As with last week, I chose not to release a devotional on Sunday. So, there is no day 23. I am staying with the calendar date, so that is why I went from 22 to 24. Sorry if this produces any confusion.
Today, we will begin looking at the fruit of temperance. For some people, this is a bitter fruit, and not one they enjoy or desire at all. For those who have learned to see its value, it is one of the Spirit’s choice fruits. We will save the fruit of faith for last.
The term temperance can be defined as self-control; moderation.
In a society such as we live in, the idea of self-control goes completely against the flow. I am not really sure it has ever been any other way.
The lusts and passions of the flesh always tend to excess.
Even temperance, when taken to an extreme can lead to excess; as in the example of asceticism.
Temperance is desire under restraint. It is passion held in check.
To put it plainly, temperance is the ability to leave that last donut in the box on the lunch room counter, even if no one is looking.
Sadly, we see the evidence of a lack of temperance all around is in our culture. Popular psychology says to give in to your desire. Don’t hold back. Holding back is unhealthy.
Then along comes the Holy Spirit, and with Him comes the fruit of temperance.
God desires us to be a self-controlled people. Consider some of the verses we have on the subject.
Titus 1:7-8 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
Titus 2:1-2 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
Philippians 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
So why does it matter? Well…let’s consider the idea of success.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 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.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
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.
Paul is using the example of an athlete in training. He said, if you want to be the best, you have to be in control of your body, and your appetites. You have to make yourself train when you don’t want to. You have to push away from the table, even though you want another slice of pie. It is not necessarily because the pie itself is wrong, or sinful. It is simply because it will impede your progress.
This is the mentality that has been lost on society as a whole. It is a lack of temperance which has caused so many to get buried in credit card debt. Unrestrained desire, coupled with unlimited spending potential leads to financial obesity; whether in the personal life, or government.
Now, Paul wasn’t just talking about physical success, but, in the greater context, he was talking about spiritual success. The Christian life is one of temperance. It is allowing the Holy Spirit of God to help us restrain our flesh and live in control of our bodies.
As painful as it may be to read, the truth is that a Christian who is not in control of their physical desires is likely not in submission to the Holy Spirit.
You may have many questions at this point, and I hope to address them as we talk more about temperance in the days ahead. For today, I want to challenge you to consider just your physical appetites. Are they under control…really? Are you exercising temperance? Are you in control of your appetites, or are you being controlled by them? More on this tomorrow.