The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control
As we wrap up our series on the fruit of the Spirit, we come to one that is commonly desired but rarely attained: self-control.
Galatians (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), Tom Schreiner
Galatians (Geneva Commentaries), John Brown
Galatians (Crossway Classic Commentaries), Martin Luther
Galatians For You, Timothy Keller
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This morning we’re concluding our series on the fruit of the Spirit, and next week we’ll wrap up our series on Galatians. As we do so, we’re still pretty fresh on the heels of the New Year, and anecdotally, I’d say maybe half of you I’ve asked have made some New Years’ Resolutions. These resolutions are diverse: Get to bed earlier, read the Bible in a year, buy a house, but one thing most seem to have in common is that they are connected in some way to this last fruit of the Spirit: self-control. Most of us probably recognize that while it’s easier to just act on your feelings and do whatever your strongest desires tell you to do, it makes your life kind of chaotic. You may have fun living that way, but the fun eventually shows itself to be pretty shallow, and you realize you can’t accomplish much. So we start to see the value of self-control, and yet, we find it notoriously difficult to cultivate. Why? Our text tells us it’s because our flesh, under sin, is unable to produce it. But, the good news is that the Spirit of God is able to produce it. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, so subdue your flesh with the self-control the Spirit works in you, and to get at that, we’ll ask the three questions we’ve typically been asking of the fruits in this series: What is self-control, why is it a fruit of the Spirit, and how can we act on it?
What is self-control?
The word translated self-control in verse 23 of Galatians is not a common one in the Bible; in fact, it does not appear anywhere else in Galatians, and it only appears two other times in the New Testament, in contexts that don’t tell us much about what the word means. However, there are closely related words that appear in another of Paul’s writings, 1 Corinthians, that shed light on its meaning. The verbal form of the word appears in 1 Corinthians 7:9, where Paul counsels singles that if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. Self-control in that verse, then, is the ability to control your desire for sex, rather than to be overcome and controlled by it, such that you “burn with passion.” In 1 Corinthians 9:25, we see that while self-control includes control of your sex drive, it is broader than that. There Paul says every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So Paul uses the self-control athletes exercise as an illustration of the self-control we exercise as Christians, and the self-control athletes exercise goes far beyond controlling their sex drive.
To think of a few examples, it includes controlling their desire for sleep. I remember Michael Phelps describing how difficult it is early in the morning, when it’s still dark, to get out of his warm bed into a cold pool to train for the Olympics. But he exercised self-control and did it for many years, and over the span of his career he received 23 perishable discs of gold for doing so at the Olympics, 3 perishable discs of silver, and 2 perishable discs of bronze. How much more, then, should we control our desire for sleep, who do it to receive the imperishable reward of eternal life? Athletes control their desire for food. Memorably, Phelps had to force himself to eat over 10,000 calories per day. A neighbor and friend of mine here is training to run a circuit of 6 marathons: Boston, NYC, Chicago, Tokyo, Munich, and London. He researched and found a special sports nutritionist online and paid 250$ for an hour of her time to figure out what kind of diet he should be eating to train for these marathons. I asked him to describe his regimen, and this is what he said: “I’m waking up at 5 am every weekday to get in 5-8 miles of somewhat intense running- in the extreme cold and heat both. I’m also running on weekends and it takes a sizable chunk of my leisure time. It’s also a three month commitment and the runs can be lonely at times. And to do it well I have to track everything I eat to make sure I’m not under eating but also that the hunger all the running provokes doesn’t lead to overeating. It’s mentally and physically grueling.” He exercises self-control in all these ways, and I don’t even think he’s hoping to get a perishable medal for his efforts; he’s aiming to finish them all and do one in under 3 hours. Impressive, no doubt, but the point remains: If that’s worthy of self-control, surely eternal life is as well.
