©2020 dan bulkley |


In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how our sinful human nature desires to be in control, even of God. We too often want God to act and behave according to what we want, often ending up in a wrestling match with our Creator for control.

In Part 2, we explored how our desire for control over our circumstances is equally foolish.

Part 3 explored the sinful human desire for control as it relates to controlling and manipulating other people.

Part 4, turned the microscope of control onto ourselves, addressing the root cause of our sinful desire to control the people and circumstances that are outside of ourselves.

Now, in the fifth and final part of our series, we will explore the one form of control that God HAS bestowed upon us; self-control.


section 1

We in and of ourselves cannot truly control ourselves as we are not self-determining beings jeremiah 10:23 . We are slaves, so to speak, by nature romans 6:16 . So when we threw off God’s control jeremiah 2:20 we did not gain freedom but sold ourselves to the mastery of sin and death i kings 21:25 hosea 8:7-9 proverbs 8:36 galatians 4:8 . So now we are unable to submit to God’s good, life-giving guidance romans 8:7-8 deuteronomy 10:13. Though all of God’s commands are doable deuteronomy 30:11-16 , we in our sinful nature are inadequate to continue to carry them out to their full fruition romans 8:3-4 , because of our slavery to sin ecclesiastes 8:8 .

supporting scriptures

jeremiah 10:23

Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.

romans 6:16

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

jeremiah 2:20

“Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute.

i kings 21:25

There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife.

hosea 8:7-9

“They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no head; it will produce no flour. Were it to yield grain, foreigners would swallow it up.

8 Israel is swallowed up; now she is among the nations like something no one wants.

9 For they have gone up to Assyria like a wild donkey wandering alone. Ephraim has sold herself to lovers.

proverbs 8:36

But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.”

galatians 4:8

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.

romans 8:7-8

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

deuteronomy 10:13

and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

my notes:

deuteronomy 30:11-16

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

romans 8:3-4

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

ecclesiastes 8:8

As no one has power over the wind to contain it, so no one has power over the time of their death. As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it.

my notes:

section 2

Hallelujah! God has not left us to ourselves john 14:15-18 galatians 5:22-23 , but in Christ He has given us a new Spirit ii timothy 1:7 ezekiel 36:26-27 so that we may control ourselves to the benefit of all titus 3:8 .

supporting scriptures

john 14:15-18

“If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

galatians 5:22-23

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

ii timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

ezekiel 36:26-27

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

titus 3:8

This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

section 3

So self-control is not just merely one’s control of one’s self, but rather the God-given ability to submit one’s self to the goodness of God romans 8:5-9 . Remember that God’s Truth and Love is found in submission to Him not in dominance of others or circumstances. So in willingly submitting to God exodus 21:5-6 titus 1:1 we actively participate in God’s work in our lives and the lives of others ii peter 1:4 as self-control is a fulcrum of our growing relationship with Christ i peter 1:3-8 . As we choose to walk in His light john 3:21 we have fellowship with one another i john 1:7 .

supporting scriptures

romans 8:5-9

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.

exodus 21:5-6

“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

titus 1:1

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness

ii peter 1:4

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

i peter 1:3-8

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy...

john 3:21

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

i john 1:7

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

my notes:

section 4

We are to take control of our own vessels so that they are useful to the Lord for noble purposes, otherwise we will be used but in ignoble ways ii timothy 2:20-21 proverbs 16:4 . We should make our bodies our own slaves for God’s glorious purposes i corinthians 9:24-27 rather than giving in to our impulses and base desires philippians 3:19
ii timothy 2:22 jude 1:10
i peter 2:11 psalm 73:21-22 . Choices should be willfully made in submission to God’s commands despite our natural desires luke 4:1-4 and/or to master i corinthians 6:12-13 and direct those natural desires into God-pleasing ways i corinthians 7:5 9 ecclesiastes 8:6 i thessalonians 4:3-5 . By walking with the Lord we can, or really He will actually change our natural desires to supernatural ones
romans 8:5 romans 2:28-29 genesis 17:11 ; if we would only choose to delight in the Lord then He would make His desires grow up within us psalm 37:4 jeremiah 31:33 ezekiel 36:26-27 .

supporting scriptures

ii timothy 2:20-21

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

proverbs 16:4

The Lord works out everything to its proper end— even the wicked for a day of disaster.

my notes:

i corinthians 9:24-27

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

philippians 3:19

Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.

ii timothy 2:22

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

jude 1:10

Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.

i peter 2:11

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.

psalm 73:21-22

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,

22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

luke 4:1-4

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

i corinthians 6:12-13

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

i corinthians 7:5

Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

i corinthians 7:9

But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

ecclesiastes 8:6

For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a person may be weighed down by misery.

i thessalonians 4:3-5

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God;

romans 8:5

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

romans 2:28-29

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

genesis 17:11

You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 1

psalm 37:4

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

jeremiah 31:33

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

ezekiel 36:26-27

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

my notes:

section 5

But it has been given to us to choose if we will obey the Lord or our own base desires at any point of decision galatians 5:16 galatians 6:7-8 joshua 24:15 . So ironically for the believer self-control is not as much about what you want as it is who you CHOOSE as your master: yourSELF or God romans 2:7-8 . If we will persistently RESPOND ii kings 22:19 jeremiah 18:7-8 ezekiel 18:27-28 to the Lord in the midst of and despite our weaknesses, circumstances, desires, even down to our own impulsive thoughts ii corinthians 10:5 we shall begin to receive and experience the holiness God has offered us in His grace i peter 1:13-16 and the life He always wanted for us colossians 3:1-5 ephesians 4:18. For the more we CHOOSE the Lord in controlling ourselves the more we are clear-minded mark 8:33-35 and able to fellowship with our Lord i peter 4:7 as we walk with Him in willing, joyful submission to His Word ii corinthians 1:20 .

supporting scriptures

galatians 5:16

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

galatians 6:7-8

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

joshua 24:15

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

romans 2:7-8

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

ii kings 22:19

Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.

jeremiah 18:7-8

If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.

ezekiel 18:27-28

But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. 28 Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die.

ii corinthians 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

i peter 1:13-16

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

colossians 3:1-5

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

ephesians 4:18

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

mark 8:33-35

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

i peter 4:7

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.

ii corinthians 1:20

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

section 6

The word self-control conveys the idea that the self must be controlled as various impulses, stimulus, options, perceptions, truth and falsehood will be present matthew 18:7 , but we have been given the ability in Christ as master over our own senses, desires, and even physical needs, to choose how we respond to what these would naturally call for and choose what is noble rather than common, what is wise rather than instinctual. We can now ACT instead of simply react. We can respond to God rather than be like dead people to His calling ephesians 2:1-5 . Self-control is the God-given ability to gain mastery i corinthians 6:12 i corinthians 9:27 over your own emotions, desires, passions, temptations, actions, etc. to bring yourself from a natural state of selfishness to the supernatural state of thinking, speaking and acting for God above all else i corinthians 10:31 , others as more important than yourself philippians 2:2-4 philippians 2:20-21 and yourself as an unworthy servant luke 17:10 .

supporting scriptures

matthew 18:7

Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!

ephesians 2:1-5

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

i corinthians 6:12

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

i corinthians 9:27

No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

i corinthians 10:31

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

philippians 2:2-4

then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

my notes:

philppians 2:20-21

I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

luke 17:10

So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

my notes:

don’t forget parts 1 through 4 of this series, available separately