Fruit of the Spirit: “Self Control”


Fruit of the Spirit: “Self Control”
A Message on Titus 2:11-15For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
July 22, 2018
By Doug Wintermute

Titus 2:11-15 (NRSV)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

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Today we are finishing up our sermon series on Fruit of the Spirit by looking at the last fruit Paul mentions in his list of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5. (Everybody say, “Awwwwwwwww.”)


You remember the fruit of the spirit, right? Just remember the song: [sing] “For the fruit is…. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” There are nine of them, and today we are going to explore the last one: self control.


Let’s start off by looking at the scripture we just read from the second chapter of Titus.


The book of Titus is an epistle, or letter, written by the apostle Paul. (Some modern scholars dispute that Paul himself wrote it, but for the sake of argument I’m going to say that Paul wrote it.) Unlike some of Paul’s letters, which went to a group of believers in a particular city or region, this letter is one of three of what are called the “pastoral epistles” which are written to a particular individual. (The other two are 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy). So Titus is a person, not a place.


It is believed that Titus was a Greek and also a Gentile, which meant anyone not Jewish. It seems after hearing Paul speak he not only became a Christian but also traveled around with Paul, assisting him, and became a very important leader in the early church, especially on the island of Crete.


So in this pastoral epistle written to Titus, Paul is offering advice on how to not only live as a Christian but how to grow in the faith and keep the faith while surrounded by people who ether have no belief in God and engage in lives of debauchery and self interest, or people who call themselves Christians but act the same way as the unchurched. (Hmmmmm. That sounds kind of similar to today’s world, doesn’t it?)


Titus is a short book. Only three chapters, and yet within those three short chapters we see the word “self control” used four times! That’s more than once per chapter!


Here’s where Paul uses the word “self control” in the scripture we read today: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly…” (Titus 2:11-12)


“Self-controlled, upright, and godly.” How many of us can use those words to describe the way we live our lives?


One website I looked at describes self control as doing the right thing even when you don’t want to. It relates is to driving a car that is out of control. Doing so can not only harm you but it can harm others. Self control is using the steering and brakes to drive the journey of life, saying “no” to some things in order to have something better later on. [Source:]


The Bible has a lot to say about self control.


Proverbs 25:28 says “Like a city breached, without walls, is one who lacks self-control.”


1 Corinthians 10:13 says “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”


2 Peter 1:5-7 says: “For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.”

And then who can forget in Genesis where God tells Adam and Eve that they can eat from any tree but one: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I often wonder if Adam and Eve, after hearing this, said “Now which tree is it?”


A great example of self control was Jackie Robinson. Jackie was the first African American to play Major League Baseball back in 1947 when he played 1st base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. (For you young folks I know that today they are the Los Angeles Dodgers but before that they were in New York and were the Brooklyn Dodgers.)


The president and general manager and of the Dodgers back then was a guy named Branch Rickey. He wanted Jackie to play for the Dodgers, but also knew that Jackie would face a backlash of criticism and worse because of racism. He had a three hour meeting with Jackie about what could happen and how he wanted Jackie to respond to those things, and Jackie promised Branch that he wouldn’t respond with violence to people taunting him.


So Jackie joins the Dodgers. He gets called a lot of derogatory racial terms and taunted not only by the fans but by other players as well. He went through a lot of things that no one should have to endure. Cruel, horrible things. But he did it, and he did so by using self control and fighting back on the baseball field, not with his fists.


There was a movie that came out a few years back about Jackie Robinson. It was titled, “42,” which was the number Robinson wore.


In one of the scenes Jackie is talking with Branch. Jackie says, “You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?


Branch replies, “I want a player who’s got the guts NOT to fight back.”


Jackie then says, “You give me a uniform, you give me a number on my back, I’ll give you the guts.”


One of the other great lines of the movie is this one when Branch, talking about Jackie, says, “He’s a Methodist. I’m a Methodist. And God’s a Methodist. We can’t go wrong.” [Source:]


Self control is a fruit of the Spirit for a reason. Like most of the other fruit, it is a characteristic that is not easy but downright difficult to do. It results from living a life following the Holy Spirit. Yet despite the difficulty I think the world would be a better place if more people practiced it.


One of the things I see happening in our society today is what I call reactionary yelling. People do what my dad used to describe as “motoring off their mouth without putting their brain in gear.”


Social media makes it so easy to do, too. Some of the mean, vindictive posts that I see are just downright disgusting. People will see a post and then respond with things that are not only un-Christian, but almost inhuman.


Here’s a tip for you: if you see something that really fires you up and makes you want to respond to it scathingly (and let’s face it, there are a lot of posts these days that do that), write out a response… and then delete it. Yep. Write it out, preferably in Word or Google Docs or somewhere other than the social media site. I mean really let them have it. And then delete it. If you feel you can’t do it right then wait a day and then revisit it and then delete it.


This does two things: 1. It creates an outlet for you to get the feelings out of your system, and 2. Allows you to practice the discipline of self control where the result is that your response causes no harm to yourself or others.


The Apostle Paul knew about self control. He went from being a Jewish Pharisee where he was at the top of the social ladder and had it made to being persecuted for Jesus Christ. We’re talking beatings, stonings, imprisonment many times, spit on, yelled at, called all kinds of names. And yet he responded with self control and love.


Jesus knew about self control. He told us the importance of self control. In Matthew 5 he says, “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:39b-42) Those things demand a LOT of self control!


Jesus went through all kinds of negative experiences and, in the final week of his earthly life, was physically abused and then crucified to death on a cross. And yet he responded with self control and love, even asking God to forgive those who caused his death.


Self control is the only one of the fruit of the Spirit that is two words. I don’t know if that means it’s twice as hard to practice or not, but I do know that you can’t be a Christian without practicing it. It’s difficult. It hurts inside. It goes against almost everything our society tells us and what we, inwardly, want to do. It takes a conscious effort and concentration and can take years to develop as a healthy habit. But it’s the right thing to do. And a holy thing.


So my challenge to you this week is to focus on practicing self control. If something sets you off, write down a response and then delete it. When it is painful consider it to be like a vaccine that, while the needle hurts when you get the injection, is ultimately much better than succumbing to the disease.


Remember Jackie Robinson and how he used self control in the short term to win the battle in the long run over racism. Paul’s advice to Titus to live a life that is “self-controlled, upright, and Godly.”


And most of all remember Jesus Christ, who utilized self control as he endured the cross with you on his mind.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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