Indy wiggles and squirms, her eyes locked on the treat dangling over her nose. Her legs tremble a little here and there, like she might jump up to grab it out of my hand. But there’s one thing she’s learned. If her bottom leaves the floor, she loses the treat. She has to show self-control. She knows it. She knows without the restraint on herself, she will lose the good thing coming to her.
Even my impetuous hound dog understands the virtue of self-control.
We who know Christ and have read his word have heard about it as well, especially the passage which includes self-control in the list of the evidence of bearing fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
But for a good Calvinistic girl who believes nothing I can do has merit, it seems self-control is a behavior that is predicated on the belief that I am able to control myself. If selfishness is to be avoided, and operating according to what the self desires is to be guarded against, and if I know that only God’s control over my life is going to be fruit-bearing, how is it that I should show self-control? And more to the point: How am I able to?
Proverbs 25:28 compares the soul of man to a city, and draws this conclusion: "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls."
When I am surrendered to Christ, it is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. By belonging to him, we have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24) He has brought a supernatural love and grace to my soul and from that life-giving, identity-changing, divine infusion flow new affections and new inclinations. He is the self of self control. He controls not with fear or power -- as we might -- but a Spirit of truth, which fortifies my heart (Ephesians 6:10-20) against the lies of Satan, the flaming arrows that are meant to plant doubts and temptations in my mind.
A lie to excuse behavior
A tall tale to garner pity
A comparison of self with another
Envy over another’s opportunities
Discontentment with what the Lord has allotted to me
Attempts to redeem myself with moral goodness
There are times when I might be able to give others the impression that my city is strong, but if I have allowed my heart to be invaded by old thoughts, old affections, old inclinations, then the result is brokenness. All the good has dissipated (ever had that experience when not a single Bible verse can come to mind?), and all the bad has taken up residence.
One day, there will be no need of walls. The power and the presence of sin will be removed and we will be in the Celestial City, the lovely kingdom built on a hill, with all our minds stayed on Christ. But for now, If you truly belong to him, take comfort in knowing that Jesus’s very self controls the life of the city. He establishes your walls, and his word has fortified your mind against every foe.
** Five Minute Friday (FMF) is a weekly event hosted at the website of Kate Motaung wherein participants are given a single word prompt every Thursday evening, which remains active for one week. How to play: write for 5 minutes on the thoughts, memories, impressions, reflections, aspirations, hopes, beliefs, convictions, or whatever, that that prompt word brings to mind. Set a timer, write without worry about spelling or grammar or typos, and stop when the timer goes off (no cheating). The rules are here. It's free, it's non-committal, and it's easy to participate, so come to the #FMFparty with me! This week, the word was CONTROL.
Laura England Miller