Have you taken these easy routes to cheap happiness, as I have? The one-more-cookie comfort for sadness or loneliness? The momentary satisfaction of venting your feelings before praying them through? The brief “fun” of getting away with procrastination or toying with unhealthy thoughts? The mindless enjoyment of scrolling, scrolling, scrolling?
Our struggles against ungodly choices — sin — will not end this side of heaven. But our Lord calls us to maturity … up the steep path of self-control. Ah, yes, self-control — fruit of the Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
We can climb this uphill path of self-control by faith, in the Lord’s strength. His smile rewards us as He sees we are trusting Him. We feel the joy of His hand — not our own effort — helping us over the rocky stretches. Yes, there is the joy of the Spirit, too, sooner or later, when we follow Him in obedience.
On the other hand:
- When we’re troubled about taking a course of action, the Spirit is trying to get our attention. A wise saying instructs: “When in doubt, don’t.” Peace is fruit of the Spirit, too. If we’re unsure, we need to wait until we know where He wants us to go and what He wants us to do.
- If we’re not representing Jesus well to others through our lack of self-control, we need to think about the consequences of our actions. “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way …” (2 Corinthians 6:3-4). Are we examples for or deterrents to someone’s salvation or growth in faith?
- When we feel out of control and are giving in to unhealthy/overboard desires, we must remember: “sin shall not be master over you” (Romans 6:14). What or who are we obeying instead of Jesus?
Steps to victory
In discouragement over self-indulgence in my life recently — being preoccupied with desserts, for one — I was glad to find these three “steps to victory over sin” in my study Bible¹ notes, based on Romans 6:11-13. Here are the verses (emphases mine), each with the corresponding quote from my study Bible notes, and my one-word summary and thoughts.
1. Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (v. 11). “The first step toward victory over sin in the believer’s life. He is dead to sin and alive to God, and by faith he is to live in the light of this truth.”
KNOW deeply — sin has no right to command you now. Jesus has rescued us from a life of indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind. This boy is only dreaming, but we ARE strong in Christ’s strength. We need to see ourselves that way.
2. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts (v. 12). “The second step toward the Christian’s victory over sin is refusal to let sin reign in his life.”
WHOA! Stop! Wherever sin was leading, we don’t belong there. The Apostle Paul insists, “Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14). We should learn when sin is likely to overcome our best intentions, and choke it off before it can! “… if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). John Owen, a 17th-century theologian, warned: “Always be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”²
3. And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as one alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (v. 13). “The third step is to offer himself to God.”
Put a BOW on your life! Not just once, but continually, we are to present our eyes, ears, mouth, mind, arms, hands, legs, feet — everything we are — to our gracious Lord. Paul says, “… by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). As we present ourselves faithfully to Him, we will grow in new habits of life-giving obedience.
Years ago, I learned the painful consequences of letting go of self-control in an area of vulnerability, when choosing who I would date. Our enemy knows what we will fall for. I became distant from God — still “religious” — but my heart was not at rest. Since I had come to know Jesus two years before, I had been characterized by joy. But during that unwholesome relationship, I remember looking in the mirror and telling myself to smile. The joy was gone.
It took time to repent, choose to obey God’s Word, and recover spiritual ground. I determined never to walk away from God again. I am so thankful that “if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). And, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Today most of my struggles are perhaps not so consequential. But I still want to be the best ambassador I can be for Jesus. I am sure you do, too.
When as far as you know you have confessed your sins, and you are surrendered to the control of the Holy Spirit as much as you know how, you can step out in faith where you believe He is leading. I’ve found His path is usually the most difficult one to choose, but often there is a heart-pounding excitement when I decide to follow it. His path for us has no guilt or shame attached. Instead, there is a deep sense of joy and satisfaction in overcoming self and walking in victory, hand in hand with Him.
Lord Jesus, thank You for going all the way to the cross to bring me from death to life. Help me not to give any sin a foothold in my life — in particular, _________. I want to grow! Forgive me for choosing life-draining desires ahead of Your perfect will for me. Holy Spirit, take control of my life. Help me walk in Your strength, joy and peace all of my days, until I see You face to face and am done with sin forever. Use me for Your glory every day until then, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
For further reflection:
How will it look when I am walking in victory in this particular area? What are the rewards of changing this habit? What are the consequences of not changing it? Who can I be accountable to? What is a scripture verse that will help me?³
You might be interested to hear and learn a song I made up to memorize Romans 6. I’ve personalized the pronouns to try and bring the message home.
See Cru.org for more information on being filled with the Spirit.
If you haven’t discovered life in Christ, don’t hesitate to check it out. Life is too short to miss His love and perfect plan for you. Read About “The Nearness of God” or see everyperson.com for more information. You can also read my story of coming to faith in Christ in: How My Song Began.