has denied Jesus three times. Jesus died on the cross but after Jesus resurrection He encounters Peter for the first time after his failure. Peter felt disqualified. In fact he already turned in his resignation and gone back to the fishing business.
In John 21:15-17 Jesus asks Peter the same question three times! He is identifying something important to Peter and us. Listen to this scripture you already have heard but hear something different this time.
“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
I can see Peter stumbling over his shame and saying,
“Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”
I failed You, I denied You, and I am punishing myself. I have disqualified myself, I have resigned to being a loser, a failure, but yes I do love You! It may not look like it, but You know that I genuinely do love You!
Jesus said, “Then feed my lambs.” In other words, you are not disqualified – get back to what I called you to do.
I can imagine Jesus cupping Peter’s face and saying, “Look at Me. Do you remember I told you in the garden that you had a willing spirit but your flesh was weak? I told you that you would deny Me. You have now discovered your flesh is weak. You are weak, but you are genuine not rebellious like Judas.
Jesus was trying to break the shame off of Peter that was like a giant millstone. Some of you may have this hanging on you today as well. So Jesus is trying to get Peter to make the right confession out of his mouth and He asks again, “Peter, do you love Me?”
Now Peter’s confession gets stronger.
“Yes Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” John 21:17
The shame is starting to break off Peter as well as recognizing the grace the Jesus is offering him.
Jesus could have said all this differently. He could have said to Peter, “Do you know that I love you?” Peter would have answered yes.
But where he stopped abiding was in not believing that he still loved the Lord because he failed. What he doubted was his own love for the Lord because of his failure. I guess I don’t love the Lord. I must not have faith in Him.
Abiding in Christ is a two way connection. One, is believing the Lord loves me unconditionally. Two, is believing I love the Lord unconditionally even when I stumble.
Ill. This is where people struggle with doubting salvation. They believe Jesus died on the cross and rose again. But the question themselves – if I truly believed then why do I continue to sin and fall short? It is because your flesh is weak. Jesus knew that when He saved you. If you focus on your failures and weakness then you will always doubt. But salvation is not dependent upon you holding out or your commitment. It is all based on Jesus and His completed work for you on the cross. “It is finished.” I am saved not because of what I do, but on what He did!
One of the ways you know you are saved is when you sin, it bothers you. This is because you are truly a lover of God at heart. You are His and He is yours and nothing you can do will change that. Nothing satisfies you like His love and living in alignment with Him.
When Peter took on the identity of failure, he lived in shame and defeat. When you take on the identity of failure you live in shame and defeat and not confidence.
Jesus re-established his true identity by getting him to confess that he was indeed a lover of God. You are a lover of God – that is who you really are. You are loved by God – You belong to Him and that is your security and no one can pluck you out of His hand.
There is a phrase in Song of Solomon used many times. We have this scripture as a sign in our bedroom.
“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” SoS 6:3
We mean it for one another – that we belong to each other. But God originally wrote this as an expression of our identity. We belong to Him and He belongs to us. We are loved by God and we are lovers of God!
Remember Jesus told all the disciples that all them would stumble and fall away. They did, but not everyone struggled with getting re-established like Peter. Remember John the Apostle. He fell away too but he bounced back quicker – why?
In his gospel when he writes about himself he never uses the first person or his name. Instead of saying “Peter and John” he writes, “Peter and the disciple whom Jesus’ loves.” He never calls himself by name but instead, “the disciple whom Jesus loves.”
John failed just as Peter did. He would admit his sin but at the same time he would say, “I am still the one God loves, I know God loves me.” He did not have his identity stolen when he sinned.
Peter would have said, “God must hate me.”
What does this have to do with self control?
Ill. Like plumbing, once the water line is connected then you turn on the water pressure to see if there are any leaks. Once you are connected or abiding God uses pressure in our lives to reveal if we have any leaks! Pressure works for us not against us.
Sometimes the pressure can be either emotional or physical and will drive you to your place of comfort. Sometimes the pressure reveals a weak spot in us. God already knew it but we did not think so.
“For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14
We are learning to trust God in all things.
We are learning to depend upon God.
We are learning not to panic when bad things happen. We are learning not to be afraid, anxious, or fretful.
Ill. This week on news a group of seniors in high school went to the beach. A boy and girl got swept out to sea in rip tide. They were gone for 2 hours before anyone noticed. They treaded water and were way out beyond sight. The boy prayed out loud, “Lord if You have plans for my life I want to live and fulfill it.” About 3 minutes later a fishing boat spotted them and rescued them. The name that was on the front of the boat was – Amen.
