SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT FOR TODAY (November 30, 2013)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” Galatians 5:22-26.
“SINCE WE LIVE BY THE SPIRIT, LET US KEEP IN STEP WITH THE SPIRIT” Galatians 5:25 (NIV).
In this edition, we shall focus on the last of the parts of the Fruit of the Spirit as mentioned by Paul. Even though it is the last on Paul’s list, it is not the least. It is a very important aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit because without it, it will be very difficult to demonstrate many of the others. It is also important because without it we cannot live as true Christians. Without SELF-CONTROL or TEMPERANCE, a Christian is just like a non-Christian. Without temperance, we shall fall into acts of the sinful nature such as adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, drunkenness, and reveling. It is therefore important that we take a closer look at it and allow the Lord to help us develop this very important Christian virtue we are studying today.
The Greek word egkrateia ἐγκράτεια translated self-control is also translated temperance. According to an article by Jacobs the word “temperance” literally means “self-control” (Strong’s Hebrew/Greek Lexicon). In other word studies and commentaries, we find similar definitions. J. H. Thayer says the word “temperance” means, “the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites” (New Greek-English Lexicon, p. 166-167). Mike Willis, in his commentary on Galatians 5:23, defines temperance as: “the dominion which one has over oneself or something…. the dominion that one has over his thoughts, words, and actions.” (Truth Commentaries, The Book of Galatians, p. 271). Other writers have expressed similar thoughts as well. Therefore, we understand from the above that temperance has to do with the self-control of the mind, or will, and that all words and actions are also kept under control. Specifically, the control of the mind, mouth, and body must be held by God through His word. Therefore, while “temperance” can have reference to one not drinking alcohol (1 Peter 4:3-4), we see that the definition of temperance encompasses much more than not drinking. THE TERM “TEMPERANCE” (SELF-CONTROL) HAS AN EFFECT ON ALL ASPECTS OF OUR LIVES AS WE LEARN TO CONTROL OUR THOUGHTS, WORDS, AND ACTIONS.
The Bible contains evidence of the need for the Christian to learn to demonstrate the virtue of temperance. It must be demonstrated in the way we do everything as believers. In the way we dress as Christians, self-control should be exercised by ensuring that we dress decently and in all modesty (1 Timothy 2:9). When it comes to the way we talk, we are to ensure that we use words which are decent and bring glory to God. We are to also ensure that we control everything we say. According to Apostle James, we should exercise self-control over our tongues in order that we may not destroy ourselves (James 3:3-6). In times of persecutions and sufferings, the Christian is expected to exercise self-control by persevering to the end (1 Corinthians 15:58). In all aspects of our lives we need to exercise self-control in order to avoid sins and also to get the crown which is set before us. In Hebrews we are told that Jesus endured all the pain because of the glory which was set before him. That is an example of self-control. Without self-control, Jesus would have given up. The Apostle Paul also gives a very good example of how to exercise self-control in his Letter to the Corinthians. Paul wrote to encourage them in their service to the Lord.
“DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT IN A RACE ALL THE RUNNERS RUN BUT ONLY ONE GETS THE PRIZE? RUN IN SUCH A WAY AS TO GET THE PRIZE. EVERYONE WHO COMPETES IN THE GAMES GOES INTO STRICT TRAINING. THEY DO IT TO GET A GET A PRIZE THAT WILL NOT LAST; BUT WE DO IT TO GET A CROWN THAT WILL LAST FOREVER. THEREFORE, I DO RUN LIKE A MAN RUNNING AIMLESSLY; I DO NOT FIGHT LIKE A MAN BEATING THE AIR. NO, I BEAT MY BODY AND MAKE IT MY SLAVE SO THAT AFTER I HAVE PREACHED TO OTHERS, I MYSELF WILL NOT BE DISQUALIFIED FOR THE PRIZE” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Here, Paul compares the life of the Christian to one competing in a sport (boxing v. 26, running v. 24); and the fact that in such sports, it requires patience, dedication, and control (being “temperate”). If we understand this when considering competing in athletics, how much more ought we to be self-controlled when it comes to obtaining the “incorruptible crown”? Paul made it clear that even he was not exempt from the admonition to be self-controlled. He said that he had to “keep under” (buffet, NAS; discipline, NKJ) his body lest he should be a castaway (disqualified). It was possible for Paul to lose in this race, just as it is possible for any other Christian. Therefore, he stresses the importance of self-control, to hold fast, and see Heaven at the end of this life. FRIENDS, WITHOUT SELF-CONTROL (TEMPERANCE) WE WILL NOT SEE HEAVEN!
A proper understanding of what Paul said can help us know that every believer needs to exercise self-control in order not be a cast away before God. Paul understood that no matter his position as an apostle of Christ, he needed to exercise self-control in order not to fall out of the race. It should be understood that Christianity is a race as well. Those who have lived with athletes or have heard the stories of great athletes or have participated in athletic competitions understand that before anyone can be a successful athlete or sports personality in general, one has to train hard continuously and also avoid several activities and foods. Many athletes are advised to keep away from sexual passions, certain foods, drinks and also avoid smoking and certain drugs before important competitions. In national and international competitions some athletes can be disqualified if they fail to exercise self-control by taking certain drugs. All this goes to show that even in the worldly race which offers prices which are temporal, contestants are expected to exercise self control. How much more those of us in the spiritual race?
In Hebrews 12:1, Christians are advised in our spiritual race as follows:
“THEREFORE SINCE WE ARE SURROUNDED BY SUCH A GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES, LET US THROW OFF EVERYTHING THAT HINDERS AND THE SIN THAT EASILY ENTANGLES, AND LET US RUN WITH PERSEVERANCE THE RACE MARKED OUT FOR US.”
This is an indication that they may be certain things we so desire and would always like to carry along with us in our walk on this earth. These may be many good things in our own eyes. Sometimes we may feel that our lives are never complete without those things. They are things that we cherish so much. Some may also be sins which we carry with us. But when it comes to our walk with Christ, we cannot continue to hold on to them because they will prevent us from having a successful walk with the Lord. Which athlete, desiring to win a 100 meter race will carry a 50 kilogram bag of rice because he cherishes the rice? Every serious athlete who wants to win any race will never do that but will rather put the rice somewhere and focus on the race.
In the same manner, Christians are to do away with all the sins we like to continue in but cannot help us in our walk with Christ. THIS IS ULTIMATE SELF-CONTROL. Everybody knows that certain things can look very attractive to us yet they are destructive when it comes to our walk with Christ. It may be fun to commit all sorts of sins, but in the end they will disqualify us before God. We must try to subdue our passions in order to win the Christian race as individual Christians and Christian leaders but this has not always been the case. Also, we cannot allow exercise self-control without the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is important to note that if we fail to control ourselves as Christians, we open ourselves to all sorts of sins. Therefore let us focus on Christ and do away with all the things we love to do which are not in line with God’s word. By exercising self control in our ministries and personal lives we shall become good servants of the Lord and we may be crowned by God at the end of the race.
In the next edition we shall look at some of the effects of lack of self-control and how we can remain temperate as Christians. May the Lord help us to develop the virtue of self-control (temperance) in our daily walk with him!
THE WORD OF THE LORD!
Pastor Nana Kobina Baisie
Teacher/Pastor at Nadrim Mission International School, Busan, Korea.