Last, but not least in the list of the Fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22-23 is Self-control. Self-control is used to describe the ability of a person to maintain appropriate standards in a wide variety of behaviors from eating to speaking to more intimate areas of life. It’s those most primal areas that Paul is aiming toward in Galatians. It’s the ability for a person to maintain control over their sexual desires and their bodily needs. Compare the Fruit of the Spirit to Paul’s list of the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21, and you’ll see the types of behaviors Paul is alluding to: “drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”
I know this isn’t your typical Advent devotional material, but it is vital to have these conversations. Watch half of a football game on Sunday afternoon and you’ll see multiple reasons why this conversation needs to be had in every home in America. Spend a few minutes walking around a mall for your Christmas shopping and you’ll see many ways that our lives are tempted to “go for it” and fulfill all our most primal desires. Our society lives to fulfill natural desires, but God is working to shape us according to His Spirit. It’s ultimately why He sent Jesus. We all have needs that cannot be met with more food or drink, with more sex, or with more experiences in life. We all have the most basic need that can only be met in Jesus.
The ability to control oneself is a blessing from God because it allows us to experience Jesus more fully. As long as I try to make happiness come from getting more and more in this world I’ll be missing the satisfaction that comes from Jesus. Joseph knew this. That’s right, Joseph from the Christmas story. The quiet guy who stands in the corner while Mary is front and center holding Jesus or cooing over him in his manger. He knew the gift of self-control. Matthew tells it this way in chapter 1 verse 24-25: “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”
Joseph’s sex life in now front and center in the Christmas story, more importantly his lack of a sex life, and his positive self-control. Why? Why was this detail so important for Matthew to include? Why does he point out Joseph’s self-control?
Two reasons come to mind. First, the Scriptures were fulfilled when a Virgin gave birth. A virgin is a virgin, and to be technical, if they had engaged in their union she wouldn’t have been a virgin giving birth. But, even less technically, and more importantly, second: Joseph’s own faith was on the line. Imagine if Joseph gets the angel’s message and goes home and unites with Mary. How would he ever know if the child she carried was his or God’s? For Joseph’s own sake his self-control enabled him to continue to live and believe that God did a miracle in creating a child in a virgin’s womb. Self-control enabled Joseph to continue to believe. Sex could have gotten in the way of his faith. God blessed him with the Fruit of the Spirit, and allowed his faith to flourish.
Tomorrow we’ll talk less graphically about Joseph, and more specifically about the benefits we might see in our own lives this Holiday season if we were marked by the Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control.
Father in Heaven, our natural way is to fulfill our desires apart from you. Give us your Spirit to control our desires that we may be filled with Jesus and find satisfaction in Him. Amen.