In Galatians 5:23 the Apostle Paul writes that part of the fruit (result) of the spirit of God working in us is ‘self-control’. That word in the original language means ‘self- government’ a fitting description of watching carefully over ourselves.
Here’s the thing. This self control which is necessary in all of life as a certain kind of temperance, moderation if you will, means that you and I literally can control our own self’s desires and actions toward a desirable end.
But it does not happen automatically when we decide to follow Jesus. It is a skill developed in us by the grace of God. It comes through disciplines, self disciplines if you like.
Philosopher and author Dallas Willard was fond of saying that we do the things we can do in order to do the things we cannot do. That means for example if you want to be a guitar virtuoso you would start out by learning the scale perhaps or how to strum the strings and then build up towards being proficient at the instrument. The fact that you have a brain and natural abilities will assist you to become skilled.
Well, in somewhat the same manner God places his life within us and then instructs us to access that life through disciplines such as prayer, learning scripture, doing particular actions until we begin to experience, in this case self-control. By the grace of God it becomes second nature.
Self-control is wonderful for the tongue, the temper, or any addictive behavior. Maybe at first we will have to ‘bite our tongues’ in conversations. Maybe if we are married and we are too attracted to a member of the opposite sex as in lusting, we will look elsewhere or be mindful of that wonderful Bible verse ‘I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully’ (Job 31). Maybe the way we begin to govern ourselves is to govern our time with God and with others. We could bring to our remembrance Jesus words, ‘do not judge’ as a way towards self-governance. All of this we do not with the intention to be more righteous but to develop a heart that is more given to the life that Jesus would have for us, a heart and thus a life that is helpful for citizens of the Kingdom. Such citizens are more joyful, peaceful, loving and aware of God’s life in them.
Self-control is a virtue of the character of one who is learning Jesus.
Virtue, virtuous, virtuoso. Voila.