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   Studies in Contrasts - Volume 1 (7 of 13)

Volume 1

  1. Should a Christian Be Afraid of God?
  2. The Resurrection: A Matter of Reason or a Matter of Faith?
  3. Can We Learn from the Cults?
  4. Should We Be Waiting or Working As We Anticipate Christ's Return?
  5. Did Christ Come to Live or to Die for Us?
  6. Is Man Like God or Unlike God?
  7. Should a Christian Be Self-Controlled or Spirit-Controlled?
  8. Isn't the Holy Spirit All I Need to Understand the Bible?
  9. Can We Come to God Just As We Are?
  10. Is It Ever Right to Judge Others?
  11. Are We the Result of Our Parents' Choices?
  12. Does God Hold Us Responsible for Other People's Sin?
  13. Self-Esteem: Is It Right or Wrong?

Should a Christian Be Self-Controlled or Spirit-Controlled?

Andrew was an alcoholic. He knew it, and he didn't like it. As a result, he had tried several detoxification programs. He had also professed faith in Christ, had attended church, and had gained a fairly good knowledge of basic Bible truths. But he kept going back to the bottle.

In desperation one night, in the presence of his wife and his pastor, he renewed his commitment to Jesus Christ, acknowledging his weakness and pleading for God's strength. After they had prayed, the pastor said, "Andrew, you are never going to have victory until you learn to discipline yourself--to exercise self-control. You have to say no when friends invite you to take a drink with them." But Andrew objected, saying, "Pastor, you know that I can't exercise self-control. That's my problem. What I need is to be Spirit-controlled."

Was the pastor right in introducing the subject of self-control? Or was Andrew right in stressing only the supernatural control of the Holy Spirit?


  1. Working at the development of self-control is one of the building blocks of the Christian life (2 Peter 1-7).
  2. Christians are to be just as self-controlled as an athlete getting ready for a contest (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
  3. Self-control is one of the qualifications for those who would serve as a church leader (Titus 1:7-9).


  1. Self-effort was declared futile by our Lord when He said, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
  2. The apostle Paul made it clear that self-control is the result of a right relationship with the Spirit of God (Gal. 5:16, 22-25).


Exercising self-control and living under the control of the Holy Spirit go hand-in-hand, but only when we put them in the right order. Since we can'' be self-controlled in our own strength, we must begin every day with a declaration of dependence upon the Holy Spirit, a conscious submission to Him, and a determination that with His help we will put first things first and obey the Lord.


The Christian life requires a balance between conscious dependence upon God and determined effort. Those who claim that it is only a matter of "let go and let God" overlook the many commands of the Bible. Similarly, people who deny themselves, keep rules meticulously, and give themselves to good causes without a recognition of the role of the Holy Spirit are likely to have little joy. The Christian life must begin with a recognition of the Holy Spirit and submission to Him, but it doesn't end there. It leads us to diligence in Bible reading, prayer, denial of self, and active obedience. J. I. Packer calls this "Hard-working holiness."

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