Jerry Bridges defines self-control as “a governance or prudent control of one’s desires, cravings, impulses, emotions and passions. It is saying no when we should say no. It is moderation in legitimate desires and activities and absolute restraint in areas that are clearly sinful.”
This is a great definition. Self-control is spoken of often in Scripture:
“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Proverbs 25:28.
“The fruit of the spirit is…self-control” Galatians 5:23
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Titus 2:11-12.
The danger for us in the individualism and materialism of our culture is that we think of morality as outmoded, or culturally conditioned. Self-control and other uncomfortable fruits of the Spirit soon resemble fanny-packs or tight-rolled Z Cavaricci pants. Why would a good and loving God restrict my behavior? After all, I am the center of the universe, and thus the determiner of my morality. This mentality is especially true in evangelical circles when considering justification by faith. The idea that I am declared righteous by God is where salvation stops. The process of sanctification is forgotten, and the idea that our lives of sanctification would indeed be proof of our justification is offensive, even though the universal message of the Bible is that our lives prove our doctrine (Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:21-23; Titus 2:11-12; Hebrews 3:7-15, 6:1-20).
Part of our sanctification (the process whereby God continues the moral transformation he began in regeneration) is the bearing of the fruit of the Spirit. Part of that fruit is self-control. We don’t get to pick and choose the areas where we are accountable to the Spirit’s work and areas where we are too cool for it, or where we think we’ve passed by it.
It is my prayer that as the Holy Spirit engages our hearts with the gospel, we will see where we continue to fall short of the glory of God and that we will not glibly rest in our justification, but with thankful hearts obey Christ and follow him in our sanctification as well.