Of course, important differences exist too. “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17), and while bodily training is of some value, it’s godliness that holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Tim 4:8). Nonetheless, there are ways in which we must control our desire for sex, sleep, and food to train ourselves for godliness. Perhaps most obviously, we must control our desire for sex by only directing it toward a spouse, and otherwise abstaining from it. Most Christians find that to be faithful in prayer, they must get up earlier than they otherwise would, and so must control their desire for sleep. In biblical times, self-control in food was particularly important so that Christians did not, by their eating, cause one of their brothers to stumble, or hinder opportunities for evangelism. There were Jewish unbelievers and Jewish converts to Christianity who held that certain foods were unclean, and the best way to remove hindrances to evangelism with the Jewish unbelievers and to maintain unity with the Jewish believers was often for those who knew they were free in Christ to eat all foods, who likely even felt a desire to eat ceremonially unclean foods like pork or shellfish, to control that desire and abstain from doing so. Even today, you may find it helps your evangelism to Muslims or Jews or even to vegans or people with certain allergies to be able to control your desire for foods that would be offensive to the people you’re trying to reach.
A concern for evangelism is even part of what animates Paul’s mention of self-control in 1 Corinthians 9. Before the verse we’ve been looking at that talks about athletes exercising self-control, Paul is talking about the freedom and right he has to be paid for his evangelistic efforts. However, out of a concern to remove any unnecessary barriers to others hearing the gospel, he has not exercised that right. That requires self-control. There’s a desire natural to our flesh: the desire for money, to which Paul had a right in this case, but Paul is nonetheless choosing not to act on that desire because he sees it as subservient to evangelism. And in addition to sex, sleep, and food, isn’t money another area we often feel our need for self-control? You notice a way your life on earth could be improved, and thanks to Amazon Prime and the Amazon app, you’re seconds away from making the improvement by spending some money on it. But self-control means you can say no to that desire when godliness, or love, requires it. You can’t be rich toward God, provide for a family, assist the poor, or fund the spread of the gospel to all nations if you say “yes” to every desire you feel to spend money on yourself.
So self-control with respect to money comes just before Paul’s discussion of self-control in 1 Corinthians 9. But just after it, he talks about idolatry, sexual immorality, and grumbling against God and his servants. Thus far, we’ve been talking about controlling natural desires: Neither sex, sleep, food, nor money are inherently sinful. As created human beings, it is natural to us to want them, so that even if sin had never entered the world or our hearts, we would want them, and we would have self-control to keep them subservient to love for God and neighbor. But, in fact, sin has entered the world and our hearts, such that self-control is now needed, not only to control the natural desires of our flesh, but to control the sinful desires of our flesh, such as the desire for idolatry, sexual immorality, or grumbling against God and his servants. The self-control the Spirit works in you enables you, though you feel a desire for such things, to say no to such desires by not acting on them, and, over time, he even works in you to weaken those desires, thus enabling you to live a more self-controlled life.
To attempt a definition, then, we could say the self-control which is a fruit of the Spirit is the ability to subdue the desires of our flesh under love for God and neighbor. By desires of our flesh, I mean both our flesh as it exists now, both created and fallen under sin. Self-control is the ability to say no to our natural desires when love for God and neighbor requires it, and the ability to say no to our sinful desires, which love for God and neighbor always requires. In that sense, self-control enables us to rule over our flesh, and hence subdue it. The word for control in Greek is closely related to the word for power, and that association remains conceptually: To control something is to exert power over it. The fruit of the Spirit, though, is not control or power over other people; it’s control or power over ourselves, our own desires; hence the term “self-control”.
The opposite of self-control would be self-indulgence. Proverbs 25:28 says “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” A city with its walls erected and not broken into is safe and orderly; a city broken into and left without walls is chaotic, and that’s the opposite of self-control. It’s a chaotic person, because guess what? The desires of our flesh are chaotic. We often want more food than we need and better foods than we can afford. We often want to rest when we’re scheduled to work. We often want to have sex with a lot of people. We often want to give the kind of devotion of which only God is worthy to things God made. We often want to blame our hardships in life on God and those he’s appointed to lead us, and so grumble against him and them. The opposite of self-control is simply acting on all those desires, and those who do end up physically unhealthy, can’t stay afloat financially, can’t keep a job, can’t get to church, can’t be faithful in their relationships, and so on. Their life is like a city broken into and without walls. And if you’re here today realizing that’s your life, I’m not saying any of that to condemn you. You aren’t alone; we all need the Spirit to give us what we lack in self-control, and the good news of this text is that’s preceisely what he does! It is strange, though, give the chaotic effect of self-indulgence, that our world today so glorifies “doing what you want,” i.e., acting on your desires, and even in some sense finding your identity in them, as though what you feel is who you are. I think we can affording to glorify such things in the post-modern West because our society was built by people who didn’t live that way, and who built the walls so thick that it’s still fairly safe to live without self-control and not end up like a city broken into and without walls. But in the ancient world and still in many places today, self-control was a matter of life or death. If you couldn’t tame your tongue, for example, you could get yourself killed. If you acted on your desire for sex with a certain man’s wife, you could get yourself killed.
