top of page

Freedom, Self-Control, and The Holy Spirit

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

It seems that a sparkling gem of insight gleams from every passage of Paul’s letter to his protege – the young pastor Titus. In one section of the letter, he is coaching him to encourage the kind of healthy living that naturally flows from “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1-10). In advocating for that kind of healthy teaching and living, he makes an important doctrinal statement himself. He reminds Titus that it is God’s grace that has brought us salvation (Titus 2:11). Paul’s idea is that God has given us favor that we do not merit, and that our realization of that unmerited favor should teach us to live a life that rejects ungodliness, and that spurns passions that arise from our fallen nature (Titus 2:12). Instead, such grace should motivate us to pursue a life that is godly, and which reflects both self-control and uprightness.

Obviously, a godly life is one that noticeably bears the image of God in our character. This doesn’t mean our character is one of prudish, smug, Victorian-era, hypocritical, fake moral sentiment, but one that is truly rooted in a submission to the Holy Spirit. It is the very kind of life that Paul argues for in Galatians 5 when he instructs us that our fallen biological natures produce such obvious characteristics as sexual immorality, sensuality, envy, strife, divisions, fits of anger, drunkenness, and other ultimately dark outcomes. Conversely, it is a spirit led life that produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control (Galatians 5:16-24). In other words, when we submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it isn’t so much that we get a magic that helps us to predict the future, or heal physical wounds, or move literal mountains – though all of those things are well within the domain of The Spirit – it is that we get the very real power to control our bodies to have peace and joy in difficult times, and to display kindness and goodness to even enemies that need to see Jesus. It is that we get the tangible power of patience during periods of suffering.

When we recognize God’s grace, believe it, accept it, and submit to the direction of the Holy Spirit, the goodness of that spirit in our lives becomes evident in our self-control, and can be contrasted starkly with the evidence that defines the lives of those who do not have the spirit, or whose spiritual growth is small. And even more powerful yet is the spirit’s ability to keep us humble, gently reminding us that if not for the grace of God, our goodness would be no more than those who don’t know God at all (Isaiah 64:6, Ephesians 2:1-3, Ephesians 2:8-9, John 16:7-8). Such spirit and self-control unchains us from the sinful nature that ruins our lives and keeps us from being the free image bearer we were designed to be.

48 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page