BLOWING YOUR TOP!

We have been watching one of The Great Courses on Pompeii.  It is a fascinating look at the society that formed in the Bay of Naples centuries before the time of Christ.  The predominant physical structure of the area is Mount Vesuvius.   The lecturer said that today, the volcano is about 3,000 feet high.  Prior to its eruption in A. D. 79, the volcano was in excess of 7,000 feet high.  The effect of the volcano blowing its top was a sudden cataclysmic pouring of lava, volcanic ash and pumice throughout the region.  Notably, Pompeii was buried in 13 to 20 feet of ash and pumice.   That is blowing your top in a big way!

When we were in Yellowstone National Park, we observed a number of geysers including one call the White Dome Geyser.  It was clear why it was called that – it was a white dome that looked like the top of an ice cream cone. 

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White Dome Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

It would erupt at different times each day with a spray that went high into the air.  Although it is the result of volcanic activity deep underground, clearly the White Dome Geyser is on the scale of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.  It is much more controlled, still venting, but not destroying.

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Fortunately, few of us ever experience a Mt. Vesuvius explosion.  But, on a personal level, blowing your top can take a variety of forms.  Usually there is loud, sometimes abusive, language accompanied by throwing things, slamming doors, or breaking items that are in our way … in short, there is dynamic activity that potentially destroys something, or someone, in the process of relieving our pent-up anger.  Then, when all is done, there is a, perhaps, strained quiet, but after the outburst at least it is quiet.  The outburst is over – now it is time to assess the damage. 

Scripture talks about blowing your top … not in those words, but the meaning is abundantly clear.  Take these Old Testament references for example:

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

Proverbs 14:29  

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

Proverbs 15:18  

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

Proverbs 19:11  

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,”

Proverbs 22:24  

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”

Psalm 37:8  

This theme is continued in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians:

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,”

Ephesians 4:26.  This verse states that it is alright to become angry; but we must not let it fester so that you become enraged, and out of control so that you then are guilty of sin.  

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Ephesians 4:31  

Jesus Christ showed us what should cause our anger:

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.””

Matthew 21:12-13

Jesus was angry when His Father’s house was subject to desecration, when people were being cheated and when people could not pray there.

Scripture tells us that God can become angry, very angry indeed!  But His is a righteous anger when His creation has become so sinful that He cannot tolerate to even look upon it.

Consider the flood which wiped out all people, animals and plants, except for Noah, his family, and the animals secreted in the ark. (Genesis 6 and 7)  Consider Sodom and Gomorrah where God said He would spare the cities if He could find 10 righteous people in them.  When He could not identify even that few righteous ones, the cities were destroyed by fire from heaven. (Genesis 18 and 19)

David recognized that God could become angry. 

Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?”

Psalm 90:11  

David also recognized that God was merciful and slow to anger.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Psalm 86:15  

If we are honest, our anger is usually triggered by a feeling of personal hurt, by a sense of being ignored or cast aside.  Our own agenda has been violated, our desires have been dashed, our wants have been slighted.  We feel that others have taken advantage of us to our detriment and to their benefit, and we are angry.  In short, our anger is usually self-centered.  We are focused on I/Me/Mine.

As Christians, we are called to be like our Father and to follow the example of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  James, the half-brother of Jesus said we should live like this:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

James 1:19-20  

We are called to keep our anger under control.  Note the list that includes anger and the list that includes self-control in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of GodBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Galatians 519-:24

Don’t blow your top.  When the acid of anger wells up in your heart, quench it with the fruit of the Spirit.  Remember that you did not deserve to be saved from your sins – it was an unmerited gift from God.  Because of that gift, you should give others undeserved love as well.  Remember, Paul gave this instruction, from Deuteronomy 32:39, to the Christian:

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.””

Romans 12:19 

For the Christian, there really is no need to blow his/her top!

Father, forgive me when I have become angry with others, when I have vented my anger in an ungodly manner rather than seeking the other person’s good.  Help me to remember the Holy Spirit is my strength and guide and may I grow in self-control today, and throughout my life.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 24, SELF-CONTROL part two

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 24

SELF CONTROL – SELF MASTERY SO WE CAN SERVE GOD IN FREEDOM

PART TWO

 

Developing the fruit of the Spirit of self-control is not instantaneous once we become Christians.

