Self-control relates to the immediate or short-term urges and desires by making right choices while self-discipline focuses on the long-term patterns of behaviour or habits.

When we became a Christian we gave ourselves back to God. Our body became His property, inhabited by the Holy Spirit, so it is our responsibility to learn to control it in a God-honouring way (1 Cor 6:15,19,20; 1 Thes 4:3-8). We are called to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God, not yielding any part of them to sin in the time of temptation, having already established boundaries through self-discipline (Rom 6:12,13, 12:1,2). Increasingly being in control of all our responses is a fruit or evidence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. He helps us as we desire to, and make a real effort, on our part; however God will not do for us what is our responsibility, including resisting Satan and coming closer to God (Gal 5:22,23; Jas 4:7,8; 1 Pet 1:13,14, 5:8; 2 Pet 1:5-7).  

Every aspect of our life should be under control. This will result in wholeness, balance and stability. We are not to engage in anything that is harmful to our eternal, spiritual life, but to keep the ‘natural man’ in submission. This also includes the area of eating and gluttony (Prov 23:1,2,20,21; Col 2:20-23).

Our thoughts, words and actions must constantly be the focus of self-control – it is better to have control over our temper than to accomplish courageous things (Ps 39:1,2; Prov 16:32, 25:28, 29:11; Mt 12:34,35; I Cor 10:31; Jas 1:19,20, 3:2-12). The Bible states we are tempted by our own evil desires which unless they are actively restained and we choose to walk obediently to God will progress into actual sin (Jas 1:14,15).

A self-controlled person understands that Satan can do nothing to them without their co-operation, and they don’t have to give it. As they understand neither people nor circumstances are the problem, (rather it is their own response), they draw daily on the Holy Spirit to control their reactions (2 Tim 1:7). Moses and David both acted unwisely

Self-control is founded on making wise choices

forfeiting the future that could have been theirs because they lacked self-control; sin always has a high price (Num 20:10-12; 2 Sam 11:2ff).

Paul said, although various things are legitimate “I will not be mastered by them” for “A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him”. We are to control our bodies, not letting their desires dominate but yield to the Holy Spirit who brings peace and freedom to do what is best for others and therefore also for ourselves (1 Cor 6:12, 10:23; 1 Thes 4:3-7, 5:6-8; 2 Pet 2:19). The person who lacks self-control will always be a slave to something or somebody who doesn’t have their best interest at heart, so we determine our character by the things we allow to control us or we have control over. Distractions must also be controlled otherwise they can rob us of the important goals.

See also: choice, consequences, desires, habits, put off/put on, reaction, response, responsible/responsibility, self-denial, self-discipline, self-will, temptation, wisdom, words.