Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.”
This last fruit of the Spirit can cover a wide area of things. I could preach about self-control over anger, sorrow, and any number of temptations. “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). We have the power of the Holy Spirit to love and to have self-control over our temptations. We don’t have control when we yell at someone in anger, or when we’re in a perpetual condition of sorrow that causes depression, or when we’re addicted to drugs or pornography, or when we commit premarital sex habitually, and the list goes on.
Modern society has become over-sexualised. Because of this, I’m going to focus on self-control over sexual issues. If you make a joke or even talk about something serious, someone will link it to sex in some perverse way. The following quote has even risen, “Everything is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.” This is probably one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard. If all you’re concerned about is sex, then certainly everything is going to be about sex except sex itself. But everything is not inherently about sex; that’s just absurd. That would mean the purpose of my blog is about sex. To say it’s not is to commit the fallacy of equivocation, thus proving everything really isn’t about sex. We don’t have self-control when we have premarital sex, masturbate, rape, commit bestiality or incest, pedophilia, adultery, or homosexuality. All of these are perversions of God’s will for healthy sexuality.
Some of us, unfortunately, lose control over our sexual desires. I’m one of them. This is why Paul wrote, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband,” and again, “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:2, 9). Marriage is not a necessity; not everyone needs to get married if it’s not their desire to do so. However, if one cannot overcome sexual sin, Paul advises it is good for one to marry since they cannot exercise self-control, for that is much better than to be inflamed with lust. That does not mean, however, that gay marriage is permissible, for within that marriage you’re still committing the sin of homosexuality. Dismiss it if you wish, but God defines sin; we don’t get to change His definition of sin.
Of course, one can commit sexual sins within a marriage as well. Jesus said, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). These are pretty radical words coming from Jesus, but Jesus is radical. Anyone who looks upon someone of the opposite sex (or same sex) to arouse illicit sexual desire has committed adultery of the heart. For those who are single, by imagining or fantasising a sexual act with someone, you are committing premarital sex in your heart. You are mentally taking their virginity and/or mentally sacrificing your own. The same especially applies in the natural sense of adultery for those who are married.
So how do we exercise self-control not just over sexual sin, but all matters of erroneous behaviour? The same way we would desire to produce any of the other fruits of the Spirit—by praying and asking God to give us the strength through the Holy Spirit. We cannot produce any of these fruits on our strength alone. The Holy Spirit produces these fruits within us and we carry them out, but it is our sinful self that corrupts each fruit.
If you recall, I started off this series by listing and interpreting in the introduction several of Jesus’ parables. As a reminder, and so you don’t have to go all the way back to the introduction (if you read it), I’ll review the hub of this series I delineated in the intro.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus likened God’s true people as those whose seeds fall on good soil and produce grain abundantly—those who hear the Word of God and understand it (see Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23). He contrasts these true Christians who hear the Word, have “no root” in themselves, endure troubles for a little while, but then fall away from the faith; as well as against those who hear the Word but follow the ways of the world instead. In stark contrast to these false Christians, true Christians produce their fruits abundantly. There is nothing that so illustrates the faith than the process of a seed’s life. God’s Word is planted in us, and for the believing and practising Christian the Holy Spirit germinates it within us and is sprouted into belief—into faith. As young sprouts, our faith will either continue to deepen its roots in the Gospel or become useless, as depicted in the parable.
Faith as small as a mustard seed has the power to move mountains of doubt and temptation (Matthew 17:20). As this small seed continues to grow into a mighty tree throughout the seasons, so our faith continues to grow throughout the seasons of life. Our faith experiences nourishment from the waters of Baptism, and it goes through droughts of doubt and anxiety and the windy trials of temptation. But as long as we remain rooted in the faith, God is faithful to continue nourishing our souls. Jesus said, “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognise them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:17-20).
All human beings suffer the disease of sin, and it kills every single one of us. Diseased trees—those who remain in sin and reject Christ—can produce nothing but bad fruit. Even the “good fruit” (i.e. good works) they seemingly produce are bad because they don’t have the faith that enables them to produce good works. As healthy trees, however, the children of God produce the good fruits of the Spirit. That is how we recognise God’s work in His children—not how we recognise whether someone is saved or not, but how we recognise the work of God.
As God’s children, we bear the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In this series we’ve gone over examples of how Jesus exemplifies these fruits for us. The Holy Spirit produces these fruits within us and we thus carry them out, but it is our sinful self that corrupts each fruit. Thus we daily come to Jesus in humility asking Him to lead us in His way so we may produce His fruits as God’s children.