 

G. K. Beale says it like this:

Christians are like pilgrims passing through this world.  As such they are to commit themselves to the revelation of God in the new order so as progressively to reflect and imitate his image and increasingly live according to the values of the new world, not being conformed to the fallen system, its idolatrous images, and associated values.

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 175. [Emphasis mine]

 

As with all the fruit of the Spirit, we have the seed of the fruit within us because the Holy Spirit resides within the Christian, but that seed may not have grown very much yet.  We have to commit ourselves to the Holy Spirit so He can develop the character and image of Christ in us.

Remember our thoughts last week comparing a life without self-control to a jungle while a life with self-control is rather like a  well groomed, tended garden.

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   Jungle scene from Parrot Jungle in Kings Bay, Florida.
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Beautiful garden walkway from Kings Bay, Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One characteristic of a growing and maturing Christian is the ability to bridle the wild impulses that lead to destruction — self-control.  Note, we can have self-control in one area but not in another.  The Spirit will encourage you to increase self-control so that it encompasses all the areas of your life, not just some of them!

 

How do we develop self-control of the Holy Spirit?  There is no pill to take for it and there is no substitute for hard work.  We train ourselves, just as an athlete would do, so that we learn to exercise self-control through God’s grace and His Spirit.

 

What does Scripture say?

 

So, what does the scripture say about temperance [abstinence or restraint]?

 

Consider Eating:

 

Table manners are important!  Proverbs 23:1-3 speaks of restraint when eating with those over you:

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.  Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.  

 

If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.

Proverbs 25:16

 

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. … “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” … At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.  So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

Daniel 1:8-16.  Honor God in controlling our appetite for food and beverages.

 

Consider Desires and Passions:

I made a covenant with my eyes, not to look lustfully at a girl.

 Job 31:1

 

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:13-16

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age,… 

 Titus 2:11-12

 

Consider our Dress

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

Proverbs 31:25

 

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

1 Timothy 2:9

 

Consider our Speech and Thoughts

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;

Philippians 4:5

 

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3 (NIV)

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

 

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth.  Therefore let your words be few. 

Ecclesiastes 5:2-3

 

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Titus 2:6-8

 

Consider the standard for Christian Leaders

For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

Titus 1:7-8

 

Older Christians to be models for younger Christians

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

 Titus 2:2-5

 

Consider Self-Control In all things

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Proverbs 25:28

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

 Titus 2:11-12

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

The temperate person lives within restraints and keeps his life under control.  Self-control is not strict adherence to rules.  Further, this is not done through sheer willpower, through grit teeth or rank stubbornness … it is done through the Spirit of our Lord and the strength that only He can give.  It is for the purpose of glorifying God by living self-controlled, upright and godly lives before those we come in contact with, in direct contrast to the worldly life that is so chaotic and random, without control or order.

 

Thinking back to last week’s lesson, is our life a jungle or a garden?  Are we tending it and, through self-control, weeding out the bad and developing the good for our Lord’s sake?  Have we committed ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that He can transform us into the image of Christ?

 

Let us develop self-control to the honor of God through the power of the Holy Spirit!

  

Blessings to you and I pray that you have been blessed as we have studied about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.   Next week we will have the final conclusion for the study; please join me as we seek to learn and do the will of our Father. 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 23, SELF-CONTROL

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 23

SELF CONTROL – SELF MASTERY SO WE CAN SERVE GOD IN FREEDOM

PART ONE

You may recall that the initial entry in this list of graces from the Holy Spirit is “love” and this last entry is “self-control” or, in the King James Version, “temperance”.   In Greek language structure, it was common to place the elements that you wanted stressed at the beginning and at the end.  Thus, the first fruit of “love” would be known to be of paramount importance because of its placement at the head of the line.  This is true in our own language construct.  However, in the Greek writing, the last item is also intended to be emphasized.  Se we need to pay special attention to this characteristic that the Holy Spirit is desiring to develop in us.

As for the other fruit of the Spirit, the world speaks of this fruit but the meaning and application is greatly different than that which the Spirit imparts.

For example, Oscar Wilde has said “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”  No self-control there!

Tom Wilson (An American cartoonist, 1931-1978) said:  “About the only time losing is more fun than winning is when you’re fighting temptation.”

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The look says it all!

