Sermons - The Self Control of God

A theory exists that one can tell quite a bit about another person based on how thick they like their lunch meat slices.

Some believe that if you like your lunch meat sliced thicker that you are more about getting a job done rather than the process or the experience of how the job gets done. On the other hand, if you prefer your lunch meat sliced thinner, the theory is that you treasure the process of getting to the end goal and that reaching that goal is a faint shadow when compared to the journey itself.

The point being that it appears to be a pretty thin slice between the Spiritual fruit of longsuffering (patience) and self-control but it is in this thin slice where the great and gracious nature of God will be known.

Today, we will examine God exhibiting self-control in the form of His patience. We’ll also consider how we, as sinners, can come to a point of self-control.

This is important because self-control impacts every part of our lives, including our relationship with God. Much like the relationship between “kindness” and “goodness,” with the former being the inward condition of the heart which manifests itself in the latter, so does “self-control” yield the fruit of “patience or longsuffering.”

So much are we the beneficiaries of God the Father exhibiting “longsuffering” by the fact that He possesses “self-control” and because He does act in perfect harmony with His own character.

We need look no further than Jesus to know Him completely, after all, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9, NKJV)

Self-control (“temperance” in the KJV) is the ability to control oneself. It involves moderation, constraint, and the ability to say “no” to our baser desires and fleshly lusts.

Naturally, this definition doesn’t apply to God, because He is purely and wholly good. He is fully represented by the fruits of the Spirit. There is no need for Him to engage in the self-control of His own perfection since, as it says in Galatians 5:23, “Against such,” referring to the fruits of the Spirit, “there is no law."

The only way to view “self-control” of God, in our bid to know Him better, to trust Him more and to present Him accurately is by giving consideration to His righteousness, what His righteousness must produce and how the exercise of God’s self-control actually takes the form of His being “longsuffering” in His pursuit of us personally as He suspends the yield of righteousness. Again, there is a similar relationship between “kindness” producing “goodness” as there is a relationship between “self-control” producing “longsuffering”.

The Bible’s standard of human righteousness is God’s own perfection in every attribute, every attitude, every behavior, and every word. Thus, God’s laws, as given in the Bible, both describe His own character and constitute the plumb line by which He measures human righteousness.

With this in mind we have a clearer understanding as to why Paul took the stance that “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10). Applying this to ourselves, we can have absolute confidence that "we should place no confidence in the flesh." (Philippians 3:1-4)

The Greek New Testament word for “righteousness” (nomimotita) primarily describes conduct in relation to others beginning with relationship to God. It is contrasted with wickedness, the conduct of the one who, out of gross self-centeredness, neither reveres God nor respects man.

The Bible describes the righteous person as just or right, holding to God and trusting in Him. “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You.” (Psalm 33:18–22)

God, by displaying mercy, is acting in a patient way and is engaging in self-control by temporarily suspending the eventual byproduct of His righteousness, which is His perfect judgment against the offending party known as humanity. The fact that you and I are here on this day, to live in His sight, to be perfected by the Holy Spirit, covered by the sacrifice of His Son…this is a miracle and is a direct result of God’s “self-control”. This action, or lack of action on His part, is not because He is still in the process of making up His mind or coming to some grand conclusion about what our fate ought to be as determined by our own merits.

He has reached His conclusions regarding our inequity, and it is because of those conclusions that He has held back the mighty waters of His final say-so; that which would swallow us in our entirety. That He allows us to walk on the dry, solid land of faith from that side of the sea which has slavery and death to the other side which holds liberty and eternal life is an absolute miracle and is set forth by and from the cornerstone of Christ (2 Peter 2:7), “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2); an unquestionable declaration of His love for us collectively and personally. “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21-22, NKJV)

“They refused to obey, and they were not mindful of Your wonders that You did among them. But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion they appointed a leader to return to their bondage. But You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them.” (Nehemiah 9:17, NKJV)

"‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.” (Joel 2:12-13, NKJV)

God was within His right to not preserve the nation of Israel but did so for the sake of all mankind. Even when confronted with their rebellion He displayed longsuffering (patience) through self-control and exacting the product of His righteousness upon them. This, so that each of humanity from every age could make a decision for or against the cause of Jesus Christ!

Just as Egypt was in pursuit of Israel and wished her to be enslaved once more to the life she knew, so was Satan in pursuit of our lives, our hearts and our ways. God made a way that we, people as common as clay, would call upon the name of Jesus as Lord, could repent from our personal desires and turn from those things which we pursued; being identified with Him through baptism. (Acts 2:21, 38) This by the power of His Spirit and the sacrifice of His Son, who He wants us to greatly resemble; made all the more into the image of Jesus.

The reason for God’s self-control and resulting patience is simple but difficult for many to accept at a heart level. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, NKJV)

In that day of decision His actions will be swift and decisive. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-13, NKJV)

God, exhibiting self-control through longsuffering, gives us as those for which He has sacrificed His best; His only Son, more time in which to develop, by our calling upon the name of Jesus and delivery of His Holy Spirit, more self-control. In this way it is important that we deal with the topic of self-control from a human perspective, for this particular fruit of the Spirit impacts and influences every single part of our lives. From how many hours we log in at work, to how much food we eat, how much exercise we get, how much time we spend pursuing recreational activities, how we treat other people and the language of our mouths, how fast we drive…everything is impacted by self-control.

Lest we be confused, self-control in this way is not mere will power or personal resolve. The moment we have self-control as a fruit of the Spirit is that point in time when we give control of ourselves to the Spirit; when we yield our freewill to His will.

When we relinquish our grip upon the broken ways that we’ve mastered and even perfected, conceding that perhaps God has a better plan than we do and that we need to submit to Him.

When we look at the example of Christ and pursue in prayer and petition, “Heavenly Father, please make and mold me more into the image of Your Son.”

When we get to that point in our lives that we take the plunge of faith, trusting all that He will do with our lives, responding to reality of Christ crucified…He rejoices in our decision.

When people of faith give up just a little bit more of themselves to Him; as they’re being baptized over and over again in His love; embracing His self-control in the form of mercy every day.

By being in the embrace of the Spirit, let each of us seek out new ways and new souls to whom we can exhibit the fruits of the Spirit on behalf of our Lord and Savior; in both word and deed. Then, we might be found faithful to His name and in His sight; allowing His kingdom to approach the hearts of those who do not know Him; through us, by Him.

In these times and in these moments let God search all of our hearts, let Him see them changing and how they’re ever more reflective of His own heart. Let Him smile and rejoice in the presence of His angels and His everlasting love be felt as an encouragement to those who know Him and the convicting truth that turns the heart of the lost.

This is the self-control of God!