The ninth fruit of the Spirit is self-control or temperance. This gift from the Spirit helps us avert sinful and regrettable consequences. Commonly, people love expressions like, “just follow your heart,” “do whatever makes you happy,” or “you only live once (YOLO).” Living by such concepts downplays the need for the biblical perspective of self-control. Sin and temptation are no longer viewed as spiritual threats, but choices between one’s happiness and what makes one feel good. Life is not about “what’s good for me,” but it should be about what is Godly. Solomon, who was the richest and most successful king of his time, tried everything and did not deny anything his heart desired (Ecclesiastes 2:1-10). Yet, in the end, as he looked at everything he had worked so hard to accomplish, he said it was all so meaningless, like chasing the wind, and that there was nothing really worthwhile anywhere (Ecclesiastes 2:11). One cannot really trust one’s own heart. Scripture tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?). We must be aware of the battle within us so that we do not take sin lightly. We desperately need self-control and only by the Spirit will we be able to overcome the evil within us.
The heart is not the only battleground that demands self-control. The mind is a very vulnerable and hard to control area when it comes to fighting temptation. We can easily conjure sinful thoughts in our minds and wallow in them. Self-control with the mind means that we take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;). We should fix our thoughts on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, and anything that is excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
Our tongue is also very much in need of self-control. Words are very powerful, and Scripture tells us that the tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.). We can use words to hurt others and create life-wrecking wounds through contemptuous speech, along with discouraging words, words spoken in anger, lying, and gossiping. For a Christian who curses a lot when angry or excited, taming the tongue can be quite a struggle. Words, at their root, well up from the heart.
(Luke 6:45 KJV)
Self-control happens when we speak life to others and allow the love of God to flow through our words.
Obvious acts of the flesh, such as sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy drunkenness, orgies, and the like (Galatians 5:19-21), all happen when one loses self-control and gives in to carnal desires. Self-control is what sets God’s people apart from the rest of the world. It is the product of a repentant and Spirit-filled life. This fruit of the Spirit enables a believer to block sinful acts of the flesh and allows the other fruits of the Spirit to flow and flourish. Peace and patience allow one to withstand pressure and clear the mind, so one can maintain control over selfish urges. Kindness, goodness, and gentleness let a Christian respond in a way that demonstrates the grace of God, instead of acting with rudeness or hostility. Faithfulness and joy look to God for the satisfaction of real needs, which allows a believer to choose the eternal over the temporal. And finally, love is the ultimate motivation for why a believer practices self-control, the love for God and others. Every part of the fruit of the Spirit contributes to successfully practicing self-control.
Finally, we must learn self-control from Jesus. When He was in the desert fasting for forty days and forty nights, the devil tempted Him by trying to prey on His hunger, yet Jesus exhibited self-control and relied upon the Scriptures. As God, He could have easily turned that stone into bread, but he knew that the voice did not come from the Father, but from the enemy. That is what self-control looks like. It’s about whose voice you listen to, the voice of God or the tricky voice of the enemy. Self-control recognizes that man does not live by bread (pleasures and physical needs) alone, but waits and obeys God’s word, trusting that He will meet all our needs in the right way.
(Titus 2:11-14 KJV)
11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.