Benjamin Franklin came closer to the Scriptural meaning when he said: “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

In his World Biblical Commentary, Richard Longnecker says that the word “self-control” has a long history among Greek classical writers.  Plato used the term in contrast to overindulgence in both food and sex.  Aristotle gave it significant treatment in his writings on ethics, specifically pointing out the difference between the person who has powerful passions but keeps them under control (self-control) while its opposite (incontinence) is the person who does not deliberately choose the wrong but who has no strength to resist temptation.  The term “incontinence” is also called wantonness.   Aristotle thought self-control was primarily related to bodily enjoyment but that it was not improper to be incontinent with respect to money or temper or glory.

Later, Augustine said that incontinence was not a problem of knowledge, which is of knowing but not acting.  Rather, it was an issue of will.  He found that it was an everyday occurrence that men failed to exercise self-control by choosing the lesser over greater goods.

Romanticism came into vogue and the incontinent choice of feeling over reason became increasing more welcome.   Blake wrote that “those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.”

All this progressed in a downhill spiral until the 1960s with the breakdown of conscience by “letting it all hang out” – acting out and emotional self-indulgence and drama.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incontinence_(philosophy)]

 What does Scripture say?

 We have come to the final entry in the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5:22-23.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Galatians 5:22-23.

At the time of Paul’s writings, self-control was a central concept in Hellenistic ethics.  Indeed, Josephus uses the noun in various places to refer to self-control in sexual matters.  Therefore, we can understand Paul’s placement of self-control at the end of the list as intending emphasis as well as to highlight the direct contrast to the list of vices of “drunkenness” and “orgies” that concluded the listing of the works of the flesh in verses 19-21.   The Spirit’s fruit of self-control is not limited to either control of the appetite for drink or the consequent tendency to unrestrained and immodest behavior.

 

The Greek word for self-control is  Egkrateia – self-control.   The Lexicon defines the term as being  1) the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites and  2) restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions or desires.

 

Philip Rykers in the Reformed Expository Commentary on Galatians says that self-control means temperance or moderation, especially like drinking, sex, and eating.  He refers to this virtue as “a sober virtue” and says that it prevents liberty from becoming license in the Christian life.  A person with self-control has the restraint and self-discipline not to be ruled by passion, and, therefore, she is able to resist temptation.

 

James Montgomery Boice describes self-control as the quality that gives victory over fleshly desires and which is therefore closely related to chastity both in mind and conduct.  It is the “great quality which comes to a man when Christ is in his heart and it is that quality which makes him able to live and to walk in the world, and yet to keep his garments unspotted from the world.”

How does this apply to my daily life?

Dr. R. C. Sproul references the frequent description of our world today, when we warn someone to “be careful,  it’s a jungle out there!”   Then he notes that God put man in a garden, not a jungle.  What is the difference between the two?

 

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Jungle like conditions in bird habitat at Brookgreen Gardens, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

 

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Formal gardens at Bellingrath Gardens, Mobile, Alabama.

Both are places where things grow.  Both are places where there are animals of various types.  Both are places of a variety of plants and trees and shrubs.  But one is wild – not structured – not subject to any control.  The other is under control and has an intentional structure; the garden is actively tended – continually groomed, monitored, fed and weeded so that the plants can grow to their fullest potential.  The jungle is ignored and unrestrained; there is no intentional structure, rather anything is allowed to grow without any attention or direction.

 

God, in creation, put man in the Garden.  Because of man’s sin, he was ejected from the Garden and thus exchanged the Garden for a jungle and chaos was substituted for God’s order.  Self-control, temperance, is the fruit of the Spirit which replaces the jungle of uncontrolled emotions, passions, violence and chaos with a desire for God and His order.  It is our restraint through the Holy Spirit that conquers the chaos of the flesh and allows us to embrace the life that our Lord desires us to have through His Spirit.

 

The Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion but of order, harmony and self-control, and it is this self-control that we must nurture by reading our scripture, prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit for guidance and growth. 

 

What is the difference between self-control as a fruit of the Spirit and self-discipline or sheer willpower?

 

Paul provides a distinction between living by the flesh and in the spirit in Romans 8:13-14:

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 

Again, Paul in Colossians 2:20-23 said:

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.”  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.

 

The self-control of the flesh is strict adherence to rules and regulations.  In contrast, the self-control from the Holy Spirit gives us restraint based on God’s strength, not on ours. 

 

We tend the garden of our heart by the exercise of self-control so that the weeds of the world cannot transform our garden into a jungle which is out of control and outside of God’s plan for us.

 

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.