All of life is spiritual, God is using everything in your life for your good.
Even when you mess up and do something stupid – God will use it in developing you. God doesn’t get mad and walk out on you because you failed the test.
God kept faith with Abraham when he lied about Sarah being his sister. He appeared to lying, cheating Jacob and kept working with him.
David committed adultery and murdered, God did not take him out.
Ill. I tell people who are struggling with an addiction (drugs, smoking, etc.), to speak out loud things like, “I am free from this addiction” even, while they are using drugs. Go on to say, “I hate these drugs and what they have done to me. God has a better life for me than this. Because of the anointing upon my life I am overcoming this!”
Nothing may be true at the moment, but instead of announcing and declaring defeat, announce truth.
“We are snared by the words of our mouth.” Proverbs 6:2
There are always 2 voices competing for your attention, the voice of defeat or the voice of faith. What you truly believe is coming out of your mouth. That is why Jesus ask Peter the same question 3 times. 3 times he denied he knew Jesus but 3 times he confess he loved Him.
Negative words are the devil’s acid to destroy. God’s words are like baking soda thrown on acid – it neutralizes the acid.
Paul described the Xn life on earth as like running a race or fighting an opponent.
“Do you not know all those who run in a race run, but only one receives the prize? So run to win. Everyone who strives for the prize exercises self control in all things. They do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. So therefore, I run not with uncertainty. So I fight, not as one who beats the air. But I bring my body under subjection, lest while preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” I Cor. 9:24-27
I run or abide with X with a certainty about this life. I run to win. What is winning? It is not competing against others. Everyone has their own race to run.
Winning is crossing the finish line – the end of your life abiding and remaining in faith and dying in faith and going to glory in faith.
Notice Paul said I have to keep my body in subjection or else I could be disqualified. You don’t qualify yourself for this race – God’s anointing qualifies you and keeps you qualified.
What disqualifies you is not operating in your anointing but only in your flesh.
When Paul came to the end of his life, he said,
“I have finished my course.” One translation says
“I finished my course with joy.”
There were times it looked like he might not finish but God gave him, finishing grace.
When Paul was put in prison he could no longer travel and start churches like he was called to do. Instead of getting depressed that he could not go out and minister because he was in chains, no problem, he just started writing. Two thirds of the new testament was written by him while he was in prison. No person or bad experience can stop what God has given you to do. You have finishing grace.
You have to make up your mind that you are going to finish this race, with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness , gentleness, and self control.
You get to decide how you are going to finish. Paul did.
He did not finish defeated, depressed or disappointed or bitter. He finished with;
A smile on his face – a song in his heart – and a spring in his step.
A few weeks ago a dear sister asked to meet me after church. She said she had a word from the Lord for me. She gently shared with me a lot of wisdom in just a few minutes. My heart was touched. She gave me a book to read to encourage me. But before she gave me the book she read some things from it that sounded like it was written just for me. Part of what she read I am going to relay to you.
Ill. Thousand of years ago in Greece there was a famous race called the torch relay. All the runners received a torch. At the start of the race they would light their torches and take off running with torches lit. The only way you could win the race was to cross the finish line with your torch lit. Even if you came in first but your fire went out then your were disqualified. So the whole time running they had to protect fire from wind, rain, or anything that might put it out.
It is the same principle for us in running the race of life. If we are going to finish our course we have to guard our fire. You can’t let your your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness or self control, go out.
Too many people have lost their passion. They are still running the race but their torch is no longer lit.
Ill. I was one of those people. Pam and I have been in ministry for 36 years. A lot of good times but a lot of difficult ones too. We started out with a fire that was awesome. Then we had some setbacks, strife with people in church, strife in our own family, health issues, financial struggles, you name it. Without realizing it I was running the race but the fire was gone.
We all need people who will help you keep your fire burning and tell you when your fire has gone out and be there to help you light your torch again. I have several dear ones, but just a few weeks ago it was Elaine Wallace. Thank you Elaine. I am still feeding on your words. By the grace of God, I have determined no matter what, I will finish my course with my torch still lit.
Today you decide how you will finish!
A dear friend of mine frequently closes our conversation with these words, Keep the fire burning!
It’s interesting that the light in the temple of God was to never burn out. It was to stay lit 24/7. Young Samuel’s first job was to keep the flame burning in the temple. I think that is our first job too.