In the School of Grace
Bad habits are often broken by better relationships. Some give up smoking for marriage or eat differently for loved ones. But the gospel is better.
The gospel trains us, it teaches. We are all students in the school of Grace. According to Titus 2:12, ESV, we are commanded to “renounce self” because of the grace that trains us in the gospel.
God is actively working within you to strengthen you to renounce ungodliness. It is only by the indwelling Spirit of Christ within us that strengthens us to forsake the flesh and flee from it. Christians have free wills to say “No!” to sin!
We must actively forsake the old man, knowing that God is fortifying our inner man. Jesus commands us in Luke 14:33, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple,” and in Luke 9:23, “let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” (ESV).
Under New Management
What if you bought a house, but were not given the master key? What if you were told that the previous owner, Mr. Flesh, has installed a new lock in the attic that he desires to keep for himself so that he may visit it, rest in it, live in as he pleases. How should you respond? Drive him out! He has no right to be here!
The grace of God actively trains us to renounce Mr. Flesh, the former owner. But the act of renouncing, saying no, is difficult. Hence, we need grace!
At the cross, Jesus removed sin’s penalty so we could rule over sin’s power. We renounce ungodliness, respond with godliness. The biblical expressions are “put off,” and “put on” (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:5-12, 14).
In Titus 2:12, ESV, we act with “self-control.” We are trained not to blend into the world, but to shine with God’s character. Not like camouflage, but like orange vests.
From the Spirit of Christ
Self-control involves our inner man, our hearts. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is self-control. Meaning, only the Spirit of God can take the reins of your heart and subdue it.
We haven’t mastered our wills, instead our wills have been Mastered. Christians have been gripped by the grace of God.
To the unspiritual eye, Christians are the fools, the slaves to religion, and the unbeliever is the true free man. The unbeliever thinks this way, “We have no restraints, no chains, no master — I am the captain of my own soul!”
Yet, Ephesians 2:1-3 says unbelievers are following the world, tugged around by their body and mind! Unbelievers do not have free will, but an enslaved will (John 8:34-36). Grace alone trains the heart to forsake self and embrace Christ.
Thus Proverbs 16:32, ESV, says, “he who rules his spirit [is better] than he who takes a city.” God measures a man’s spirituality not by what he rules, but by how he is ruled.
As John MacArthur said, “I am a free man, the slave of Christ.”