We are who we are because of our choices (and because God allows us to make choices). If the fruit of the Spirit is self-control that means part of God’s nature is self-control. Have you ever thought about the idea that part of God’s sovereignty means that he has the ability to control, and even limit his interaction with us. That’s right, God is self-controlled. If I were him I would have smitten everyone a long time ago. It’s good for us that God has self-control. We are who we are because God has given us the freedom to make choices. He has already chosen us in Christ, but he waits for us to choose him.
Theologically, I am a Wesleyan-Arminian. We do not have a problem with God’s sovereignty. We believe God is in control. Within the boundaries of God’s permissive will, we believe God allows evil to exist because he created human beings as free moral agents. God is sovereign, however, he does not control things in such a way that he forces people to do anything out of necessity. That’s what you call self-controlled control. It’s how God rules the universe, not with an iron fist, but with a heart of love and compassion that allows us to make decisions.
God does not decree sin as some believe. If God controlled us in such an absolute way that forced us into evil, it would make him the author of sin. This would mean that freewill is non-existent, and that all things happen according to God’s perfect will. The scripture even negates this idea in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise… He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Question: Will everyone come to repentance even though it’s God’s will? No. In this, we can only conclude that God desires a relationship with all of creation, yet many refuse.
Bad theology declares sin and evil comes into the world through God’s sovereign rule. God has a perfect will, yet he also has a permissive will in which he allows us to make mistakes. Wesleyan-Arminians would not oppose the idea that God is in control of all things. The difference is that we believe he allows it, not that he causes it.
We trust that God works all things together for good for those who love him, yet allows people to live in the sinful reality that they create for themselves. It’s a very strange thing to think that an all-loving God would create a race of living beings, desire a legitimate love-based relationship, and then force some to love him and others not.
In the context of God’s permissive will, we believe God sets limitations on evil and the extent to which it impacts creation. In other words, it’s not as bad as it could be because God is on the throne. He’s a good king. He’s not a tyrant (he’s self-controlled). God rules over evil, and in no way does he force anyone to become evil. This is very different than saying that sin entered the world because of God’s decree. If sin and evil come by the hand of God, how can anyone resist what God sets into motion? This makes God a puppet master, not a loving father.
God did not create sin in order to make himself look good. In other words, God didn’t create sin so he could rescue sinners. He rescues sinners because he loves us. God did not invent evil, but he allows it in order to give us the ability to authentically embrace or reject his love. Therefore, in the process of life God turns bad to good. He redeems our choices when we love him. Even when we make bad choices, God is wise enough to make all things work together for good to those that love him (Romans 8:28).
God leads people in the direction that he knows is best, and even if they choose not to follow, he patiently continues to point the way. This means that through sinful choices God still seeks us out. He is so intelligent, clever, and well-meaning, that even the sinful choices of people cannot prevent his ultimate purposes being fulfilled. God uses our choices, good or bad, to accomplish his will in the earth. He’s that good!