Let's talk science for a minute. Remember when you started doing experiments there was always the "control". The control is the thing that you compared your experiment to so that you could notice the change that occurred as a result of your work. That is closer to the original definition of control. In the 1828 dictionary the primary definition of control is "a book, register or account, kept to correct or check another account or register." The secondary definition gets into what we think of more often - to check, restrain, or govern.
So the issue with self control is twofold. First, there is a standard. Second, that your "self" compares itself to that standard and needs to meet it. So which standard is your control? Which law? How are you going to keep that account correct? How are you checking yourself?
Here's the deal. Most of us check ourselves (and our kids) against a standard that will make us fail every time. It is called "law" or morality and maybe sometimes doctrine. Often these laws are cultural norms that we don't even realize we believe. Sometimes they are even Biblical ideas. In our pursuit of meeting this standard we do one of two things. Some of us choose "laws" that we can easily meet or pretend there is no law - I make my own laws. God is pretty clear that he has written laws on our hearts and that you can't change them. We think this method can work, for a while.
I tend to err on the other side and add "extra" laws, like the Pharisees, to make sure that we don't get close to breaking the "big laws". We say to ourselves, as Eve explained, God said don't even touch it. Wait! That's not what God said. Eve added that extra bit in there. That's what we do to help us stay out of trouble with the law and show "self control". These "extra rules" help us feel like we have self control and are meeting the standard. This is also not a permanent fix. We will fail when the "control" we choose is law. We can't make it work. We can't be perfect enough. It will crush us. We know that God's perfect law is the right standard but . . .
all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
On our own terms, our way to "self control" is to either minimize the standard or set up extra standards to keep us safe. But both fail and crush us. If we can't change the law - how will we meet the standard? If we believe in the grace, mercy and the blood of Jesus - it's a totally different ball game. If you have faith in Jesus instead of the law you can rest easy - he took care of it. He fulfilled all of the law in your place. His standard was perfection, he met it - every dot and tittle. When you trust in Jesus you trade your mess for his glory. He did it. It is finished.
and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24
"Justified" - just as if you never fell short, your report card and the control or standard match!
"Freely by his grace" it wasn't free for Jesus (keep reading - "God presented Christ as a sacrifice, of atonement, through the shedding of his blood" Romans 3:25) But you can't pay for it, it is "to be received by faith" Romans 3:25.
Redemption - another word for that is ransom - Jesus paid the ransom with his blood
This sounds ridiculous. How can we just "trade" like that? Why would the system be set up this way? One reason for the law was to show us our need for Jesus. We need a standard and his perfect law shows us that we can't "control" ourselves to meet that standard. Thank you Jesus! This is the folly of grace and the difficulty of the Gospel. He perfectly fulfilled the standard for "self control" according to the law. Not only that, he did one better and leaves us a deposit called the Holy Spirit. The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, if you believe in that, lives in you and still works in the world today.
If there is a standard that we can't reach it on our own - only through Jesus - then why does Galatians say to have self control?
Well the two parts of control are a standard and a way to meet that standard. Are you beginning to see why self control is a fruit of the Spirit? Our goal is NOT to meet the legal standard to show self control - Jesus did that for us because we never could. Our new "control" is to match ourselves with the Holy Spirit.
This is a totally different way of approaching self control. It is not about trying harder, doing more, denying yourself. It is about tapping into the resurrection power of Christ available to us through the Holy Spirit and walking in line with that. There is no law against what the Spirit of God will tell you to do - he leads us into all truth. Leading a "self controlled" life is about aligning yourself to the Spirit as your standard - not the law. It is also about teaching your kids the same.
Take a look at Acts to get a sense of what this might look like. Towards the end of his journey Paul talks about how he has no problems with his conscience. Why is this? Was he perfect? The Jews were irate about this because clearly he wasn't fulfilling the standard of the law. Paul had a different control - the Holy Spirit. He knew he had walked in step with the Spirit and allowed the spirit to check, restrain (don't go to Asia) and govern him. When he doesn't walk in step, he repents.
Over and over again in Romans Paul explains how this freedom from the law is not an invitation to license but an open door to life with God. If you are still trying to show self control by living according to the law, morality or straight doctrine and you are a Christian you are trying to re-do what Christ did for you. STOP!!! Christian "self control" is about following the Spirit as our standard and allowing his life in us to be our guide.