January 27, 2012


Romans 8:5-11

You … are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.
Romans 8:9


These days we are bombarded with advertisements about improving the self. The multibillion dollar self-improvement industry consists of a seemingly endless supply of cosmetics, fitness equipment, strategies to boost self-esteem, and weight-loss programs.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to become more healthy or improving the way you look. But as we have been noticing this month, human nature is in need of much more than mere improvement. Nothing short of total recreation is needed, and no person has the resources to accomplish that. As sinful people, we do not simply have a deficient self that needs to be improved. We have a rebellious self that needs to be controlled. For this, only a mighty power from a source beyond ourselves will do.

No branch can improve itself. The quality of its fruit depends entirely on the vine to which it is attached.

When the Holy Spirit produces self-control in us, he exerts the power of God that liberates us from the tyranny of our sinful nature. This work of regeneration goes much deeper than behavior modification or an external quick fix. A rebellious self is transformed into an obedient self. As Paul states in Colossians 3:10, we are given a “new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Who would settle for self-improvement when the self-control of the Spirit gives so much more?

Help me, Lord, to surrender totally to you. Fill me with the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

About the author — Peter Hoytema

Peter Hoytema has been a pastor for nearly 30 years and has served congregations in Ontario and New Jersey. He is currently the pastor of a congregation in Strathroy, Ontario. He is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Grace, are the parents of four adult children.

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