The Only Legitimate Form of Control

How-To-Teach-Your-Child-Self-Control-713x509Galatians 5:22-23 is a familar passage: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The fruit of the Spirit is the manifestation of the character of Jesus seen in and through us when we submit to His leadership. In this brief article, I want to focus on one aspect of these attributes of His nature, the fruit of self-control. Self-control can be described as self-discipline and restraint; willpower and levelheadedness. Vine’s Dictionary defines it as, the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites.”  

Jesus exemplified self-control many times, in His dealings with the religious leaders, in His power over temptation, in His willingness to submit to the tortures of, and leading up to His crucifixion, to name a few. He never retailiated when wronged nor tried to defend Himself against His persecutors. He was victorious over the enemy and His own flesh in His wilderness testing. He is our model for what self-control looks like.

As believers, we often work harder to try to control others than we do ourselves. Leaders frequently attempt to control their congregations because of the fears and shame they struggle with. Yet, as Graham Cooke says, “Self-control is the only legitimate form of control in the Church.” Stiving to control others is actually a form of witchcraft, and a sign that the controller is controlled by fear and shame.

Self-control is one facet of God’s Spirit that is sadly lacking in many churches and believers’ lives. A lack of self-control often manifests in angry outbursts and fits of rage, fleshly indulgences like overeating, overspending, pornography, sexual sin and various addictions. Rather than seeing it for what it is and seeking help, many come up with excuses as to why they are the way they are, and that they can’t help themselves, which is another example of a victim mentality. When we succumb to this toxic thinking, we are deceiving no one but ourselves.

Two of the enemy’s favorite forms of temptation are the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. He used this tactic back in the Garden of Eden and still does to this day. If he can tempt us to indulge our fleshly desires and passions, he can damage and even destroy our witness for the Lord. We must learn to recognize his subtle strategy and resist him by submitting to God’s Spirit and the fruit of self-control. If Jesus lives in us, it is not impossible, for He is far greater than the enemy. We can do ALL things through His limitless strength within us!

We become what we behold, so the key to allowing the fruit of the Spirit to flow through us is to meditate upon these virtues as seen in our Lord and Savior. As we meditate upon His Word, we, like Jesus, become the word made flesh, taking on His likeness more every day. When we demonstrate the fruit of self-control, others will take notice and know there is something different about us. And more importantly, we will bring glory and honor to God.

The Essential Need for Healthy Boundaries

A key factor in determining and maintaining our emotional health is our ability to set broken wallshealthy boundaries. Those who live in continual stress, anxiety, frustration, fear, etc., often do so because of their inability or ignorance in knowing how to do so or what healthy boundaries even are. Many grew up with no boundaries, such as those who were victims of abuse. But for our own sake, and the sake of those around us, it is critical that we learn.

Proverbs 25:28 says, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.”  In other words, you could say a person without boundaries has no self-control — he has given control to circumstances and those around him. In Biblical times when a city’s walls were broken down, the enemy had easy access to come and go as he pleased, stealing, killing, and destroying that city and its inhabitants. This, of course, is a perfect picture of a person with no boundaries that allows the enemy to control and ultimately destroy them.

Boundaries keep us safe and enable us to be in control, not others or the enemy. By control, I am speaking of self-control. We decide how we show up in any given situation. We do not react to the demands of others, or the current situation. We can step back, get into the Spirit, and respond as He would have us to. A lack of boundaries will cause us to react in the flesh every time. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, so we have access to that grace because He dwells within us.

Setting healthy boundaries enables us to say “no” to the demands and requests of others that would drain us of energy and eat up our time, without feeling guilty. If we are unable to turn down these requests and demands, or we feel guilty doing so, it is a sign we lack boundaries and self-control. We have become people pleasers instead of God pleasers. If our typical response to situations outside of our control is fear, anxiety, anger, rage, impatience, etc., it means we have given control over to those situations and are not walking in self-control because we have not set boundaries.

We must determine in advance what we will and will not, allow to control us. It is much more difficult to make the decision in the heat of the moment. We must decide we will not allow difficult situations to steal our peace and joy. Instead, we will look for the good that God promises to bring from them. In dealing with people, we must resolve to control our own schedule and activities to include spending time with family, leisure, and time for ourselves before committing to other things. We must know our limitations; we cannot do everything. One of the enemy’s greatest tactics is to keep us busy – away from our spouses and children, tired with no time to rest, stressed and anxious because we know we can’t do it all – all the while believing we are doing great things for the Lord. This can lead to physical illness, mental breakdowns and burnout, strife and division in the family, etc.

