A restored relationship with God begins when we accept the free gift of salvation. While this restoration means we become a new creation with a spiritual nature, that’s not where it ends. Even as our old nature calls us back to old habits of sin (Romans 8.12-13), Paul tells us we’re not obligated to give in to our old nature, but to partner with God instead.
Christianity isn’t a self-help movement. God doesn’t force us to conform to this new life on our own, but gives us a moment-by-moment choice to give control of our life to his will. When we submit to the Holy Spirit within us, we can live out the “fruit of the Spirit” listed in Galatians 5.22-23. Self-control is at the end of the list and sums up all of them.
Self-control is an exercise of faith where you make the choice to submit to God’s will concerning your thoughts and behaviors. It depends on the power of the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you. It’s NOT you modifying your behavior on your own to look like Jesus. It means confessing to God when you’re tempted, or have already given in to your old nature, then turning back to his will and trusting the Holy Spirit to help you make his choice.
As you go before God, ask him to show you how well you’re doing on choosing the Holy Spirit’s will over your own. Discuss with your small group, or a trusted friend: Why do some people who attend church grow to be more like Jesus over time while others don’t?