My 10-year-old boy and I had a talk last night. Ethan had briefly forgotten who he was and in that moment he said some things to mom he didn’t truly believe. I met him in his room. “Ethan, I don’t want to control you, nor can I.” I said smiling.
This was new and Ethan was trying to follow me. I could see it in his eyes.
I went further, “God doesn't want to control you either. Control is the opposite of who He is. Its as opposite as light is to darkness. He is never about control, He is always about freedom. Did you know that?”
Ethan nodded. But I’m not sure he was with me yet.
“Son, only you have control of your heart.”
This comment led us into the wonder of the Holy Spirit. We discussed how the same Holy Spirit that lived in Jesus, that empowered Him to live a miraculous life, that same Holy Spirit that was with Him through death, that raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at the right hand of the Father; that same brilliant Holy Spirit is alive in Ethan. And one of the evidences, one of the fruits of His in-filling presence is self-control as noted in Galatians 5 as a fruit of the Spirit.
And here is where I may have begun preaching. It went something like this…
Self-control is the only kind of control God endorses. It’s the gift of choice and the evidence of His Spirit within us. Self-control is the gift of freedom.
It’s why there were two trees in the garden. In the garden, the lie that separated humanity from God was a lie of control – who had it? The fact is, Adam and Eve were walking out the perfection of their freedom through the gift of self-control – each controlling themselves.
Then Satan shows up and distorts the nature of God with a lie. The lie? God is controlling. And they bought it. They believed that God was withholding some portion of who He was; that God withheld some measure of freedom from them.
Do you understand that the seed of Satan’s lie was that God is about control? The idea that He withholds some aspect of His nature suggests an imperfection in our Father's love – as if He is not always good. I believe this original distortion of our Fathers nature is still the foundational lie that separates us from His love and the fullness of our freedom in Christ.
The fact is, Adam and Eve sold their self-control and with it their freedom to Satan. And until Jesus arrived, humanity lived in that paradigm. Then Jesus came, He lived, He died, and He rose. He took all authority and He gave us back self-control. Through the cross and in the Holy Spirit we now have the freedom to control ourselves again!
The lie that God is about control separates us from the freedom of self-control. Self-control is His perfect gift to us. Its what sets us free to be fully loved, to fully love. God has given us the full freedom of self-control; the ability to control oneself, to chose love.
“Isn’t that amazing Ethan?!” I finished in a whirlwind
I’d like to tell you my preaching blew Ethan away but the truth is I may have lost him. I gave him a hug, reminded him of who he truly was, a son loved and a loving son. I then sent him down to mom to reconnect and so mom could also let him know who he was.
You know, I could have controlled Ethan, I could have forced, manipulated or straight up shamed him into obedience, he was only 10.
I could have made him behave. But someday my boy will be a man and beyond my ability to control.
The fact is control is about behavior. As a good father, I am less interested in behavior and more interested in identity. That is to say, I want my boy to know love and in loves freedom, control himself. If Ethan knows my love and more, our Fathers love, he is set free to be a son of the King. And in that identity he can control himself – you see, behavior follows identity.
The fact is I can't truly control Ethan's heart, nor do I want to. Nor does God want to. He is never about control. His love is the perfection of His goodness, and it's always about freedom, and that freedom looks like sons and daughters living in control of themselves in the authority of His love.
God is not about control. It’s counter to who He is. He won't ever demand it. If you give it to Him, He'll give it right back. If you think He wants it, you are inviting distrust into your relationship with Him. If you insist He wants it, you are setting yourself up for a crisis of faith.
God wants you free so He gave you the gift of self control. It was for freedom He set us free, may we grow in this revelation.
***This article was an excerpt from Prone To Love.
Jason Clark is an author, singer/songwriter, speaker and director of A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage everyone he connects with to know and grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children. Jason’s new book, Prone To Love, is available now.