What Do We Know About Self Control?


          Self control is a vital part of the Christian life. Our world is a world where we see a wasteful use of time or energy, a wasting or squandering of things, a sinful manner of life or an excessive indulgence in pleasure. Christians are called to a life of self-control, discipline and godliness. Temperance (King James Version) or self-control must be added to the foundation of faith. "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness." (2 Pet. 1:5-6) Those who have been buried with Christ in baptism (Romans 6:3-4) must not allow evil to again become their master.  "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." (Romans 6:12-13) Self-control is that which makes it possible for man to fulfill his responsibility for what he does in his body.


          We know the meaning of self-control. Paul wanted the brethren at Rome, and also every Christian, to understand the importance of self-control so he stated its importance in the words of Romans 8:13. "For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." Self-control is that ability to discipline or control our life under Jesus Christ as Lord. Self-control is gained through prayer, knowledge and an ex­ercise of the Christian faith. Christians must develop the wisdom to discern between good and evil and the strength to choose the good. "But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Hebrews 5:14)


          We know how self-control is attained. The decision to put aside or crucify our own desires is attained through daily following the Lord. "Then He said to them all, if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." (Luke 9:23) This self-control grows out of crucifying the flesh. "And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:24) This giving up sinful practices and bringing ourselves under control to Christ could only be called a crucifixion.  "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) Every Christian should be motivated to self-control by our personal responsibility and accountability at judgment. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10)


          We know what happens when self-control is absent. When self-control is absent Eve will look at the forbidden fruit and take it. "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate." (Genesis 3:6) A lack of self-control caused Achan to take silver and gold from Jericho. "When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian gar­ment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the sil­ver under it." (Joshua 7:21)  It was a lack of self-control which led to David lusting after the beautiful Bathsheba and committing sin with her. "Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house." (2 Samuel 11:2-4)  A lack of self-control always leads to spiritual hurt.


          We know what happens when self-control is practiced. Paul was a great servant of God as a result of self-control. "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:27) Joseph avoided being a fornicator with Potipher's wife through self-control. "And it came to pass after these things that his master's wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, Lie with me. But he refused and said to his master's wife, look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:7-9) When self-control is present men possess one of the qualities necessary for leadership in the church of our Lord. "But hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled." (Titus 1:8) Practicing self-control always blesses you and those touched by your life.


          We know areas where self control must be practiced. Self-control must be prac­ticed in good and right things: (1) eating, (2) pleasure, (3) work, and (4) sleep. Self-control must be practiced as Christians completely abstain from: (1) fornication, (2) lying, (3) gambling, (4) drunkenness, and (5) stealing. Christians must control their temper. "He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly." (Proverbs 14:29) The tongue must also be controlled by Christians. "If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless." (James 1:26) Self-control must be practiced because it is part of the fruit of the spirit. (Galatians 5:23) It is also one of the Christian graces. (2 Peter 1:5-8) No one will receive that abundant entrance that does not practice self-control. (2 Peter 1:11) Self-control results from bringing our thoughts into captivity to Christ. "Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)


          Do you have self under control? Will you accept God's wonderful good news that Jesus died for your sins? Will you be baptized into Christ to put on Christ so that your sins can be forgiven by His blood? "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27) Believers contact Christ's saving blood by being baptized into His death. Those that become children of God have reason to rejoice. (Acts 8:39) Rejoicing follows man's response to God's good news of forgiveness by the death of Jesus.


By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA