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The Fruit Of The Spirit Is Love (Part 9. Love's Aspect - Temperance)
Although this article is part of a series, it is a Complete study on its own. (9 of 9 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
Love's Aspect - Temperance
This is the last installment in the series on the Fruit of the Spirit. The next series will be based on the preceding verses which are the works of the flesh.
"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissentions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such things there is no law. And those that 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." (Galatians 5:16-25)
This passage in Galatians contains much information. So much happens as a result of a simple decision. That decision, of course, is whether or not to embrace Jesus when He knocks on your life's door and then after He has come in, to then allow God to work in our lives. Each person has heard that knock and ignored it or looked through the peek-hole at Him and not opened it. Some have had their hand on the doorknob and just have not decided to turn it yet. Now those who have opened that door and invited Jesus into their heart, the ones that have turned to Jesus and trusted Him have begun a life that they did not expect. It has been full of new and interesting abilities they never had before. Now they see themselves loving others in ways that they would never have been able to achieve before salvation. They quickly learn that the power to love in this way is not originating from themselves. This ability comes from yielding themselves to God and then these things are possible as He loves through them. As each installment has been presented, we have examined one of those new-found supernatural powers that are the facets of a God-given love. This last installment is on the facet of temperance.
This term, temperance, as it is popularly defined, is a negative term. Temperance, (to the world) means simply, to not do something, to restrain oneself. In other words, don't be like the kitty in the picture above. Don't "lose it." The world preaches, if it feels good, do it, but do it in moderation. It's obvious from the attitude that the majority of people can relate to (some even condoning) an individual who can't or won't restrain themselves from things that can be damaging. Popular psychology has devised ways to look at harmful behaviors in the most flattering light. They've invented conditions and illnesses that explain away compulsions of the flesh. Therefore, hooked to the admonition to do all in moderation is this addendum - "but if you can't restrain yourself from something self-destructive, just don't hurt anyone else." People will sit around and list what vices they don't have, so as to make it seem that the vices they do have, aren't that bad.
"So I do drugs, I don't kill people."
"So I get drunk, I don't hurt anybody."
"I am an alcoholic, a "shopaholic" and a fetishist - it's my life, it's my business."
But God means for us to look at temperance from His perspective. Certainly, temperance means self-control, or more accurately, the control of self, to stop the sinful self from doing something fleshly or sinful, but there is a positive side of the term. There can't be the simple elimination of something from a person's life (thought or action) - without adopting a new behavior or thought to replace the evil one. This is the active aspect of temperance that, without the Holy Spirit, is impossible to do.
"And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation [excess]; be filled [controlled] with the Spirit."
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things." (Philippians 4:8)
Looking at the meaning of the word temperance we see control of self at its core. This would include all of our natural impulses, drives, and appetites, which our sin nature inflames and distorts, the centerpiece of which is our sexuality. Temperance is the masterful control of every aspect of our being, our mind, our will, our bodies.
The Greek word egkrateia (eng-krat'-i-ah) means self-control but the transliteration is more accurately control of self, continence. This word comes from the word egkrates (eng-krat-ace') that means strong and masterful in every aspect of life and appetites. The root of that concept lies in two other words: one that means a fixed position that is immovable and another that means to have dominion over your life and body.
All of these elements taken in one definition would be: "The control of self that involves the ability to be strong and masterful in all aspects of life with a position in Christ that is immovable because the Spirit has dominion over your life and body."
"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion or lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God." (1 Thessolonians 4:3-5)
We are to restrain ourselves, not engaging in activities that perhaps every fiber of our fleshly selves want. Also on the positive side, we are to place our minds in a position of active opposition to those very things. That is an impossibility for sinful humanity to do. Our minds alone are just not wired for the change of thought. When you add to this that the Tempter throws "fiery darts" (thoughts, impulses and images to intensify our will to sin), you have a pretty dismal picture when it comes to successfully practicing temperance on your own. Praise God that He empowers us to do that very thing when we think on Him, cling to Him, ask of Him, and learn of Him.
Jesus spoke to His disciples regarding how to live lives powerfully in the Spirit. When Jesus put into perspective just a few popular attitudes, the disciples saw the hopelessness of controlling oneself in that manner. Jesus' response to their incredulity was, "with man this is impossible but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)
When the disciples asked in their amazement and perplexity, "Who then can be saved?" (vs. 25) they were really asking who would be endowed with such power as to change their very nature. Can a leopard really change his spots? The simple answer is no. But when we receive Jesus into our hearts, He indwells us. He lives inside us. Our bodies become the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We become a new creature in Christ and the leopard's spots really have changed! With this new nature comes new spiritual abilities, if we yield ourselves to God. But there's the catch! We can't do it without God's empowerment, even after we're saved.
"Without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5b)
"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he that is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. Flee sexual immorality. [This is temperance] Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he that commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:15-20)
"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." [This is the new nature that makes temperance possible.] (2 Corinthians 5:17)
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me [This is the key to being able to do this otherwise impossible thing]." (Philippians 4:13)
Our flesh has a strong pull and the enemy is smart. He will take every opportunity to exploit any weakness we have, but our God loves us and is merciful. He won't allow us to be tempted above what we are able to stand. He also tells us that the enemy is a coward as well as evil. When we draw close to God, God will draw close to us and the devil will flee from us.
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
[Always looking for the escape that God has provided is temperance]."