But, while our world glorifies the opposite of self-control, it also has its counterfeit. The ancient world did too: The epicureans glorified the opposite and said indulge the desires of your flesh, but the stoics glorified the counterfeit and said kill the desires of your flesh. Instead of subduing the the flesh under love for God and neighbor, they said you should even try to kill love for God and neighbor, because if you set your love on anything you can’t control, you’re setting yourself up for a bad life. You can see this attitude in Star Wars, Episode III, when Yoda warns Annakin not to love Padme too much, because if you love, you’ll fear losing her, and fear of loss is a path to the dark side. In other words, love is a path to the dark side. One problem with that is that we were created to love, and we’ll never have true joy if we don’t. We were created with the desire to eat, sleep, reproduce, and even to use things we buy with our money. So if you try to kill all that, instead of becoming more self-controlled, you become less human. We could call the counterfeit to self-control, then, self-annihilation. Rather than controlling our desires, we try to kill all desire. “Ego is the enemy” as one popular modern-day stoic author puts it, which simply means “I am the enemy,” rather than sin in me being the enemy. And this counterfeit is at the heart of so much false religion. Roman Catholicism, which I grew up in and am thankful for elements of, glorifies the infliction of pain on ourselves as spiritually beneficial. Here’s what scripture says about that: “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col 2:23).
There are less religious examples of this counterfeit today too. Think of the extreme diets many go on, where they try to kill their desire for foods created by God to be received with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:3). In some cases such diets are necessary because of food allergies, but in many cases they’re embarked upon under the banner of “being healthy,” which in many cases is just a cover-up for “looking good.” Similarly, I confess there have been times in my life where I found I could wake up early to go to the gym, but not to pray. Is that self-control? No; it’s a counterfeit, where instead of subduing the desires of our flesh under love for God and neighbor, we’ve simply subdued one fleshly desire to another. Sometimes extreme dieters find they lack the self-control to break the man-made rules of their diet to love God and neighbor. They might get nervous about accepting an invitation to dinner with a brother or sister in Christ, or miss evangelism opportunities for fear of breaking their diet. That’s not self-control; it’s self-annihilation. But self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, so let’s talk about why that is.
Why is it a fruit of the Spirit?
It’s a fruit of the Spirit, first, because the flesh can’t produce it. The flesh, under sin, always wants more, because the flesh, under sin, is always committed to worshiping and serving the creature, rather than the creator, and things God made can never satisfy we who were created for God himself. So the flesh looks to food for satisfaction, and when it doesn’t satisfy, what does it do? It looks for more and better food. That first cookie was good, but how can you say no to the second cookie if you have nothing greater than it in which to be satisfied? This is easy to see regarding sexual immorality. You watch one pornographic video, and it felt good. But are you really going to watch the same video again? Maybe a few times, but then your flesh looks for more, and in this case, probably more deviant material. You could sleep longer, or you could pray. Which one gives your flesh a quicker hit? And when the desire for sin bubbles up, what’s easier on your flesh? Just acting on it, or fighting it? The flesh naturally produces the opposite of self-control, and hence its opposites feature prominently in the list of the works of the flesh in verses 19-21.
But what about the counterfeit? The flesh will take the counterfeit as well, because sometimes the flesh realizes that living like a city without walls isn’t so great. So the flesh can clamp down and get religious or get disciplined. But do you see the problem? You’re trying to subdue the flesh with the flesh. You’re trying to get free from slavery using the master’s tools. What’s that do? Ironically, it strengthens the flesh. So to return to earlier examples, say you’re trying to get control over your desire for food by subduing it to your desire to look good. I remember a sign I once saw: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Ok, say that’s your strategy, what will be the fruit? Not self-control. Now instead of being controlled by your desire for food, you’ll be controlled your desire to look good, and instead of feeling like you have to always obey your desire to eat, you’ll feel like you to always obey the man-made diet you’ve chosen that holds out the hope of a better appearance.
