When we are born again, our spirits become alive. Like our bodies, our spirits grow and mature, and must be nourished in order to develop properly. We know our spirits are healthy if they are producing fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). One of the fruits of the spirit is referred to as temperance, which is the exercising of self-control (1468).
Solomon was talking about self-control in Proverbs 25:28 when he said, “He that hath no rule over his spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls.” In other words, a lack of spiritual maturity leaves a person open to attack. This is an interesting point because in Solomon’s time, people were not born again, the entire population of Israel was dead spiritually. That is why it was inevitable that the Israelites would end up in exile. They were spiritually defenseless.
Being born again doesn’t guarantee spiritual success. After I became a Christian, I read my Bible, attended church, and talked to God on a regular basis, but I still failed miserably with regards to spiritual growth. What I was lacking was spiritual exercise. The apostle Paul used the phrase “walk in the spirit” (Galatians 5:16) to describe spiritual exercise. What Paul meant was for us to allow the Holy Spirit to control our behavior. Really, self-control is not about us being in control, but the Holy Spirit overruling our sinful desires. We have to give him permission to do that.
It is natural to do what we want to. God made man with a free will, therefore, he respects our right to choose for ourselves what we do with our time on earth. When we choose to follow Christ, we are in essence saying that God knows better than we do what choices to make, and yet, most of the time we still do what we want to. It wasn’t until I became “like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28) that I decided to exercise self-control and actually do what God told me to.