Proverbs 25:28 A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Meditate on this verse for a moment and imagine the destruction and consequences of a city with no defense and no police to enforce the law. With the recent riots in our cities, that is not hard to imagine, is it?

Unfortunately, many people are like such a city. They have allowed their spiritual walls to be broken down and defunded the police in their personal lives. Instead of controlling their desires and appetites, they abuse drugs, alcohol, oversleep, overwork, overspend, overeat, devote too much time gaming, or on the internet, or watching TV.

The consequences of a lack of self-control eventually become evident and they reveal whether we are walking by the desires of the flesh or by the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:16-24 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Self-control, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is required to deny ourselves and pick up a cross daily to follow Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the “wall” and the “policeman” in our lives. He is also our teacher and comforter. If we are listening to Him, He will speak to us and take us through situations that develop the character of Christ. He will teach us to continually crucify our flesh, and He will change us and conform us into the image of Christ.

Paul learned this, for he said in the same letter in Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This crucifixion must take place continually after baptism because our sinful nature still desires satisfaction. Self-control is the fruit of the Holy Spirit that gives us victory over the sinful nature.

The key to self-control is to stay focused on Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, and obey His Word. That is how we follow Jesus. It is a life-style.

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

When love for the Lord is the motivation of our lives, it shows up as self-control, leading to obedience. Self-control is the grace of God that enables us to live and to walk in the world, and yet remain holy and obedient to God.

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Self-control requires God’s grace, because one of the hardest things for us is to say “NO” to ourselves. Secondly, self-control requires God’s grace because it means doing what must be done in spite of the difficulty and uncertainty.

Most people blame something or someone for not doing the things that should be done. They will even say, “The devil made me do it.” In reality, we choose pleasure over following Christ, because we love ourselves more than we love Him or anyone else.

There is an office sign that reads: “If you could kick the person responsible for most of your troubles, you wouldn’t be able to sit for a week.” It is always easy to blame others for our failures, but many times we are our own worst enemy because we lacked the self-control to put in the effort needed to be successful.

For example, people complain because they can’t get a high paying job, but they are unwilling to discipline themselves, sacrifice, and postpone pleasure to get the training that would qualify them for a high paying job.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

From this passage we see three marks of a self-controlled life.

1. A self-controlled life is lived with purpose. Winners do not put in half-hearted efforts, they give it their all. A life without purpose is a life without self-control because there is no goal. Life is just lived for the moment. Therefore, “let’s eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.”

The example of an athlete is easily understood, but self-control is more than a goal to win. God’s self-control gives us victory in all areas of life, fulfilling His purpose, which is to conform us to be like Jesus.

Romans 8:28-29 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

2. A self-controlled life is a disciplined life. A lot of people get in trouble because they are slaves to their fleshly appetites, the things that give them pleasure (sex, food, drugs)

Christians get in trouble because they don’t discipline their lives to set aside time to connect with God and be filled with the Holy Spirit. They, too, let their desires for pleasure control them instead of the Holy Spirit. They live with an empty faith, void of any power, because they do not discipline themselves to daily read, pray, and worship the Lord with thanksgiving. As a result, they grow weak and become easy prey for the enemy’s temptations.

3. A self-controlled life is lived in submission to Someone greater than self.

Athletes follow strict training regiments. They could be disqualified from competing if they are to be found to have broken any of the rules. To win, athletes must submit themselves to a higher authority than themselves (managers, athletic organizations, referees, etc).

As Christians, the key to self-control is submitting ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus. We must submit to His rules in order to have victory over the enemy and our sinful nature.

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.

The very act of offering our body to God is an act of self-control and worship unto Him! It is the first and most important thing we should do every day. Offering our body to God is something we must do continuously in order to follow Jesus.

The battle between our sinful nature and Spirit begins in our mind. What we think about is eventually what we say and do.

Philippians 3:18-19 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

We cannot avoid this battle for our mind. Satan won’t stop attacking. This is why we need the grace of God to be controlled by the Holy Spirit and to crucify the sinful nature.

Romans 8:5-9 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is critical to victory in this battle for our mind. Only then do we have to grace to exercise self-control. The Holy Spirit turns our thoughts to Christ instead of the temptation. The Holy Spirit gives us power to rebuke and reject the thoughts that come from the enemy or from our sinful nature.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

Our failure in spiritual matters is that we do not think about these things. We watch, and listen, and think about the moral filth and evil that is so prevalent in this world. Oh, we let godly ideas and conceptions lift us up at times, but we do not form the habit of godly thinking. Godly thinking cannot be done in spurts, it requires self-control and focus upon Christ instead of things of this world.

Galatians 6:8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

There is a saying, "You sow a thought and you reap a deed. You sow a deed and you reap a habit. You sow a habit and you reap a character. You sow a character and you reap a destiny."

What goes into our minds, gets into our hearts, and comes out our mouth and shows in our actions. Therefore, be careful what you let into your mind, especially with all types of media. Don’t let yourself and your family be indoctrinated by the world. We must renew our minds with the Truth, the Word of God. If we do this, God will change us and change our destiny!

2 Peter 1:5-11 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Notice the fruit of the Spirit that should follow our faith. We are to grow in these qualities and possess them in increasing measure. It is a life-long process. It is not a self-help program. It is giving the Holy Spirit control.

Ah, but giving up control is the struggle we all face. For one thing, there are a lot of distractions and temptations in this world. Secondly, some of us are afraid of giving God control. We don’t know where He will lead, so we are fearful. However, these are just excuses. Temptation and fear come from our enemy, Satan.

2 Timothy 1:7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

The effort all of must make is to daily die to self, present our bodies as living sacrifices, and ask the Father to fill us with His Spirit so we have grace to follow Jesus instead of our sinful nature.

It takes faith, love, humility, and trust in Jesus to give Him control.

Jesus said in John 14:15, If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

If we love Jesus, we will get His permission before we say and do things. It is called “following Him”. He is in the lead. We are no longer in control. It is a life-style of loving Jesus and being controlled by Him.

In summary, self-control is God, the Holy Spirit, controlling self. Self-control is saying “No” to self and “Yes” to God for the rest of your life.

That may sound like a “death sentence” to some of you. Well, it is. It is death to self, but it leads to life. We have proven that we cannot control our sinful nature. Surely, Almighty God can control our lives and produce a better outcome than us.

Romans 8:13-14 For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

There is no other way to live for the child of God. Oh, most people will try to “do it their own way”, live their own life, be in control, but it leads to eternal death and damnation.

Be honest with yourself and God today. We must stop trying to persuade ourselves that we are right with God when we know we are not, when self-control and other fruit of His Spirit are not evident in our life, when we have not daily presented our bodies as living sacrifices unto the Lord.

The good news is the way of life is offered to us today. We must give our life to Jesus to receive the life He died to give us. That means giving up control and living for Him. Will you die to self and be filled with the Holy Spirit every day hereafter? The consequences are life or death, blessings or curses. I pray you will choose life and blessings every day.

To initially give Jesus control of your life, you must believe He is the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross. If you believe that, profess that faith publicly and repent of your own self-determination. Then put self to death in a watery grave of baptism, and you will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will teach you to say “No” to all ungodliness and “Yes” to Jesus Christ. Then the characteristics of God, the fruit of the Spirit, will be formed in you. It is a life-long process. Begin that process today by accepting the invitation of Jesus to come to Him.