Self-control is a fierce fruit - yet one that is absolutely essential for the man who desires to be godly. The one who lacks it is definitely in danger. Without it our defenses our down and the likelihood of having our base desires control our lives is high indeed.
The wall of a city was essential to it defenses. The wall was a barrier that allowed a city to withstand a far greater opponent with only a few warriors. But when the wall was breached, the cities defenses would themselves be breached. Once this happened, it was not difficult to conquer the city itself. The first picture painted for us by the Lord is that of a city that is broken into. The picture is of a city whose walls have been breached - and a break through of the enemy is happening. This is a dangerous moment because once the enemy is aware of such a breach, all of its might will be concentrated on that point to exploit it in the greatest measure. What begins as a small breach, if not dealt with quickly and decisively, will become a huge gaping hole through which the enemy will pour in a matter of days and hours.
This picture is compared to a man who has no control of his spirit. A man's spirit here is his inner fortitude. This is limited in the fallen condition of man, yet is greatly strengthened in salvation and in a continuing relationship with the Holy Spirit. A man who has no control over his spirit is unable to deal with his flesh. His selfish ego is ungoverned and unfortunately tells him what he shall do. The list of sins in Galatians 5:17-21 are a good list of what will come forth from this man. To say that this is not a pretty sight is an understatement. More and more the devil, the world, and his own godless ego will dominate his life. What is sad is that this situation grows over time. It may start as just a small fault early in life - yet when not dealt with decisively and completely it will develop into quite the breach in his defenses. A little temper while young can become a horrendous temper when older. A little deceit and lying can grow into a way of deceit as an adult. Oh, how we need to heed the Scriptures that sin must be dealt with viciously - with every effort and amount of strength needing to be focused on killing the flesh and its desires. As Paul said, "If we by the Spirit put to death the desires of the flesh, we will live."
The word used here as "control" is the Hebrew "matsar" which means restraint and control. There are those today who say that we should not seek control or restraint - but allow the Lord to give us victory. Yet the Word says again and again it is both that need to happen. We need to fight passionately against the flesh - while looking to the Lord as the source and strength for the victory. Looking alone will not do - just as striving alone will not either.
The second picture is much more grave - for it is the picture of our lives when a lack of self-control is fully matured in our hearts. The city without walls is a sitting duck, just waiting for the first enemy to come and wreak havoc upon it. Here is the man who has cultivated quite the harvest of self-indulgence. His city is without walls at all. Thus when the enemy attacks - there are no defenses. What a foolish strategy this is - yet that is what too many rely upon in life. They think that there is no battle - no fight - no enemy. All will be well - and all willl go perfectly. This is nothing more than an exercise in self-deception, and it is one that will cost the person who holds is everything.
We need to take Paul's attitude when it comes to how we fight against sin in our lives. "Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:26-27) We do need to take this attitude toward our bodies and our spirit. If there is no control of our spirit - where whatever influence that comes upon us rules - we are doomed. Instead, we need to work daily to build high walls of the Word and godly living that will help us to repel the enemy when he comes. When we do this, we will find the blessing of a spirit that is cooperative with the Holy Spirit and a life that embraces the godliness laid out for us in the Scriptures.