Monday, May 20, 2013

Counterfeit Self-Control

Starfruit (belimbing in Indoensian) is not my favorite tropical fruit, so maybe that makes it a good representative of self-control. Although I don't particularly like the flavor, the star shape certainly does look pretty on a fruit platter. We might not appreciate self-control as much as we appreciate joy and peace, but it is a necessary beautiful fruit that the Holy Spirit wants to grow in us.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22-23)

We come at last to the end of the list of the fruit of the Spirit. As I read this list, I see that most of the nine fruits mentioned here either refer to how we act or react to others (love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness). Others seem to refer to a general state of being…what we are like deep in our hearts (joy, peace, patience).

Then, we come to self-control. Somehow, self-control seems to require a category all its own. It isn’t necessarily a state of being that simply comes to characterize us. Neither is it something that we do to or toward others.

No, self-control requires us to actively discipline ourselves, to consciously decide, at God's direction, what things we will and will not do, say, see, think, etc.

1 Corinthians 6:12 says,
“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.

Starfruit is beautiful on the plate.
“Real deal” self-control carries the idea that nothing but God Himself is to master us. It might be easy to sit back and think that we are doing pretty well in that area. After all, obviously, an alcoholic needs to be certain alcohol does not become the master. Drug addicts struggle with self-control. Some people really need to work on getting control of explosive anger.

Hold on a minute, though. What about all those seemingly innocent things that can master us. What about that coffee or soda that you know you drink too much of? (Yes, Mom, I’m still working on that.) What about the extra hour on Facebook that might have been better spent with family? What about the insistence that your way of doing something is the right way?

Huh? What? Doesn’t that last one kind of jump out as being different than the others? It should. It is.

Counterfeit Self-Control
The way I see it is this. The insistence that the way I do something is the right way may indeed reflect self-control when applied to my own life. It may reflect a deep inner conviction that God has truly called me to discipline myself in a particular area.

That conviction crosses the line into counterfeit self-control if I try to insist that everyone else has to do it the way God has called me to do it. If they don’t share my same conviction, they are obviously wrong.

I am not talking here about things that are obviously black and white. (Murder is wrong. Don’t do it.) Nor am I talking about an “If it feels good, do it” philosophy.

I am speaking of the myriad of things that believers are perfectly free to do and experience and still be within God’s will for them. God may call some of His children to forego their “freedom” to enjoy a particular thing, but He doesn’t call all to do this.

Is it fruit or are they flowers? (See clip here)
Let me share a couple examples

There are the ordinary, everyday things. Things like, there is only one “right way” to make the bed, vacuum the carpet, wash the car, mow the lawn, load the dishwasher…and the list goes on. It may be true that one way works better or is more efficient, but it isn’t necessarily the only “right way”. We cross into counterfeit self-control if we insist that our “right way” is the only “right way”, and everyone who does it differently is, of course, wrong. These things don't even really involve a conviction from God. They are merely acquired habits.

Here is a cultural example. In most areas of the country where I live, the majority of people will not eat pork for reasons of faith. Believers in Jesus who live here have the freedom to eat bacon if they want to. Most choose not to have this food in their homes so as not to offend their neighbors, or make their neighbors feel it is “unsafe” to eat anything offered to them when the neighbors come to visit. That is self-control. However, if that believer turns around and insists that I am wrong to eat bacon for breakfast, and that I should share the same conviction as they do, that crosses into counterfeit self-control. (By the way, in the area where I live, eating pork is not a problem to the majority. I still rarely eat it because I like chicken better.)

Now for a personal example. There are certain themes that exist in movies, novels, TV shows, and even news stories that paint very vivid, dark pictures in my mind that I have a hard time kicking out of my thoughts. This used to be a bigger problem than it is now. Perhaps I rarely struggle with thoughts like these any more because I have exercised self-control and do not feed my mind with these types of themes. For me, watching CSI in all its variations is just not something I will do. But if I insist that you are wrong to watch CSI, I cross the line into counterfeit self-control.

I must admit that I personally can’t see how CSI is particularly wholesome. I guess it seems to fall into the “but not everything is beneficial” category. Even so, it is not my place to force my conviction that I should not watch that show onto anyone else. I need to let God do that.

Self-Control or Controlling Others
see clip here
Counterfeit self-control isn’t self-control at all. It is legalism. It is an attempt to control others. It is an effort to “play God” in someone else’s life. Legalism tries to impose iron-clad laws when actually, God allows freedom.

If God’s “real-deal” fruit of self-control is growing in us, we can exercise self-control in the areas where God calls us to do so, while allowing others the freedom to listen to God’s voice for themselves.

Time for Reflection

  • Think of at least one area where God has impressed upon you that you should either do or not do a certain thing in a certain way.
  • Do you find yourself somewhat shocked when another believer does not share your conviction?
  • Is this a truly black and white area that God calls all to observe, or is it something that He actually does not either approve or forbid?
  • Is there any area of legalism that you need to release in your life…either for yourself or for others?
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal these to you.


  1. Boy, I really am not good at many of the fruits of the spirit. I'd like to think I can control myself in situations (like work or public situations), but tend to lose it later on (with my loved ones). I need to learn to say what's on my heart at the time it happens, and not redirect to people who don't deserve it.

    FWI: dislike chicken, love pork.

  2. I think we all have a way to grow when it comes to self-control. The question here we substitute the counterfeit and try to control others?

    By the way, if I ever end up living in your area and have your family over for dinner, let's eat...beef. :)


Any thoughts on this post? I would love to hear from you.

Gadgets By Spice Up Your Blog