As in all things, Jesus is our model for life and ministry. He knew how to set healthy boundaries. He left needy crowds to spend time with His Father. He never gave in to the demands of others; He knew when it was, and wasn’t His time. He took time alone, away from even His disciples, to rest and commune with the Father. He didn’t go to every sick or demonized person that needed help, but only the ones the Father showed Him. He was never stressed or anxious, never fearful or uncertain; He walked in continual peace because He had perfect self-control. Thankfully, we have Him to help us grow in this ability every day!

Have you set healthy boundaries? If not, why not? I would love to hear your story!

The Power of Words

Words have incredible power. The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, wordsbut words will never hurt me,” may sound good, but it isn’t true. Solomon wrote, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Prov. 18:21) He was considered the wisest man to ever live, other than Jesus, and he had much to say about words and the power of the tongue. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” 

The words we speak tell a lot about the condition of our soul. Jesus said, For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:34-37) What we really believe will come out in the words we speak.

James also spoke on the importance of our words, “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” (James 3:2) He goes on to say, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (3:6-8) If we cannot control our tongues, then it goes without saying that only the indwelling Spirit is able to do so, as we surrender to His empowering grace. 

Our part is to give Him something to work with. He cannot pull out of us what isn’t there. As we spend time meditating on God’s Word our minds are renewed; our minds are a part of our soul. When His Word is within us, Holy Spirit can and will bring it out of us when needed and we will speak that which is in agreement with Him. In addition, He gives us the fruit of self-control, enabling us to hold our tongues. Paul instructed believers, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph. 4:29) He is implying this is fully possible, but it takes the power of the Spirit to help us.

A good challenge would be to take a day or two and really listen to what comes out of your mouth. The Lord has had me do this on several occasions, and it was very enlightening! When we learn to tame our tongues, we will be fully mature, according to the passage in James. God has given us everything we need in order to live this life He has called us to. The question is, are we using it?

Learning to Walk by the Spirit

One of the greatest challenges I’ve encountered as a believer is learning to sunlit pathwalk in, or by, the Spirit. Though I didn’t grow up in church, I’ve been in it long enough to have heard the admonition to be led by the Spirit many times. However, I don’t remember anyone ever telling me how to do it. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what that phrase meant. Several years ago I came across a little book by Graham Cooke called, Towards a Powerful Inner Life. Though it is small, it is packed with wisdom and truth that greatly helped me. I highly encourage you to read his books and listen to his teachings, they are amazing!

Just as God is triune (three parts) in nature, so is man. We are made up of spirit, soul, and body. (1 Thess. 5:23) Our spirit is dead at birth, but is reborn at salvation. (John 3:3-8) Our spirit then becomes one with His indwelling Spirit, which is how we commune with Him. God releases revelation to our spirit, which is then processed through our mind and applied to our soul. Our spirit is always in agreement with God because we are one with Him through the Spirit.

Our soul is made up of three parts: our mind, will, and emotions. Obviously, we think with our minds, feel with our emotions, and make choices with our wills. Unbelievers live entirely from this realm. (1 Cor. 2:14) After the Fall of man, the spirit died and we lost our communion with, and the true knowledge of, God. This is clearly seen when Adam and Eve tried to hide in fear and shame from the One they once walked and talked with freely in the Garden. Ever since then, man came under the dominion of his soul rather than his spirit. The soul is the part of us that is influenced by the enemy.

Our body is the vehicle that carries our spirit and soul, and follows the dictates of whichever one we allow to be in charge of our decisions. If we live from our soul, we will indulge in fleshly passions that can bring great harm to our bodies, even if we are “born again.” When we live from our spirit, the Spirit will influence our decisions and we will put our fleshly desires to death, by God’s empowering grace. (Gal. 5:16, 24)

God has given us free will; we can choose whether we are going to listen to, and follow, our soul or our spirit. Since our soul is used to calling the shots, we must put forth the effort to build up our spirit. We can do this through communing with God in His Word, in worship, and prayer. We must take responsibility for renewing our minds, according to Romans 12:2. In time, this will bring our thoughts into agreement with God’s, and whatever we make agreement with, we empower. When we agree with the enemy’s lies, we give him power over us.

The carnal soul is self-absorbed. I think of it as a spoiled child – it wants what it wants, and it wants it now! It is influenced by our ungodly thoughts, our damaged emotions, and the enemy who tempts us to indulge our flesh. Our soul loves God, but wants Him on our terms, not His. It is stubborn, independent, and rebellious, and must be disciplined in order to come into submission to our spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is self-control, a soul that has been trained to submit to the indwelling Spirit, in union with our human spirit. As we bring our thoughts into agreement with God’s, allow Him to heal our damaged emotions, and resist the temptations of the enemy, we can bring our soul into submission to our spirit. This is how we learn to walk by the Spirit.

What has God taught you about walking by the Spirit? Please comment below.