Self-Control and God’s Three Institutions

My wife and I had the privilege to teach the teen class in our Vacation Bible School this summer. The theme of the VBS was God as Creator, Designer, Redeemer (through God the Son), and Empowerer (through God the Holy Spirit.) It was a blessing to teach these young people, and to think of the potential that one young person has for Christ’s kingdom in this world.

One of the great designs of God in His world is the three institutions that He has ordained— the Home, the Church, and the Civil Magistrate or government. While there are a million other man-made institutions, these are the three that God has ordained. As it is with all of God’s designs, when these institutions are functioning in the way they were made to function, they are a beautiful work of His mastery among men.

The reason we don’t always think of these institutions as something of beauty is because they are all three made up of individuals. Sinful individuals.

But Jesus has come, and because of the redemption He brings, men and women and boys and girls can be given the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit of God. This truly makes all the difference within this world, in a very real and practical way.

When the Spirit of God is given to an individual, that person bears the fruit of the Spirit where once was borne the fruit of unrighteousness (Galatians 5). Instead of a life marked by strife, jealousy, anger and immorality, there grows fruit such as love, joy, peace and faith. The last item in the list of this fruit of the Spirit is self-control.

Self-control, or self-government, is the basic building block for establishing non-tyrannical governments. This is what makes the three institutions of God within this world work as they should. Without the individuals within a family, church or government having self-government, everything becomes a self-centered, manipulative mess. Families fall apart, or are run by a controlling personality, churches can become dictatorial ogres, and the government… well, the government. The phrase “over-reaching” comes to mind, as well as a few others.

In our day we see that all three of these institutions are in serious trouble. Things really are a mess in each institution God has ordained. What is the problem?

The problem is slavery— men are slaves to sin. Wherever there is no self-government or self-mastery, due to slavery to sin, it ruins God’s good plan for His people. This begins in the home, and ultimately an entire nation cannot enjoy the blessings that God has ordained for humanity. In our own pursuit of happiness and meaning, we heap our own lust upon ourselves, thinking we are indulging in freedom and joy. And in reality, we are putting on the shackles of sin, and we are miserable. A nation of fornicating addicts cannot sustain civil liberty for very long. A church full of lethargic men and woman, enslaved to their own passions, will not see the Spirit of God working in their midst. And a family full of manipulating, self-centered members will crumble, and will not be leaving much, if anything, for future generations.

But men have every opportunity to be set free from sin. There is a Redeemer, praise the Lord. When an individual repents of their own way, and turns to the One Who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, they are truly set free. And now, the Holy Spirit can bear the fruit of self-control within their daily lives and choices. Now families and churches and states and nations can function as they were designed to function as the individuals are being led of the Spirit of God. In place of self-centeredness ruling the day, a motto of “my life for yours” becomes the guiding principle in each institution. This is truly a beautiful work of God.

Again, this is only possible if Christ is preached— the message of repentance, forgiveness, and cleansing. When individuals respond to this Gospel message by faith, it not only affects the individual, but changes the homes, the churches, and ultimately, the nation. The Gospel of Christ is the only hope for our nation. The greatest thing you can do for the nation, for the church, and for your home is to be “born again,” believing in Christ, with the Holy Spirit bearing the fruit of righteousness in your self-controlled / Holy Spirit controlled life.

Of the three institutions God has designed, the home and family is the foundation for the other two. Children grow up into adults, the same adults who will lead the churches and run the governments. When the order that God has established is followed within the home— the husband functioning as head of the home, the wife as executive of the home, together guiding their little ones to Christ— when God’s Word is simply heard and applied, the world is changing for the better. Strong homes become the foundation for strong churches and strong nations.

We have a lot of work to do in America. Things are likely not going to change over night. We didn’t get to where we are over night. But if individuals will give up their own way, look to Christ, and begin to function properly within God’s institutions, we will see this ship begin to turn around. Like the story of Jesus using the small lunch to feed thousands, the obedience of even one individual can work wonders in the world.

Book recommendation: My life for Yours by Douglas Wilson. The fundamental premise behind this post came from reading this terrific little book on the home and family, as well as the wonderful phrase, “My Life for Yours.” I highly recommend it!

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