Temperance or what is commonly known as Self-Control is listed as the last fruit of the spirit.
I have said it before and I will say it again.
I don’t believe the 9 fruit of the Spirit that we find in Galatians 5 verses 22 through 23 are just randomly placed in the order that we find them.
God has a purpose and a reason for everything that he does.
There is nothing that is haphazardly done when it comes to our Great God and Heavenly Father.
God commands us in 1 Corinthians 14:40 to let all things be done decently and in order.
So, think about this with me.
If our heavenly Father’s asking something of us… don’t you believe that he would be the first to do what he is asking of us?
Of course, he would.
If you have followed this series of talks on Character Building Fruit you should notice that each talk or article on the Fruit of the Spirit is presented in the same order as the Bible displays them.
What Season Are You In?
The fruit of the Spirit is seasonal just as the natural fruit that God has given to us for our food and consumption.
What do I mean by that? I am glad you asked.
Well, God told us in Genesis 8:28 that as long as the earth remains there will be seedtime and harvest.
This is the principle of sowing and reaping.
Just about everything that we see in the natural world has a spiritual principle that we can learn from.
So take fruit, for instance… fruit grows or is produced and is also harvested in the world at different times and in different seasons.
I’m not sure if you noticed it or not… but when God is cultivating the fruit of the spirit in us it’s not all at the same time.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, we discover that there is a time and a season for all things under the sun.
Beloved temperance or self-control has a lot to do with seasons.
But check this out… Just as it takes love to properly exercise each of these character traits or fruit of the Spirit.
The fruit of Love… joy, peace, patience… Gentleness… Goodness, faith, and meekness will also involve us exercising self-control.
What Is Temperance?
The biblical definition of temperance that we find in the Strong’s Concordance is defined as…
Self- control or continence.
The Thayer Definition of the word temperance gives us a little more to wrap our hearts around.
And it gives us this to meditate upon.
Temperance is self-control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites).
There was a time when we as church-going people believed that controlling our emotions was the height of spiritual maturity.
Now we seem to live in a society that says let it all out and do whatever you feel as long as no one gets hurt.
The thing about that way of living our lives is that if we go about doing whatever we feel… Someone will inevitably be hurt.
You may be asking…Why is that so?
Well, beloved, it’s because doing whatever we feel comes with different emotional tendencies and produces different emotional reactions.
For instance, you or I can be happy, we could be sad… Or we can be angry and even sexually aroused.
Acting on any of these emotions at the wrong time and with the wrong people has the propensity to cause pain or discomfort in the lives of others.
I have discovered something about us as the human race… And it is that we lack balance.
We are either doing things to the extreme or we are withholding more than is suitable or adequate for the cause.
Beloved, I have also found out that none of us can achieve the balance that is appropriate for ourselves without God’s help.
We need his wisdom and understanding… because without it… we can do nothing.
Temperance Is Another Key To Success.
If you and I are going to be successful in the life that God has for us… we must and have to become experts in exercising self-control.
And my dear friend we are going to have to be temperate in the things of God more so today as at any given time in history.
Proverbs 29:18 is read this way…
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.
Yes, I understand that with the naked eye this verse doesn’t look or sound like it has anything to do with being temperate or self-controlled.
But please bear with me while we unpack what it’s saying to us as followers of Christ.
You see there are four keywords that really put everything into perspective in this particular verse of the scriptures.
The first word is vision… the second is perish… the third word is keeps… and the fourth word is law.
Let’s look at the word vision.
The word vision here means… Prophecy or divine communication.
Our second word perish is a tricky one. And I say that because in this particular instance it means to let loose… to cast off restraints or to let run wild.
Whichever way it’s said… it is to be out of control.
The third word is “keeps”.
The word keep or keeps is one of my favorite words in the word of God.
An old friend brought this word to my attention a few years ago.
It’s pretty amazing to me how God can take a simple word like keeps and enhance your perspective on many things.
The word keeps in Proverbs 29:18 means to… Hedge about… or to build a hedge around something.
But wait… That’s not with a pretty or decorative type of hedge… This would be a hedge of thorns and this would be for protecting or you could even say to guard something of value.
Keep is also defined as attend to… Or to observe… To be circumspect or have a watchful eye.
Now for the last word which is law… And it is defined as the Torah or simply put the word of God.
The Torah is the first five books of the Bible and is known as the Law of Moses.
Here is what God instructed Joshua concerning this.
Joshua 1:8 reads…
This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.
Now back to Proverbs 29:18.
Let’s read it again so we can really get the richness of this truth.
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.
Now let’s amplify or paraphrase this verse as we replace our keywords with the definitions we found.
And it reads like this…
Where there is no prophecy or divine communication, the people cast off restraints: but he that attends to, guards and observes the word of God… happy is he.
Self-control is a matter of what we desire.
If self-control is a matter of the desires of our hearts… Maybe we should strongly consider this.
I heard one say that we need to re-order our loves.
But the truth of the matter is that re-ordering our loves is not an easy task and it will not happen overnight.
Listen, beloved until our hearts are regenerated by the Holy Spirit and are being conformed into the image of Christ… It will deceive us.
