FINDING STRENGTH IN SURRENDER
Definition: Self-control : GRK “egkrateia”- Spirit-control, the dominion within.
"Ah, I need some self-control", oh often I utter this statement with a discouraged tone, noting my weakness to withstand unhealthy wants.
I desire to possess the strength of self-restraint in more areas of my life. I see its advantages when desire is distant, yet when tortilla chips are sitting in front of my face, I seem to forget the consequences associated with my lack of moderation.
We all know this internal battle of wants versus needs.
It looks good,
it tastes good,
it feels good,
naturally prompts our pursuit of such pleasures..
One of my favorite quotes from the book Addiction and Grace, touching on this topic of innate self-gratification saying, "To be alive is to be addicted, and to be alive and addicted is to stand in need of grace. (May, 2009).
What a sobering statement.
We all, regardless of struggle or sin, need God's good grace. For if this life has taught us anything, it is that we are unable to face our flesh alone.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “our wisdom lies in living near to God, that by the power of His Spirit all our graces may be vigorous, and exercise a sin-expelling power in our lives: the new leaves of grace pushing off our old sere afflictions and habits of sin.”
I believe this is where self-control finds its root; in surrendering to the Spirit’s strength to subdue sin’s strongholds.
Self-control starts with surrender to the Spirit
As we all know, will-power only works in waves. The enmity of our souls is embedding into our very nature. Both our physical desires and mental habits contribute to the battle of becoming “better”.
Think about your story. What comes to mind?
We all have experienced, in some measure, the weight of shame and the cycle of sinful secrecy. We have been wounded and excluded; blamed and chained to habits we now can not even explain.
As I look upon my past, I see the patterns of failed attempts to measure up and hold myself back. Much like Paul, I have felt like a servant to the sin that so easily entangled me.
He says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right but not that ability to carry it out. I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Not if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7: 18-20).
Paul goes on to talk about the war that wages on within mankind’s heart and the defeat that is found within our inability to save ourselves through religious routine or the practice of proper principles.
One commentator said it best, “ Rules alone will prove insufficient to govern and purify the mind" ( J. Thorton).
What a bold and brilliant truth.
I cannot tell you the times I have heard helpless souls oppose Christianity due to the futile rules of religiosity. Oh, how we have missed the Gospel’s gravity.
As we see throughout scripture, rules simply supply a standard for behavior not a solution for our soul’s very nature. Rules will never regulate what needs to be renewed.
Self-control frees us from our flesh
Paul’s encapsulates the essence of God’s gift of grace saying,
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
It is, therefore, the Holy Spirit’s internal influence in our hearts that sets us free from the bondage of sin!
Paul earlier explains the death of sin at salvation in chapter 6, saying,
"For when you were slaves of sin, you were free regarding righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6: 20-23).
"Nothing short of, nothing less penetrative, nothing less potent or radical than, the Spirit of God can put its arrest upon the instincts of man. Without it, man's character is essentially unsound and likely to become corrupt" ( W.H. Murray).
Self-control takes steps towards sanctification
Paul goes on in the following verses of Romans chapter 8, expounding on the cooperative work of the Christian and the Holy Spirit, in bringing forth spirit-driven sanctification.
He simply says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5)
What is sanctification? It is simply the process of becoming more like Christ.
Paul tells us that to live according to the Spirit, we must set our minds on the things of the spirit.
A "mindset" refers to our attitudes, intent, and concern. It is by definition a determined focus. So, as we surrender to the Spirit and find freedom from our flesh, our minds begin to be renewed by God's Truth.
Romans 12 gives us a beautiful picture of the connection of our outward action and inward change when Paul writes, “ Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
It is within each step of our sanctification, we begin to experience the transforming power of God, as we become conformed to the image of His Son.
Paul writes about this life-altering process of the reconciliation of our souls explaining,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
Self-control, as with each of the previous spiritual fruits we have looked at over the past 9 weeks are planted and grown by the goodness and grace of God through Christ. It truly all starts with the strength to surrender.
Friend, I don’t know your story, I don’t know your struggles, but I do know that God is for you; He rejoices in you, and He waits to be wanted by you.
Romans 8 speaks of this unconditional love of God that summarizes the extent of all that true flourishing has to offer us.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? …
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?...
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
At the beginning of this series, I asked the question,
"What would life look like if we focused on the fruitfulness found in Christ?"
I believe it looks a lot like the verses above.
Seen and Secure.
For when we take hold of God as our Ultimately authority over our lives, we are given a new identity, and as a child of God, we are promised that in Christ we hold the final victory!
So, let us keep in step with the Spirit, by sitting in the presence of God and soaking up all that the Son has to offer us.
Let's live a fruit-filled life!