Galatians 5:22-23 KJV
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Last, we come to temperance – something that our society in the United States are not very good at. Oh, how we need this fruit of the spirit more in all areas of life these days. This particular fruit is probably the most ignored of all of them in so many ways. It’s time we all open our eyes to what temperance really means here and all start to practice it, including the one writing is post.
This is a pretty simple word to understand. It literally means mastery or dominion from within. We call it self-control. It is taking control of all the areas of our life with the help of God through the Holy Spirit. Without their help, we would be lost in taking the kind of control God wants us to have.
Some of the areas in life where we must exhibit self-control are more obvious than others, they include the everything we take into our bodies for one. The fact that our nation becomes more obese all the time shows that we don’t put temperance into practice like we should. I am guilty of this often – eating too much or too fast and becoming useless for a while because I feel like a stuffed turkey. I do not drink, so alcohol is not a problem, but we will know what kind of a problem it is through our nation. Drug abuse is an epidemic in more ways than one and is destroying a lot of people. It’s time every Christina, including myself, got mastery of what they put into their bodies.
Self-control also exhibits itself in some kind of an exercise program that enables us to live to our full capacity. Isn’t that hat God would want for us? He gave us a beautiful muscular-skeletal system to live in and we are supposed to take care of our bodies. Another area where I am not as good as I could be. Exercise, good sleep and diet all feed into temperance in this area.
The next area we think about is having temperance in our anger. Control your temper they say and that is very good advice. But it goes much farther than anger. We must have temperance when it comes to the words we say, how we say them, the attitude behind them and the body language we use. All of these things need to be under the self-control of temperance.
I remember when I was raising my three daughters. They would always tell me wife I was yelling at them and I didn’t even raise my voice. The problem was my tone. I had a very stern tone, and my facial features were naturally intense. It looked like I was yelling, and the roughness of my voice made it seem like I was yelling even though I never raised my voice. I did not have any self-control over those areas of my life. Believe me, I have learned it now, but it took a long time. Temperance in our verbal and bodily communication is a must if we want to be properly understood.
Then there is temperance in our thought life. How well do you control the thoughts you allow into your mind? Thoughts that feed the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life? These things are always creeping up on me! I want more in the way of possessions, or I am envious of someone’s else’s gift, or I feel that little burst of pride rising up inside me again. All of these things that can strangle our Godly thought life must be kept in control under the fruit of temperance.
Temperance is in all areas of our lives yet we seem to focus on those areas that are the most noticeable and dangerous. But I say anything that is not handled with temperance can become dangerous if it is not a Godly trait. In fact, even Godly traits, if not handled with temperance, can have a negative effect. Mercy without truth, grace without judgment and trust without assurance can all lead to a very soft Christian. We must put temperance on a higher plateau in our lives – it is what will speak to the world about our integrity more than any of the other fruit. That is a big part of why the world is turning away from the church. Hypocrisy is a bi-product of no temperance, no self-control. Let us all walk in this fruit more carefully.
Romans 13:14 (KJV)
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
Here is a perfect picture of temperance. Do not make provision to fulfill the lust of the flesh. If we put on Christ – walk as closely to Him every moment of every day that we can – then we can better control what our flesh will and will not do. This self-control does not mean that we deny the flesh completely. If we did that, we would die! What Paul is talking about is doing more than what is needed to survive. Putting the flesh first and Christ second. We must have this in proper order to walk in the fruit of temperance.
We all know what happens if we start making provision for the flesh. Once we give in to some little lustful thing, whether it’s food or gossip or soft porn, our mind will travel back to that place more often. Our flesh will crave to see or do that again. Our mind will try to listen to our flesh and succumb when we allow it to. Then we go into a spiral until the fruit of temperance is called upon to bring in self-control once again. It’s a vicious circle that never ends until we decide to set out hearts and minds on Jesus continually. Maybe some of you are there! I have a long way to go.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (KJV)
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 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.