I honestly believe with my whole heart that to love God is a gift that we can only receive from him.
And yet the Bible teaches that we are to love God with all of our hearts with all of our souls and with all of our minds.
So how do we get this kind of love?
Well, beloved, I’m glad you asked.
You see it’s like this…
The Bible teaches us in James 1:17 that…
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
My dearly beloved friend… Love for God is the perfect gift that we should be seeking to desire.
But here’s another thing about loving God and it is that most of us will never receive the gift unless we ask God for it.
That also reminds me of another thing that James made us privy to… and we find it in James 4:2 and 3.
Some parts of the verses read like this…
You have not, because you ask not.
You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss.
To ask amiss just means that we are asking for the wrong things and we want them for the wrong reasons.
And what this ultimately means is that what we want is only for fulfilling some out of control lustful desire of our hearts.
God should be who and our relationship with him should be what we desire and love the most.
Can Self-control Be The Same As Willpower?
Many people believe temperance or self-control to be the same as willpower.
We must not mistake self-control to be willpower… Because there is a distinct difference.
And the difference my beloved is that one is in the flesh and the other is in the spirit.
So just in case, you’re wondering which is of the flesh or which is of the spirit?
Willpower is fleshly and humanistic… and temperance is spirit-led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Yet as I said earlier… to the children of this age… there’s no difference. Or better yet they are really not capable of knowing the difference.
Romans 8:7 gives us some astounding truths about the flesh with these words.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be.
So, what that is saying in everyday language is that the carnal… the fleshly or worldly-minded people of the world are hostile towards the things of God.
They are not willing to be under the authority of God Almighty… And it’s because they don’t have the power the will or the ability to do so.
See 2 Corinthians 4:3 through 4.
Are you beginning to see how willpower and self-control or temperance are on two different paths?
If not… Believe me, I really do understand because willpower and self-control do look a lot alike.
And just like I mentioned before… too many people willpower and self-control are the same… even to some of our Holy Ghost filled believers of Christ.
I guess it’s safe to say that until we come to an understanding of how the Holy Spirit works to build us up in our most holy faith.
It will continue to be so because…
Old Habits Are Hard To Break.
It’s easy to start a habit… But once you’ve done something for a long time old habits are really hard to break.
Renewing our minds by the word of God is the same as trying to replace bad habits with good ones.
Neither one will happen overnight.
Now with that said… Let me ask you something.
Have you ever read in your Bible the command for us to have willpower?
No… I haven’t either.
No beloved willpower is not one of the fruits of the Spirit… But we do see self-control listed as one.
To me, willpower should be defined as such…
When one attempts to will his or herself to do something without getting their motivation or help from an outside source.
And if there should be any outside help or motivation it’s usually sensuous in its nature and of worldly influence.
It’s also the foolishness of trusting in one’s own strength and resources.
Therefore it’s basically a humanistic way of doing something… You know what I mean… it’s the old-age philosophy of pulling yourself up by the bootstrap mentality.
Kind of like the mind over matter concept… Which I have personally failed at more times than I have succeeded.
Maybe you have too.
Love Keeps Us In Control.
I also heard someone say that self-control is not willpower it is heart power.
This reminds me of that which was said about re-ordering our loves.
Here’s another thought on that…
If we are to re-order our loves… We must come to a place where God is our deepest desire.
It must be a place where we love God above anything and everyone.
Beloved this is a supernatural love that we get from God and give back to him as well.
Romans 5:5 tells us this…
And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us.
Another thing that I discovered about self-control…
It is about centering our hearts on what we desire most.
When we love God and desire to please him it will cause us to bring everything about us… and everything in us… under the subjection of our love for God.
Thus allowing us to exercise the fruit of self-control.
Temperance In Our Worship.
I mentioned earlier that long ago that we as Church-Going people we’re taught that we needed to suppress our emotions.
This was especially in the hour of our worship services… But not in all worship services though.
I say that because during that same period of time there were some worship services where the people were very emotional.
I know this because I came up attending a few of them myself.
Now with that said, I believe there needs to be a balance in our worship experience and we can only find balance in Jesus.
We must also recognize that the worship experience is not going to be the same or look the same in all congregations of the Church.
But this is alright as long as what we are doing is biblically sound.
Meaning that we all should do as the Lord instructs us and follow the admonition of worshipping our heavenly Father in Spirit and in Truth.
See John 4:24 for more on that.
Here is something else that we must understand about worship and it’s that if we wish to worship God in the way that he deserves to be worshipped and loved.
We must fully understand that true worship is an act of our will… it’s spiritually led and should be done in a decent and orderly fashion.
What do I mean by spirit-led and in a decent and orderly fashion?
And who determines what’s decent and orderly?
Well, beloved the best thing that I can share with you on that…
Is that if you and I wish to have a biblically sound… a theological and balanced worship experience… We must take our cues from the word of God.
It is in the word of God where we find what is acceptable in all things concerning our loving heavenly Father.
Our lives and our actions should be motivated by love and balanced with self-control.