And the religious counterfeit fares no better. Interestingly, one of the few places a word related to self-control shows up in the New Testament is in these words of Jesus to the highly religious Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matt 23:25). Though outwardly they look very disciplined, inside they are full of self-indulgence, the opposite of self-control! The pharisaical religion was the very thing into which the false teachers were trying to draw the churches of Galatia, and here Paul is saying, “No! That won’t produce self-control. That’s the work of the Spirit!” And it is often the case with those who are outwardly severe to their flesh in a show of religiosity keep some pet indulgences for their flesh behind closed doors. How often do we find out that those guilty of sexual abuse were outwardly religious? How many outwardly religious people can nonetheless be addicted to substances or their hobbies, or uncontrolled in their eating? You see, the problem with man-made religion is that it doesn’t target the right problem. It’s a product of sinful flesh, so it doesn’t target sin; it targets self. And when you try to kill natural desires, rather than sinful desire, they typically look for an outlet. Remember Colossians 2: “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col 2:23), and so the outwardly religious are inwardly self-indulgent.
Now typically at this point in the series I’ve said that the reason something is a fruit of the Spirit is because it is an attribute of God, but as far as I can tell, self-control is the only fruit of the Spirit that is in no way attributed to God. That surprised me as I was studying this, but if I had considered the definition, it should not have surprised me. If self-control is subduing the desires of the flesh, obviously it can’t be attributed to God, because God doesn’t have desires of his flesh. Indeed, he has no flesh at all. In the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, God is “a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions” (WCF 2.1). The last negation in that list is what we call in theology the doctrine of God’s impassibility. Because God is spirit without a body, God is also without passions, or what I’ve been calling “desires of the flesh.” Obviously God is without sinful desires, but the doctrine of God’s impassibility goes further to say that he is also without the kind of natural desires we mentioned earlier: sex, food, rest, money, etc. If you ever read any ancient mythology really, whether Greco-Roman or Mesopotamian, you find that their gods possess all these passions, and aren’t very self-controlled with them. Zeus is known for his sexual escapades, ambrosia is the food and drink of the Greek gods, in the Babylonian creation myth Marduk creates humans to work so the gods can get the rest they apparently need, and of course we all know that you have to give your money to the gods, right? But the God of the Bible says, “9 I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds.10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills…Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?” (Psalm 50:9-10, 13).
So when God created the first humans, he did not take from them, but gave to them, because he had no fleshly desires which he depended on them to satisfy, while they were created with natural desires they absolutely needed God to satisfy. They were hungry, so God made trees to spring up from the ground that were pleasant to the sight and good for food, and God told them they may surely eat of every tree in the garden (Gen 2:9, 2:16), except for one which they did not need (Gen 2:17). Adam had a desire for companionship and reproduction, so God made a helper in the woman and gave her to him, and ordained that therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Gen 2:18-24). God is driven by love for God and neighbor, and God has no passions that might compete with that, that he then needs to subdue. He doesn’t give Adam and Eve all the trees of the garden, but then feel like, “Well I better keep some for myself,” as we might, because he doesn’t need any for himself! There are no passions in the way of him doing all he ordains, and so he is described as the one who works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph 1:11). God is better than self-controlled.
And we see this even more in how he has responded to our lack of self-control. He did forbid Adam and Eve from eating of one tree, not so he could eat of it, but to test them, and they failed the test. Indeed, the very entry point for the temptation was that Eve saw “that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” (Gen 3:6), and instead of subduing the natural desires for food, beauty, and wisdom under love for God and neighbor, she said “yes” to them and “no” to God’s prohibition. Now what passion might we expect that to evoke in God, especially if we’re familiar with the theology of the ancient world? Anger, right? But when God approaches them, he’s clearly not in what Galatians calls a “fit of anger.” He comes and says, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9). In fact, he is so unaffected by the passion of anger, that to these very people who have sinned against them, he makes a promise of salvation, a promise that a seed of the woman would come and crush the head of their tempter, Satan (Gen 3:15).
