Training in the Ways of Jesus

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

I find it arresting that self control is often listed as a Spiritual virtue in the New Testament. As a new Christian I was often told how important it was to understand the difference between works and faith, between self effort and God’s grace. Why, if we are saved by grace, should we be talking about self control. Is that not tied up with works?

Well, yes it is, but there is an important order to things. For works to activate grace would be the tail wagging the dog. It is not the true order of things. We are saved by grace, not by works. But it does not follow that works have no place in the Christian life. Dogs do have tails. If our faith in God’s grace is genuine, our actions will reflect it. Following this logic, self control is an outworking of God’s grace. As we come to trust God more than the things of this world, their control over us will weaken and we will begin to exercise control over them. The only urge we will have less and less control over is our urge for God and God’s call. Look where the dog’s eyes are fixed.

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