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October 2017

A “FRUITFUL” year… (Continued)

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and SELF-CONTROL. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

    This month’s devotional thought is offered by a man who could easily sit down and clean up a box of ice cream without working up a sweat. When it comes to ice cream, corn chips and chocolate peanut clusters self-control has never been a noticeable fruit on my tree!

    This is a good verse:

    (God’s grace) teaches us to say no to godless ways and sinful longings. We must control ourselves. We must do what is right. We must lead godly lives in today's world. – Titus 2:12

    That bowl of ice cream…no, that BOX of ice cream, smothered in peanuts and caramel topping is like a lion. I am standing there with a whip and a chair just hoping I can back it off!

    A box of ice cream might seem pretty benign, but there are plenty of other things that I would do naturally that might end with a lot worse consequences. A beast, a lion or tiger, by nature looks for a moment of weakness or inattention when it can pounce and devour. Life in a sinful world is like that. Unless we have control over natural desires (you might even say the law of nature –“tooth and claw”) the very things around us become our enemies. The very things that at one moment are sweet and gracious gifts become our destruction.

     The word for self-control in the Greek is “egkrateia” which means “temperance: the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites.” Temperance for us is often associated with temperance movements. Back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s culture swelled in reaction to drunkness. Little old ladies with hatchets made short work of kegs and bottles and saloons and in the end managed to pass Prohibition (which the gangsters loved). The total outlawing of a thing became a way for Satan to fearfully corrupt a whole society. It was not because of the substance. It was because there was a lack of egkrateia! To be temperate means to regulate ourselves in a way that does not allow the devil to twist a gift into self-destruction. Sex, money, drink, food, humor, even opinions, without restraint is sure to do harm.

    Someone has said Biblical self-control is really a mistranslation. We know that we cannot by ourselves control our lives. Central to the idea of “sobriety” for instance, is confirming that there is a higher power able to help us and heal us day by day! For a Christian self-control is being controlled by the spirit.

    And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, Eph 5:18

    But Paul and Solomon were wise enough to understand that rules made by man to forbid God’s good was just as wrong. It was driving into the ditch on the other side of the road!

    If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:20-23

    The Spirit indeed teaches Christians a “sweet spot” where all things have their time and place under the principle that we always desire, pray for, situate ourselves, train and feed ourselves in a way that the Holy Spirit controls. Paul writes,

    “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12

    For some of us, some things, are better left untouched – period. At certain ages and situations sex, food and drink again apply. But we trust God for fruitful lives – not monk-in-the-middle-of-a-desert-on-the-top-of-a-pillar lives.

    One of the great gifts of Luther is that he learned some of that. Granted, Luther could have used some self-control when it came to his tongue! But we can learn the sweet freedom of a Spirit-guided life. That Spirit will always point us to the cross of Christ when we have fallen. It will always lead us away from excess or danger when sin is too close. By the Word of God that voice of the Spirit grows strong, and the lions will lie down in front of the Lamb who is our God and Lord and Redeemer.

Pastor Vern Sandersfeld