Spirit-Controlled vs. Self-Controlled

Do you ever find yourself making a choice that you know in your heart is not God-honoring, but that you decide to pursue anyway?

The Bible describes two types of Christians:
• Spirit-controlled
• Self-controlled
You’ve given your heart to Jesus, but you still make decisions that reflect what you want, not necessarily what God wants? This is a time when you are acting in a self-controlled way, rather than in a Spirit-controlled way.

Describe one of these times in your life: What happened, how did you feel, what was the result?


Being Spirit-controlled requires allowing the Holy Spirit to control your life. It is a decision, a free choice for you to make.
 This self-controlled behavior is caused by a lack of surrender to Jesus. When we act in a self-controlled way, we are trusting in our own efforts to live the Christian life. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can truly experience God’s best for us and can accomplish His work.

  The Bible describes two types of Christians–those who are Spirit-controlled and those who are self-controlled. 
 The illustrations below represent these two types of individuals. The throne in each illustration shows who is in control.
When Jesus is on the throne, the Holy Spirit is in control.

The illustration on the above depicts a Christian who has given his/her life to Christ, but has chosen to continue rule his/her own life:  SELF-CONTROLLED. All activities, interests, desires, and choices are dictated by self, leading to a life of frustration and defeat,   represented by the arrows going every which way.[/su_highlight]

Are your activities, interests, desires, and choices directed by Jesus?

Galatians 5:19-21 describes the Christian who has self at the center of his life: “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on” (The Message).

The “abiding life” is a life controlled by the Holy Spirit.

When are the times in your life when you are most likely to act in a self-controlled way?


The illustration on the right depicts a Christian who has put Jesus on the throne of his or her life and is allowing the Holy Spirit to control their choices and behaviors:  SPIRIT-CONTROLLED. All activities, interests, desires, and choices are directed by Jesus resulting in harmony with God’s plan,  represented by the uniformity of the arrows. This is the “abiding life”, a life controlled by the Holy Spirit, which results from being obedient to the Word of God.

Galatians 5:22-23 describes a person who is Spirit-controlled: “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely”  (The Message).

Giving your life to the Holy Spirit is a decision …a free choice for you to make.

When do you most often act in a Spirit-controlled way?


Todd’s Story

“For three years I had been consumed with the desire to join the elite drinking club for ‘cool’ guys in my high school … the ‘Mavericks’. Before coming to Christ, I would have ‘sold my soul’ to have been asked to join. Even though I was now a Christian, I thought it would still be okay to join …I could still follow Christ and belong to this exclusive club. “I began to seriously consider going all out for Christ and what it might mean to ut aside all the things in my life that that were self-destructive. As I was trying to make this decision, I got asked to join the Mavericks! I immediately knew that the stakes were high, and that Satan was trying to derail my decision for Christ. I didn’t give him the pleasure: I turned my life completely over to God … and God gave me true freedom … and an awesome life!”

Have you ever experienced this type of “decision” time in your life? What was the result? How did you get through it? What could have helped you or hindered you into a different decision?


As Romans 12:1 says, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (The Message).

Additional Study:
Watch video Be Filled With the Holy Spirit” and read “How You Can Be Filled with the Holy Spirit by Bill Bright.
 Giving your life to the Holy Spirit is a decision … a free choice for you to make. It is done by simply putting your life into the hands of a trustworthy God. Just as you came to Christ by faith for the forgiveness of your sins, you must by faith ask the Holy Spirit to control your life.  If you desire for the Holy Spirit to be in control of you life, simply pray the following:

“Heavenly Father, I want You to change my life from being self-controlled into one that is Spirit-controlled. I confess my selfish thoughts and actions, and give You, Holy Spirit, control of my life right now.”

What does this commitment mean to you?



Take some time right now to sit in God’s presence. Ask Him to fill the empty places in your life with Himself. Ask Him to allow you to experience His love and for the Holy Spirit to control you completely.