Self-control is one of the hardest things some people have to struggle against. I could be argued that a lack of temperance is near the top of the list of the things that keep people from reaching their potential.
The Bible has a lot to say about self control: its importance and its purpose. Today, we are going to look at the purpose of temperance.
As Christians, we are to be a people under control of ourselves physically. We should add to that the truth that we are also to be a people under the control of the Holy Spirit. However, I believe it is important to note that a mark of Spirit-fulness is a self-controlled individual. Those who say that the mark of the Holy Spirit is chaos are not doing justice to the Sciptures. Spirit fulness is not being completely robbed of your ability to control your body. It is rather being empowered to control yourself and conduct yourself in an appropriate fashion.
Consider the two following passages:
1 Corinthians 14:32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
In both of these passages, the subject of Spirit-fulness is being discussed. Notice that in both passages, Spirit-fulness is contrasted against the idea of a lack of control and a prevalence of disorder.
In Corinth, there were those being disorderly in the church, who claimed they had no control over their actions because they were being filled by the Spirit. “Not so” says Paul. The spirit of the prophet remains subject to (under the control of) the prophet. You cannot blame your disorder on the Holy Spirit.
In his letter the Ephesians, Paul contrasts drunkenness with Spirit fullness. One (drunkeness) leads to excess. The other (Spirit-fullness) leads to orderly worship and conduct.
It is not only the manner of influence, but the outward manifestation of that influence which is different.
God does not tell us to relinquish practical control of our bodies to Him. By that I mean that we are still to consciously control our bodies, even while we present them as living sacrifices to God.
The Apostle Paul was a man under self-control, who was also Spirit-filled.
1 Corinthians 9:27 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.
He was being guided by the Holy Spirit, but was in full control of his physical body.
Submission to God is not a giving up of mechanical control.
Because of this fact, the Apostle Paul had some specific rules regarding temperance in his own life. Read the following verses carefully:
1 Corinthians 6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
1 Corinthians 10:23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
Paul did not live his life asking, “Well…what’s wrong with it?”
He realized the purpose for which he was to be living, and the Person (Christ) to whom he was to be in submission.
Anything which had the potential of exercising power of his life was set aside, or placed under strict control.
Not every activity is good for every individual.
Habits, addictions, pleasures: they all have the power to potentially control us.
The Christian who desires to exercise temperance will recognize those areas of danger, and act purposely to bring them under control.
For some, that may mean complete abstinence. For some that may mean not allowing themselves to go beyond a certain point, even if they desire it.
Practically speaking, for example, if you are prone to overeating, you may need to limit yourself to the portion size, even if you still feel hungry. In some cases, you may need to avoid pie altogether if you cannot stop with one slice.
The point is, that whether it is sugar, recreation, television, napping…whatever; we are to be in control of our actions, and not have our actions and desire be in control of us.
Now…this is next to impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit. That is why He bears this fruit in our lives. He empowers us to do what needs to be done. He helps us. He guides us. He gives us the strength that we do not have naturally.
I will say it again. A Spirit-filled Christian is a Christian under control.
How would you apply this to your own life today?