Self Control: Egkrateia.
This may be the hardest one to wrap our heads around. How can SELF control be from the Spirit’s control? Shouldn’t it just be called “Spirit control?” Am I supposed to be self controlled or Spirit controlled? The answer is yes, they are both the same thing.
How? Because the Spirit of Christ is joined to your spirit, your self. His self is your self. When you think of your self as being opposite of Christ this virtue gets confusing. But when you think of your self as being joined to Christ, this virtue is actually quite freeing and exciting.
The self controlled person can choose the important thing over the urgent thing (Keller, Galatians For You). They have learned to delay gratification. The word comes from the root word for strength. The person with egkrateia masters their desires.
Back in chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul described the battle of the desires that we all live through daily. A battle between the flesh’s desires and the Spirit’s desires.
Galatians 5;17. 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.
The self controlled person can control their desires, because they are yielded to the Spirit; walking in step with the Spirit (more on that to come). All of these virtues flow from the singular fruit of love. It is not self control if it is not flowing from being loved by God, and loving others with Christ’s love.
Therefore, the opposite of egkrateia is impulsiveness. This person is out of control and lacks will power. Love has not lead them to control themselves for the good of others.
Fake self control is willpower through more “acceptable” idols (Keller). The person who seems to have willpower but not from love, but from pride. They just want to look good.
“To live is Christ” is to have the self control that comes from knowing that you are loved eternally. Why could Christ put his desires on the back burner (like not turning rocks into bread)? He could have this self control, even in the greatest times of temptation, because he knew he was loved and he trusted God’s goodness. We too can live this way as we trust in the indwelling, eternal love and goodness of God in and for us.
Do you do whatever you want whenever you want? Or are you mad when you don’t get what you want? Are your appetites guided by the Spirit back to a deeper desire for Christ? Has the love of Christ for others allowed you to control your reactions and lusts so as to love others? Are you primarily living from your spiritual self or your fleshly self?