And to fulfill that promise, the God who is without body, parts, or passions, would have to take on a body, complete with parts and passions. In Jesus Christ God became man, complete with the need for food, drink, and sleep, the money necessary to buy such things, and even, we can trust, with a sex drive. And we see in him true self-control. He did not annihilate himself; he was even falsely accused of being a glutton and a drunkard (Luke 7:34) because he participated in feasts with sinners in hope of calling them to repentance (Luke 5:29-32). In his own words, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34). We find stories of him sleeping (Mark 4:38) and inviting his disciples to come away and rest with him (Mark 6:31). So he did not annihilate himself, and yet he did deny himself. He was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). After he had not eaten for 40 days, Satan tempted him with food and with power, but he continued subduing his desires. And consider this: Having been created sinless, he had no sinful desires to deny. He could be tempted from outside, as when Satan tempted him, but he had no sinful desires. So what did he deny himself? He denied himself natural desires, insofar as they got in the way of loving God and loving us. So he denied himself sex his entire life, because the life the Lord assigned him required him to be devoted to the church alone as his bride in a spiritual union free of any hint of sexuality. When his ministry began, he denied himself an ordinary vocation that would have generated an income, and instead depended on God’s provision through the financial support of others (Luke 8:1-3). He became materially poor (Luke 9:58), and as he approached the cross, though his flesh naturally shrunk back from death, he prayed to his father, “not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39). While his disciples slept, he subdued his desire for sleep and stayed awake to pray that prayer and to be delivered into the hands of sinners (Matt 26:40-45). And on the cross, he cried out, “I thirst” (John 19:28) as he breathed his last. In the end, out of love for God and for us, he subdued his natural desires for sex, food, drink, rest, money, and even life itself. He passed the test that Adam, Eve, and we all failed.
And because he did, God rewarded him with the imperishable wreath of eternal life when he raised him from the dead. When Jesus rose from the dead, it was not to passionless spiritual existence. One of the first things we find him doing after his resurrection is eating with his disciples, but he tells us that he will subdue his desire for food and drink until the day when he eats with us again in his father’s kingdom (Matt 26:29). Until then he lives in heaven, ready and willing to save to the uttermost whoever draws near to God through him. His death on the cross has made a full atonement for our lack of self-control. Though God is righteously angry with our sins, since his anger is not a passion, he was able to will to direct it at Christ on the cross as he bore our sins. He has promised now that whoever believes in Christ will be forgiven, and there is no passion in God that will stop him from keeping that promise. Receive and rest upon Christ, and he will forgive you for your lack of self-control, and he will send his Spirit to work self-control in you. Reconciled to him, you will be increasingly satisfied in him, such that love for him and love for others will begin to rule over the desires of your flesh, whether natural or sinful. The Spirit, through the gospel, has the power to stop the indulgence of the flesh that man-made religion lacks. That’s why self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Let’s close, then, by considering how to act on self-control as the Spirit works it in us.
How can we act on it?
We can begin by considering our sinful desires, since in a sense, they’re the most straightforward to deal with. In Titus 2:11-12 we read that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” So how does the self-control of the Spirit incline you to respond to sinful desires? Renounce them. Say no to them. Give them no oxygen. Make no provision for the flesh. Put them to death. Do not entertain them, do not indulge them in your mind, and certainly, do not act on them. Sometimes people wonder, “But if in the moment I really want to act on it, isn’t it kind of just religious duty to not do so? I thought the heart was the goal?” It is, but in this life our sinful passions are never annihilated, and so there is always a need for us to subdue them by not acting on them when they arise, and to continue to fight against them so that they are habitually weakened in us. So you should say “no” to looking at that pornographic website even if your heart wants to, because if you’re a Christian, the desire to sin isn’t the only desire in your heart. There is also the self-control of the Spirit, warring against that desire, prompting you to say no to it. So just say no. And if accountability software, blocking websites, deleting apps and giving the password to a trusted brother or sister, cancelling your internet and data plan, any of the above helps you say no, by all means, do them. And, alongside that, by the power of the Spirit and in community with your church family, identify the beliefs and desires lying underneath your desire for pornography, and turn from them to the truth about God and a more earnest desire for him. When you feel that desire to say those hurtful words to your spouse but there’s that one little inkling you have that maybe you shouldn’t, act on the inkling, and say no to the sinful desire, and by the power of the Spirit, in community with your church family, identify the beliefs and desires lying underneath your desire to speak sinfully to your spouse, and turn from them to the truth about God and a more earnest desire for him. That’s how you act on self-control with respect to sinful desires: Say no to them, full stop, and strive, by the power of the Spirit, to kill them.
