I find it interesting that so much of my life has been spent trying to control that which is not meant to be controlled – namely my life. As I have said before in other places life is about living from the heart and not managing with the head. Faith is of the heart.

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)

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.
(Heb 12:11)
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:
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.


  1. I've heard many messages on this topic, but no one has ever explained it so clearly! I am glad you wrote this. I am going to pump some iron.

    Bless you.

  2. Interesting points Kansas. It's a great topic to tackle, too.

    One of the most amazing things to me is that Jesus had this down perfectly. I just don't get that. I mean...I get it. But man, I don't get it!
    James has this scripture:
    James 3:2
    We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

    The "anyone" referred to here can only be Jesus. I am convinced that the reason He was able to do this perfectly was because he never wanted to sin...and therefore, didn't. You nailed it when you said:
    The inner man will instruct the outer man

    The rest of us schmucks stumble in many ways.

    In light of that verse I do think there is a aspect of control that needs to be employed: Self-control.
    The scriptures are replete with passages about self-control. Self control is what we use when we want to sin but don't want to sin.

    Great post...and great blog, too.

  3. Bob, this is maybe the best description of self-control I have seen. Excellent thoughts. I love how you use the Scripture to show the importance of strengthening the inner man.

    BTW, thanks for your input in the discussion over at my blog. I appreciate the comments you left.

  4. Thanks, KB. I appreciate the timely word, and the comments over at my blog.
    You're right, self-control is more than mind control. It is evident in a spirit-led life. The fruits of the Spirit can never be manifested from fleshly acts, no matter how noble they may be.

  5. Great post, KB. Very clearly stated. As "Bar Bar a" said, I'm ready to pump some iron too!! :)

  6. I think you are spot on with this post!

  7. Thank you for linking this post in my blog. I especially liked the explanation that control and manipulation is work of the demonic. I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but it's true.

    As I spend much of my time thinking about marriage and parenting, I wonder how different relationships would be if each individual respected one another's self-control instead of attempting to manipulate and control the other.

    If I, as a parent, practice self-control then I'll also be modelling appropriate boundary setting for my son. Instead of telling him how to do it, I'd be showing him.


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