“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-control” (II Timothy 1:7).
The Spirit that lives in you, the Spirit that God has given to you is not a spirit of weakness or shame. It is quite the opposite. It is a Spirit of power, the Holy Spirit that carries God’s power in you. And I love how that power is expressed through our practice of love and self-control. The same Spirit of power in you is the Spirit of love and self-control.
The command to love your neighbor as yourself is an old covenant instruction. It is similar to the golden rule; treat others as you would like to be treated. But as a command to love, it falls way short of loving others under the new covenant.
Jesus gave us a new commandment for a new covenant. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you” (John 15:12). We are to love others just like Jesus loves us. This is way higher than loving like we love ourselves. This is loving as Jesus loves. And it is really an impossible standard if you think about it. Except …
This is where the power of God comes in. We have the power, by the Spirit inside, to do the impossible! God’s power, flowing through us, is the ONLY way we can love as Jesus loves. This is the beauty of our new covenant power. We don’t have to buck up and try harder to love. We can only love in this beautiful way by tapping into the power of the Spirit that God has promised to all who believe. We have what it takes to love as Jesus loves.
It works the same way with self-control. We can only successfully engage and defeat temptations, addictive behaviors, and the lies of the evil one through the Spirit’s power. I think all of us have had the experience where our self-effort, our willpower, our disciplined lives all break down at some point if that is what we are relying on to stay on the righteous path. We live righteous lives as we rely on God’s power within to set us free from sin’s power and patterns.
What does this look like in practice? I know this can sound almost alien and Spock-like with no emotion, but here goes. When temptation comes my way, I try to answer with, “This is not who I am. This is not my identity in Christ. This is not what a new creation, created in righteousness and holiness looks like. This might have been my old pattern. But this is no longer me, the one who carries the Spirit of power, love, and self-control inside.”
Do I ever lose the battle with the flesh? Yes, I still sin. I still give in to patterns of the flesh. But by the power of God, I can often walk away.
These three aspects of the Spirit of God in us work beautifully together. God had given us the POWER to LOVE others with a supernatural love and to practice a life of SELF-CONTROL. It all rests in the Holy Spirit of power living in us.