The Practical Guidance of Self-Control.
When we study our bibles we discover that God is instructing us to be disciplined in all areas of our lives.
The word of God is full of practical guidance for exercising the fruit of self-control.
In just about every book of the Bible that I can think of… we get examples of people being drastically out of control… and also of many folks exercising great faith and extraordinary temperance.
We witness this from Genesis to the Revelation of Christ…
We see these actions starting with Adam and Eve… Cain and Able… from Saul to David… Jezabel to Elijah and from Judas Iscariot to our Lord Jesus the Christ.
I briefly touched on the different emotions that we as human beings can experience.
Here is another thing that I heard someone say… and It’s actually a quote that I heard the Gospel Artist and Minister of God Anthony Brown say.
He said this concerning our emotions.
And I quote… Acknowledge what you feel… but act on what you know. End quote.
Those are some good words to take heed too.
You see beloved acting on and making decisions based on our feelings and emotions can get us in trouble more often than not.
Our emotions don’t always portray the truth about what’s really going on.
That’s one of the reasons among many that God instructs us to be anxious for nothing. See Philippians 4:6.
If we are honest we all can tell a few stories about making bad choices due to what we were feeling.
God Is An Emotional God.
We must be careful not to disregard our emotions altogether though… Because God created us in His image and he is an emotional God.
The difference between God and us is that God is in full control of His emotions… just as He’s in control of everything else.
All that God has decided to do and all that God has purposed and planned are founded In truth, justice… and… in equity.
In other words, everything that God does is right.
I love serving a God such as he is… Because I can put my full assurance in what He says… he will do.
Things to Consider About Temperance.
As we draw to the conclusion of this series of articles and talks on Character Building Fruit… There are a few more things that we ought to consider.
But before that let me first state my personal disclaimer concerning self-control also known as temperance.
And it’s that I do not wish you to be misled by thinking that I have all areas of this life that God has given me thoroughly under control.
Because I don’t.
And to be quite honest with you I only know of one person that has this fruit intact at all times… And that’s, of course, the Lord Jesus.
Now here are a few things that we must consider concerning the fruit of temperance or self-control.
The first thing that we all should do is to do as the apostle Paul admonishes us to do… And that is to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. 2 Corinthians 13:5.
Beloved the best way to do this is to ask God the Holy Spirit to show us the things about ourselves that we don’t see.
The prayer that I have found to work best for that request is found in the book of Psalms where we find these words…
Search me O God and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts.
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23 through 24.
So let me ask you… Do you know of any areas in your life that are out of control?
Could it be in your finances?
I have personally struggled in this area.
And though I have gotten better there is still much work to be accomplished.
What about your moral ethics… Your relationships and attitudes towards others?
Do you drink or smoke too much are you abusing drugs… are you a gambler?
Are you one that has a critical spirit and are you lazy?
Do you find yourself talking about other people as a backbiter or a gossiper?
Beloved we are in a battle for self-control that we can not win without the help of God the Holy Spirit.
The Things That Desire to Control Us.
We must be aware that there are many things in us and about us that wish to control us.
So, here’s just a small list of the things that we are battling with for control in our lives.
The desire to be accepted by everyone.
We have the desire to be loved by others.
There are desires for all types of pleasure… The living for the moment and do whatever makes me happy mentality.
And what about sexual desires?
Are you experiencing sexual desires that are outside of the will of God?
Listen, beloved, we live in a sexually explicit society and sex is used to promote just about everything that we see on our televisions on the internet and even on billboards as we are driving in our cars.
There is an unhealthy desire for wealth and security.
Desires to achieve and excel above others because of pride and arrogance.
For notoriety and fame.
The unusual and unhealthy desire for personal attractiveness that causes envy and jealousy.
For self-approval and acceptance.
A desire to be in control of others and of every situation and circumstance.
These are areas that we can either be in the flesh or yield ourselves to God and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Here Are A Few Keys to Self-Control
1. We must always think before we act.
2. We must be willing to humble ourselves and obey our heavenly Father
3. Beloved, we must have a strong desire to please God.
Therefore before we act we need to consider a few things.
We should be asking ourselves…
How will this affect my life spiritually, mentally, financially… and how will this affect my health.
How do others see me as a professing Christian?
What are the immediate and long-term consequences of my actions?
And last but not all…
Do people see me as a reckless person with my money… my deeds or actions… or do they consider me to be reckless in my speech?
Listen, my dear friend… please believe me when I tell you that I understand that asking these questions can be convicting and very uncomfortable.
But also know and remember this as well… and it’s that our great heroes of the Bible have faced the same things that you and I are battling for self-control.
So please take heart and be confident that God has deemed us to be more than conquerors and that through Christ we can do all things.
And always remember the admonition that we find in 2 Timothy 1:7.
But God did not give us a spirit of fear… But of power… of love… and self-control.
Now that’s going to do it for this part of Character Building Fruit… Temperance… The Fruit of Self-Control
But as always dearly beloved…
Please always remember to keep up the good practice…
And experience the power of God working to give you a new life…
See also this… The Fruit Of Meekness… Strength Under Control.