With natural desires, it’s less simple. With natural desires, self-control inclines you to direct them and moderate them. So, first, self-control inclines you to direct them toward the glory of God and the good of your neighbor, love for God and neighbor, as we’ve been saying. So to the single person burning with passion, scripture doesn’t just say kill the passion. It says control the passion, and get married (1 Cor 7:9), or, in other words, direct the passion, direct that desire for sex toward a particular spouse, so that you might use sex for its created end: To give yourself to a particular spouse and produce children with that spouse (1 Cor 7:3-5, Gen 1:28, 2:24, Mal 2:15). Of course, as we’ll see with our daily bread, we are dependent on God to provide the means of satisfaction for that desire. You can’t manufacture a Christian of the opposite sex you want to marry who also wants to marry you. But you can pray for it, and you can take intentional steps toward it, and especially for those of you who are struggling with sexual sin, “burning with passion,” such intentional steps are a necessary part of that battle. And husbands and wives similarly are both commanded to give to one another their conjugal rights, so that Satan may not tempt them because of their lack of self-control (1 Cor 7:3-5).
We also want to direct our rest and sleep. We can glorify God by resting from our work and taking time to sit at his feet, listen to the preaching of his word, reading it privately, respond to him in prayer, singing his praises, and so forth. That’s the clearest reason commands to rest are given in the Bible. But recreation can also glorify God insofar as we receive it with thanksgiving to him and engage in it in a way that loves our neighbor. Even sleep can glorify God as we acknowledge his control over all things, while we let go of our illusion of control and just go to bed (Psalm 127:1-2). The Spirit prompts us to use our desire for food to eat with thanksgiving to him, to open doors for evangelism, and to express our unity and fellowship with the other members of our church. The Spirit prompts us to use our money to provide for a family if you have one, especially if you’re a husband or father, support the work and worship of our church, alleviate the sufferings of the poor, and fund the spread of the gospel to all nations. So we want to direct our natural desires to these things.
But we also want to moderate them. The Spirit prompts us to not go “all in” on sex (even in marriage), food, rest, leisure, recreation, or money, because the Spirit directs us to God as our supreme good, not these things. So Augustine, with characteristic clarity and beauty, says that the Spirit prompts us to avail ourselves of such worldly goods “with the moderation of a user, not the attachment of a lover.” So the self-control of the Spirit prompts us to fast from these things sometimes, in order to grow our attachment to God, our supreme good. So 1 Corinthians 7 speaks of even married couples abstaining from sex for an agreed upon short period of time, to devote themselves to prayer (1 Cor 7:5). It also upholds the value of never getting married in order to devote more time to direct ministry if you are able (1 Cor 7:32-34). The Spirit prompts you to moderate your desire for food by not always indulging it, so that you are healthy enough to use your body for God’s glory and the good of others, and so that you are able to say no to food or drink when love requires it. The Spirit prompts you to moderate your desire for rest by getting out of bed so that you can pray and exert yourself in service to the Lord and others with the life he’s given you. The Spirit also prompts you to moderate your desire for money by stopping your work so that you can rest, and then he prompts you to stop your rest when works of necessity or mercy present themselves. In each of these things, we moderate our desires so that we are not controlled by them, but by the Spirit, who compels us to love above all else, for the fruit of the Spirit is love.
God is a most pure spirit, without body, parts, or passions. He works all things according to the counsel of his will, for he has no passions to interfere with the counsel of his will, and it was his will to take on human passions in Christ, and to suffer on our behalf, so that we could be forgiven for our lack of self-control, and so that his Spirit could come live in us to make us self-controlled. So subdue your flesh. By the power of the Spirit in you, say no to your sinful passions; put them to death. Direct your natural passions to the glory of God and the good of your neighbor, and moderate your passions with the moderation of a user, not the attachment of a lover, so that your attachment is reserved for your supreme good alone: God himself.