When we work hard at mastering our own bodies and minds, we become temperate in all things. This brings us to a place where we can be among our friends or our enemies and keep our heads above water all the time. After all, we are heading toward a crown that will never fade away. We are running a race that has a certain ending and are not just beating the air trying to win something we know not what!
Paul says he keeps himself in subjection, self-control, temperate all the time. Why? Because even Pal knows that if he does not, he could lose that salvation even though he has preached to others. Temperance keeps us running the true race and running it the right way.
Titus 2:11-12 (KJV)
11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
It is God’s grace that slowly teaches us how to deny ungodliness ands worldly lusts. This world will not teach us that. This world says to be someone great, strive for mastery in all sorts of arenas as we grow up. This world will turn us away from God in a heartbeat if we do not gain the temperance to deny it.
Live soberly, righteously and godly instead. Now there is a beautiful picture of temperance. Soberly means with moderation or self-restraint. Righteously means characterized by uprightness and morality. Godly means believing in God and the importance of living a moral life.
1 Corinthians 14:32 (KJV)
32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
Self-control even extends to our spiritual lives. We have an obligation to make sure that we are speaking what God desires us to speak, in the timely fashion He asks us to speak it. A prophet is simply a spokesperson for God. In a sense, we all can speak words of prophecy and often we are asked to. There are very few of us who hold the biblical office of a prophet, but our words can still have a profound effect on someone’s life.
Do you ever have that stirring in your heart that you really should say something to someone that you feel God is asking you to say? I know I do. I am not always obedient to that voice, though. That spirit of prophecy is subject to me. One of the many things I must learn is to discern if it is God that is asking me to speak a thing, or if it is my own desire to teach that person that is prodding me to speak. This is a key point. If it is me, I am usually better to hold my tongue. If it is God, I should never hold my tongue. But that word God has given me is subject to my willingness to share it.
Self-control goes both ways, you see. There is the side that holds back in an area of life, like appetite or desire, in order to keep your life in the right harmony with God and man. Then there is the side that must expand and grow, like our spiritual walk with God and our ability to do as He asks. Both of these things fall under the fruit of temperance. Both are issues of controlling our own lives and flesh in the fashion God desires of us. Both are essential.
2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Here is temperance at it’s best. First, we get rid of those things that would become idols in our lives because they distract us from being obedient to God. I’m not sure how your thought processes work, but I know mine are often interrupted by thoughts that draw me away from my closeness with God. They turn my attention to things that would try and dominate my life again, things from the past that the enemy wants me to step back into. With all my heart, my desire is to serve God. But these thoughts have a way of creeping in and planting a wedge in my heart. This wedge grows deeper and deeper until I can cast down that imagination. I must cast it down or I will find myself drifting farther and farther away from the only one who can help me do that. If I do not cast it down, I may find myself too far away to consider calling for His help. I may find that I justify the thoughts and entrapment they are bringing me into. My self-control will wax fainter and fainter if I do not get these things taken care of. Believe me when I say this happens more than I would like to admit.
But God gives us the fruit of temperance so we can escape the evil thoughts of our minds. We can run away from the imaginations that the enemy instills in us and capture those thoughts before we get too far away. He then shows us how to turn back to Him through the word and bring our thoughts once again under the obedience of Christ. We repent, turning from those evil imaginations and instilling the word of God back into the heart and mind that had left them behind. Those thoughts we had been having are taken into captivity – shut up in prison – not to emerge victorious in our lives. Our obedience to Christ one again takes center stage and we thrive in His presence, wondering how we ever got going down that other road.
I am so thankful for the fruit of temperance in my life. I need to learn self-control in so many areas. As I allow this fruit to grow by practicing it, I can become stronger and stronger in my obedience to the Lord. That obedience is, after all, subject to my self-control. It is subject to the whims and wishes of my life and my flesh. If I can become fully sold-out to Jesus, fully perfected in His will, then I don’t have to worry about this. But how many of us reach that plateau? I have a long way to go, and I plan on running the race with all endurance to try and reach that mark of the high calling of the Lord Jesus Christ. Is your self-control, that fruit of temperance within you, striving for the same?