Have you noticed that our current generation has no concept of control. The recent rise in credit card induced bankruptcies, divorce attorneys, and mini-riots are skyrocketing. Road rage, impulse spending, and all sorts of addictions are seen as ‘normal’ in our society… even in the church! We are totally out-of-control. We have totally lost the value of temperance: the moderation of passions and appetites (Galatians 5:22-23).
Balance of Power
Most of the time, we fail to realize the struggle that is fought for our desires. Commercials, billboards, temptations, clearance items. It’s fast, easy, delicious, on-sale. Every store, every restaurant, every website… vying for your money, your time, your loyalty. Too often, we fall prey to these external influences and the only thing standing in our way of doing worse is circumstances. We’d spend more if we had it. We’d eat more if we could stuff it in. We’d buy it if we could afford it. I would do it if I only had the time. We live our lives only limited by our income, our physical appearance, our current ‘situation’ and by a ticking clock. There are a few who have decided to take matters into their own hands – creating for themselves a new ‘situation.’ Divorce. Debt. Drugs. You name it – nothing will hold them back. Nothing will stand in their way.
But honestly, this isn’t an external battle – it’s an internal struggle between flesh and spirit. Each of us face things throughout the day that are absolutely good – and we should choose to indulge (love & laughter are two favorites). There are also things which are absolutely bad – and we should choose to abstain (sinful thoughts & practices). But much of life is ‘necessary’ – and we should choose moderation (temperance; self-control). Temperance allows the Holy Spirit to say ‘No’ when my tendency is to over-indulge and says ‘Yes’ when I don’t feel like doing what I should! Will the natural, earthly desires (‘lusts’) win out? Or will the new, spiritual man reign supreme? Max Lucado said it best:
I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I refuse to what will rot rule even today! I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be fattened only by love. I will be impassioned only by faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control!
The Power of Self-Discipline
The Scriptures speak specifically to several areas where temperance needs applied:
- Self-control of what I do & how I behave. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul spoke of controlling his body like an athlete must do in the training process: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection : lest that by any means , when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. He was fearful of being disqualified due to out-of-control, fleshly desires. We would do well to take heed to this passage of personal testimony and wisdom.
- Self-control over what I say. The Bible speaks over 150 times about the tongue. Ephesians 4:25, 29 challenges the use of our words: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
- Self-control over the way I feel. This flies in the face of our culture – we are told that this is something you just can’t control – no way! The wisdom of Solomon: He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down , and without walls. Proverbs 25:28
- Self-control over what I think. Your mind is where it all begins. Get control of a person’s thoughts, and you’ll control him. One of the most challenging things to do, yet one of the most necessary to spiritual maturity, is this: Casting down imaginations… and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 2 Corinthians 10:5
Getting Plugged In
These are simple steps to help each one of us tap into the power of the Holy Spirit, for the power of temperance is only in Him. First, we’ve got to identify the problem area(s). Do you have a weak spot – an Achilles heel? James 1:14-16 encourage us to be honest about ourselves when dealing with the Tempter. Next, confess the sin to God. If you’ve fallen off the wagon, then God already knows – He just wants you to come clean about it. Stop lying to yourself, quit lying to God. Agree with Him that He was right all along. This will lead to complete forgiveness and cleansing from shame and/or guilt (1 John 1:9). Next, make yourself accountable. It amazes my how so many ‘Christians’ have a problem with this. Why don’t we see how vulnerable we are when we try to go it alone? Two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Last, we must die to our desires. We must crucify our selfish flesh each and every day – because the day we don’t will be the day that Satan uses it against us (Romans 8:13).
FLESH VS SPIRIT
An enemy I had, whose face I stoutly strove to know,
For hard he dogged my steps unseen, wherever I did go.
My plans he balked, my aims he foiled, He blocked my onward way.
When for some lofty goal I toiled, he grimly said to me, Nay.
One night I seized him and held him fast, From him the veil did draw,
I looked upon his face at last and lo … myself I saw.
Temperance isn’t really self-control at all… it is Spirit-control. Pilots must know how to fly both VFR (visual flight rules) & IFR (instrument flight rules). It’s not too hard to pick up VFR – you just direct the plan in relation to the horizon and the sun. But in thick storm-clouds or the darkness of night – you can’t operate by what comes naturally, you have to trust the instruments. We need to learn that operating by sight is dangerous to the Christian life… trust the Bible’s instruction, surrender the Spirit – He’ll bring you in save and sound every time!