Years ago a bible teacher told me to be careful about control because it is an agenda of the demonic to control and manipulate. This teacher also said that the Holy Spirit wants to lead us and not control us. In light of that I thought that I would look at a few scriptures about control and in specific ‘Self Control’ which is an aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit
First I’d like to say that this Self Control is not mind control ... actually it is the opposite of mind control. Self Control is the exercise of the inner man over the outer man. Another word for the outer man is the flesh which is comprised of the mind, the body and the emotions. The inner man encompasses the spirit or heart of a man. For purposes of this writing I’ll just use inner and outer man.
When we read ...
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. (Romans 6:20)... we understand that before Christ came in and gave us a new heart we were utterly powerless ... sin had control. From scripture we can also see that ...
the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)... and that the unregenerate heart is at the devil’s mercy.
Thankfully, concerning the redeemed we read ...
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:12-13)Here we find the secret of Self Control ... putting the fleshly deeds to death. The scripture calls this warfare ...
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)Did you catch the war between the inner and outer man ... how the mind is a part of the outer man and needs to be controlled by the inner man ... this is not only the heart of the control issue but it as at the heart of all spiritual life.
I am convinced that the war is often won and lost at the first skirmish. The Apostle James writes:
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)Here we see that there is a progression to sin and that it begins when evil (fleshly) desire is not controlled.
I believe the issue that most believers wrestle with in this area is quenching the Holy Spirit and thereby negating the influence of the inner man. When first confronted by fleshly desire the Holy Spirit will speak to the inner man - the inner man now knows what to do. The inner man will instruct the outer man and, depending on the strength of the inner man, the outer man will either submit or rebel. Did you catch that ... depending on which is stronger - inner or outer man. The issue of control now becomes one of strength. So the question is how do you get the inner man stronger? The book of Hebrews has an answer:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11-14)Spiritual strength is the heart of Self Control. Strengthening the inner man requires diet and exercise. The Apostle James again speaks to us and says:
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)From this we see that feeding on the scripture is not enough ... we need to integrate it into our life by doing it ... this will strengthen our inner man one bite at a time. Each time you obey the Scripture and Holy Spirit (even in a very small way) you pump spiritual iron. Each time the inner man is exercised it becomes stronger and more able to exert Self Control over the outer man.
I began by saying that much of my life I have spent trying to control it instead of living it. In retrospect I guess life can only be truly lived when it is lived from the heart ... when control is yielded to our inner man.