Sunday, September 4, 2011

Juicy Fruit, Self-Control - Galatians 5:22

I have some questions for you but I don't want you to answer, don't raise your hands.  Just think about them.  You will understand why.  I want you to think about certain aspects of your life.  Do you get enough sleep every night?  Do you always eat the food you are supposed to?  Do you get enough exercise?  Do you have bad habits that you just can't stop?  Do you spend money you shouldn't?  How about your spiritual life?  Do you have a quiet time every day?  Do you pray and read your Bible like you should?  Do you always tithe?  Do you always come to church?

Ouch!  I'm not preaching, now I'm meddling.  Right?  There aren't many of us that can answer all of those questions positively.  In fact, we could all use some work in probably all of those areas.  But I would dare say that most of us are right where we want to be in most of those areas.  Let me use my fat self for an example.  I would like to be about 30 pounds slimmer.  But do you know how bad I want to be 30 pounds slimmer?  This bad.

See, I understand what it takes to lose weight.  I know that I need fewer calories going in and more calories going out.  I know I need to exercise more.  I know I should eat salads without all the cheese and ranch dressing.  I know I should never again see the inside of Dos Chiles.  But just knowing how to fix the problem doesn't fix the problem.  It takes self-control and that's where I am lacking.  You can probably relate in some area of your life and so today we are all going to learn what it means when Paul said that the fruit of the Spirit is self-control.

Read Galatians 5:22

In his devotional book, Walk with God, author Chris Tiegreen says that self-control is one of the most confusing of all of the fruit of the Spirit.  How can it involve the self and the Spirit at the same time?  If it's self-control how can it be Spirit-control?  It can't.  But contrary to popular teaching, the Bible never tells us to be controlled by the Spirit, at least not in the sense that we lose our personality and will.

We are to be born of the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, led by the Spirit, inspired by the Spirit and sealed by the Spirit but we are not controlled by the Spirit.  The Spirit enables us to have self-control. 

As usual, I want to try to define the word and then we will look at examples and then see how to put it into practice in our lives.  The King James Version says “temperance” which is a good rendering but not a word we usually use.  It describes the rigid discipline to which athletes subject themselves in their quest to winning the race and gaining the prize.

And that is the very example Paul uses in
1 Cor. 9:24-27, “
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

I’m not big on watching most sports on TV but I have to admit I enjoy watching those World’s Strongest Man competitions.  Have you ever seen those on ESPN?  Those guys are huge!  Crazy strong!  They lift these huge boulders, tractor tires, even cars and carry them around like I carry a cheeseburger.  They train all year around for this one competition for the title of the World’s Strongest Man.  They have to have great self-control, just like most athletes.

Do you remember who the original World’s Strongest Man was?  Not one of those guys on TV.  This was a few years before tv came out.  Way back in the Old Testament, in the Book of Judges, you might remember, there was a man named Sampson.  He would have dominated the competition on TV because he was extremely self-controlled most all of his life.  Before he was born, his mother received instructions from an angel that Sampson was never to eat or drink anything unclean nor was he to ever get a haircut.

That would have been difficult to do but it never says that Sampson was ever really tempted to do those things.  He was literally holy.  He was different, set apart for use by God.  The problem was that while he had great self-control in most areas of his life, it was his lack of self-control that was ultimately his downfall.  I’m sure Sampson was proud of the fact that he had never broken his vows but I also know that Satan loves to use that pride to be the thing that destroys a person.

I Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  And that is just what happened to big ol’ Sampson.  He was self-controlled in some areas but he had no self-control when it came to women and Satan used that lack of control to devour him.

I Cor. 10:12 says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!”

There is something that we all need to admit if we are going to allow the fruit of the Spirit to ripen and mature in our lives and that is that Satan is smarter than us.  He is.  He’s not smarter than God.  He’s not more powerful than God but we come in a distant third in this contest.  He’s more powerful than us on our own.  He’s smarter than us on our own and he has been around longer and has more experience than us on our own.

That’s why when we lack any of these fruit we don’t need to ask God for more fruit.  We need to ask God for more of His Spirit.  We need to say, “God, I can’t do this.  I need you to do it through me.”  When it comes to self-control, Satan is going to tell you that you should be proud of how self-controlled you are.  You’ve been self-controlled all of your life.  You deserve a break.  You deserve to live a little.  All the cool kids are doing it.  Your neighbor is doing it and he’s doing just fine.  A little bit never hurt anybody.  Ease up.

But the Bible says in John 8:44 that Satan is a liar and the father of lies.  He told the same thing to Sampson.  That’s what he told Saul.  He told Solomon that just a few foreign wives wouldn’t hurt anything.  He told Eve that one little bite won’t hurt anything.  He told Ananias and Sapphira to just hang on to a little bit of the money and nobody will ever know.  And all of them were devoured.  Not just hurt or bruised but dead and gone in sin and shame.  That’s Satan’s plan for you.

And that was Satan’s plan for Jesus in Luke chapter 4.  Turn there, put a book mark there and then just listen for now.  Then later, go back and read it. 

Read Luke 4:1-3.

Satan tells Jesus, “Hey, you have been so good lately, so self-controlled.  It’s time for a little break.  Be proud of what you have done but cut yourself a little slack.  Nobody will ever know.”  He tells Jesus 3 different times to satisfy himself, gratify himself and to glorify himself.  But it says that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit.  We see in several other places that Jesus was self-controlled enough that He got by Himself and prayed.  He had studied the scriptures since He was a child and that was proven as He quoted scripture 3 times to Satan until Satan finally just left Him.

He was self-controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  And as usual, that’s our model.  Not just in the fruit of self-control but also in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness.

Whatever you struggle with today, whether it is food, drink, lust, anger, guilt or the pride of not having these things, let’s all take those things to the Lord right now in prayer, admitting to Him that we are no match for these problems, no match for Satan and that we need His Spirit desperately.

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