The last of Paul’s fruits of the Spirit or attitude is self-control (Gal.5: 23). It is his summation of how one can keep tabs on oneself. For me it raise the question, “How do I manage myself?” Self-management has troubled man from the cradle to the grave. What James wrote about the tongue can equally be said about attitude. “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says (or does), he is a perfect person, able to keep his whole body in check” (Ja.3: 2). Jesus warned of becoming careless. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mk.14: 38). Cain was told to deal with evil before it consumed him. “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must control it” (Gen.4: 6-7). Thomas a Kempis counseled, “Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be” (Wa. 2093).
God gave us a lifetime to work on ourselves. It is unfortunate that we do not start early enough. We know at an early age by our own dissatisfaction of ourselves that we need train our spirit or attitude to control our body and keep it out of trouble. It is when we begin to want what we cannot have that we must harness our desire from taking liberties that result in much harm. How did Jesus put it, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one part of your body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go to hell” (Mt.5: 29-30). We create hell on earth for ourselves and for others by refusing to curb our impermissible desires. Sin does not create us; we create it. We allow desire and circumstances subject our mind to our body and become incompetent to deal with our own self. Then we expect barbital and psychiatry to rebuild our character. With their efforts we have become beings subject to control centers and the largest one is a Savior. We have been led to believe that our sinful nature can only be corrected by a higher power. We are too sinful to make it on our own. This is the biggest farce psychiatry and religion has concocted. The truth is, we are not helpless but unwilling to do something about our self-inflicted depravity. If we do not turn our back on what we do not want to be like, no one else can. Some may try, but without our assistance, they and we shall continue to fail.
We have two problems that we and not someone else must deal with. Both have to do with our own fabrication of self – limitation. Conveniently we blame the devil for making us do it and depend on Jesus to bail us out. We have underemphasized the role the devil plays and overemphasized the work of Christ. Thomas Carlyle took Ralph Waldo Emerson to one of the worst sections in London and asked: “Do you believe in the devil now?” (Wa.773). Jesus believed in the devil and told him to get out of his way so He could do what He was sent to do (Mt.4: 1-11). Humans that break God’s laws become children of the devil (Jn.8: 42-47). He fooled Adam and Eve (Ge.3: 1-7). He got David in trouble over Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11-12). And he had Peter on the ropes (Lk.22: 31). When we play with sin, we become sinners. And when we sin, then we have obeyed the devil (1 Jn.3: 8). It is when we yield to what is offensive to God or even the natural law that the devil takes possession of our life (Ro.6: 13). If we stay alertly in control of ourselves, Satan cannot derail us (1 Pe.5: 8-9). Should he trick us, we still can evict him by returning to God and His Laws (Ja.3: 7). Satan cannot live under the same roof with people that emulate the Spirit of God (Gal.5: 16-24). A good reputation is not an easy trap for the devil to set (1 Tim.3: 7). He does not stop scheming after we drive him out (Eph.6: 11). When we turn our back on sin and do not fill our life with good and godly deeds, Satan will reoccupy us and turn our life into a bigger mess than we were before (Lk.11: 24-26). This should make us come to our senses (2 Tim2: 26). Alexander Hamilton, before he died in an ill-fated duel with Aaron Burr wrote this in his diary, “I know this is wrong, but I am afraid not to do it” (Wa.2444).
The second problem we have is that everything we can and ought to do to keep Satan out of our life, we have assigned to Jesus our Lord. Yet, God has put us in control of our life, including our salvation (Gen.1: 26-28; Mk.1: 14). Jesus did what no human could do by re-establishing access to God and by setting forth conditions that man can fulfill and thereby gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven (Ro.5-6; Jn.3: 16-21; 14: 15, 21; 15: 10). All we have to do is turn our back on sin, forgive each other, then help each other without tooting our horns and be on guard for traps that may derail us. These are simple chores that must be done for the kingdom of God to grow so that our lives can be improved here on earth before they become worthy of heaven (Mt.6: 9-15). It is a faith that bears a fruit where humans and not Satan is in control of life. And when we depart this world, we shall rest easy because our deeds go along with us (Rev.14: 13). These deeds are our thanks for what Jesus our Lord has done for us and they are our proof that we helped Him built His kingdom as well as ours (Rev.5: 10). Louisa May Alcott, in her poem “My Kingdom” said it best:
“I do not ask for any crown
But that which all may win;
Nor try to conquer any world
Except the one within.
Be thou my guide until I find,
Led by a tender hand,
The happy kingdom in myself
And dare to take command” (Wa.2089).