"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)
Having the facet of love called temperance does not affect only the individual. The modern understanding of a "virtue" such as temperance is that an individual adopting such a thing is only effecting themselves since the mental process changing is in the individual himself. They believe, that a person's decision to control their self will only affect that one individual. That simply is not true. The dramatic improvement in each person that loves this way is undeniable, but it is love and love never is about the self. Love is active and is a way to communicate and reach others and a way to worship the God of heaven. It is much like a suit of armor. See it there in the illustration above? It covers the whole body and protects against damaging objects that would cut, hurt and destroy. It is functional. It moves with the soldier and allows better function in battle, to swing the sword, to swing the hammer of truth. Temperance is like armor that hardens a person to sin and places a barrier to it that makes the man of God feel safe within its snug fit.
Here is the long and the short of it. No one can love God and love his neighbor and still practice sin. No one does both at the same time. If they are doing any of the works of the flesh mentioned above they are not loving God nor are they caring about the people around them. Temperance is a work of love. When one is displaying temperance, his wife is secure, his neighbors, friends, strangers feel comfortable around him and more open to the gospel. He becomes more trustworthy in their eyes. Let's face it, are you going to discuss intimate spiritual matters with the town drunk? Of course not, the next day your business would be spread all over town! Temperance brings a strength and it is one of the strongest aspects of love. The focus on the Lord necessary for temperance fosters a heart of worship and gratefulness. Plus, the focus grows the love in that man's heart and he is also better able to love his wife, family, and all others around him because the Love of Christ is pouring through him like he was a faucet turned all the way on, in a flood of active caring.
So in summation of this series, we have seen that love is the light that shines out from the very presence of God. Using this illustration, we know light through a prism contains various colors and qualities of appearance. Love demonstrates this quality. Love is displayed in the forms of joy, peace, long-suffering [forebearance], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control [or better, control of self, temperance].
How do we practice temperance and the other facets of love that make up the fruit of the Spirit?
First, make sure of your salvation. Learn that it is God that indwells you. Wrap your mind around that. Know that God will never leave you nor forsake you, and He is there for a reason - to empower you to do a work for HIm. He wants you to help save the lives of all who will listen. His Son, Jesus, came to die for everyone and everyone needs a chance to accept that salvation. In order to be used for this most important task, you yourself must make sure that you have the Spirit of God indwelling you. God will not indwell someone that does not know Him personally nor has come to Him to ask Him to be Master and Savior in his life.
Second, have you ever wondered why God leaves you here on the earth after you are His saved adopted child because you have received Him as Savior? He did not take you immediately home to be with Him because He wants you to reach out with His love to those around you. It is His love that will empower you. Make up your mind to take up a position so as to utilize God's power. Make up your mind not to rely on your own strength - but instead to tap into the power on high, limitless power.
Third, keep constantly in mind that love flows from the Christian in two directions. You must focus the power of God in these two directions and never let up. One, You must love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your soul, and your whole mind. Second, you must love your neighbor as yourself. Consistently, keep the "Great Commandment" that Jesus stated in Matthew in mind. Love God with your whole heart (that's every motive), your whole soul (that's all of your will, all of your emotions), and your whole mind (that's the constant readjustment of every thought to the obedience of Christ). Then add to this the "Great Commission" which is to "go out into the highways and hedges and compel them" to come to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:36-40)
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exults itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
As these things are done more and more in you, you will see the Spirit producing His fruit in your life. Love will be the most visible thing about you and lives will be changed, souls will be saved because of such a life. It's your life, now go live it.
You may be one of those people who have an addictive personality. We all have weaknesses, aspects of our lives that we are powerless to change. One of the fundamentals of any 12-step program is to know that each individual is powerless to stop on their own. This is true but it is also true that all things are possible through Christ should He be strengthening you. Is He? Do you know Him? Or is Christ an idea that passes through your head from time to time as you see others each into their own "religion."
I want to tell you that Jesus is no religion. He is the Creator God and is very much concerned about you as an individual. He has sent you personal invitations from time to time to reach out to Him. They have come in the form of people mentioning Him to you or displaying something in their lives that caught your notice. It has come at the death of someone or the birth of someone. Maybe He tugged at you in a poverty situation or maybe in a windfall. He has been knocking on your door, over and over. He is knocking right now as you read this. So, what will you do with Jesus? Will you remain powerless in your life or will you allow yourself to be a conduit for the greatest power in the universe?
It really is quite easy to approach God for salvation. Of course, it is not a magic formula where you speak a few words that mean nothing to you and hocus-pocus, abracadabra, you're saved... No, it takes a little faith and a willingness to commit to God and change your course by His power. Let's see how close you are to God right now. Do you believe that God came to earth and that He is God in human flesh sent to die for you? Do you believe that He was nailed to a cross and stayed dead in the grave three days? Do you believe that after that three days, He rose from the dead? Well, then you are almost ready to ask Him into your life. All that remains is to admit to Him that you are a sinner and your life as you are living it, is not working. Tell Him, call out to Him and tell Him that you need Him and will follow Him and He will save you.
Pray this: Dear Lord Jesus, I know and believe who You are. I know that it was You that Created the universe. I know that You took on human flesh to come and die for me on Calvary's cross. I believe in the Gospel - the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Lord, I am a sinner and I need You to pay for my sin or I will go to hell because of it. I call out to You now and I turn to You as the only Way of Salvation. Lord my life is not working. Come into my life and save me. Forgive my sin and I will start living my life Your way. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.
Others in this series of independent articles: