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The Capacity to Control Temperance

www.insidethebible.ca /the-capacity-to-control-temperance/
Micah Hackett
Temperance, being the last spiritual fruit (at least, in Galatians 5), acts as a very good conclusion to the list, because
it really tells us what is required of a believer to grow spiritually in all the other aspects we have looked at. One
cannot resist the lusts of the flesh if he cannot control his body, the channel through which the flesh works. One
cannot be long-suffering if he has no control over his emotions. One cannot be meek if he displays reactions rather
than controlled responses. One cannot have peace if he does not first of all determine to cast his anxieties on the
Lord an action which requires distinct purpose and effort. To be a Christian who is constantly overruled on account
of his inability to control himself is a Christian who will lack the foundation for a great host of other spiritual qualities
which are so precious in the believer. While our goal is never to be controlling Christians, we must be Christians
who are controlled.
Striving For the Mastery
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown;
but we an incorruptible. 1 Corinthians 9:25
Here we are faced with a call to self-discipline in every aspect of life. And it is really more broad than simply reading
daily or praying for a set amount of time. These things are excellent and commendable, but what about our general
attitude toward work, hobbies, time-management, assembly-participation, etc.? Self-Discipline is a general lifestyle,
not simply an application of effort to specific obligations. Paul in the above verse was pointing out the necessity of
dedicated running. How he asks can a runner succeed if he does not exercise self-discipline in all things? To be
part of a professional calling is no light thing, and it should be treated with devotion. How much more should the
Christian profession be given the effort due to it! That is why Paul says I therefore thus run, as not uncertainly; so I
combat, as not beating the air. But I buffet my body, and lead it captive, lest after having preached to others I should
be myself rejected. (Darby). It is amazing that in light of such a verse, many Christians would still subscribe to the
kind of Christianity that does just enough to get by. We no longer ask What is right with it in an effort to be the best
we can be, but we are asking What is wrong with it not caring how close we come to the world, just as long as we
dont fall into any major sin. The problem is that major sin always starts by blurring the lines between worldliness
and godliness. Such is one example of a lack of effort in modern Christianity. This is not what we were meant to be.
We were meant for true, dedicated control over the course of our convictions and choices. Now we seem to be
swaying with whatever is easiest, not whatever is best whatever is least difficult, not what is most rewarding. The
reason Paul was such a man of God is this: he understood self-discipline, both in the spiritual life and the physical.
Perhaps its time we ran our course to glory as if glory was really our goal. Just as a runner cannot achieve
greatness unless it is his all-consuming lifestyle to achieve that goal, so we cannot achieve Biblical Christianity
unless it is our life. Our faith is not a compartment of life: it is our life itself. Perhaps such an outlook will change how
we view Scripture, Prayer, the assembly, evangelism, character, and all the other things which we have somehow
compartmentalized as if Christianity was a part-time job. Let us be full-time Christians. Let us strive for that
incorruptible crown. Let us be temperate in all things!
The Heart and Ones Self-Control
Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath
so decreed [judged] in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. 1 Corinthians 7:37.
In dealing with the subject of whether or whether not to marry, Paul brings to us a vital principle regarding power
over ones will. The key phrases are steadfast in heart, power over his own will, and decreed in his heart. Here


we are presented with a man who has self-control, which is a man who understands the control of the heart. What
can we learn from him?
1. Steadfast in heart. This is the basis for all temperance and conviction. Before a Christian can ever be
trusted with Biblical convictions, he must have the ability to retain them at all. It is of no use to store valuable
information on a hard drive that is soon to crash. It is of no use to ask a veteran with Dymensia for details
about a war. Even more solemnly, it is of no use trusting a Christian without the ability to retain convictions.
God has reserved the passing down of truth to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also. We dont
want spiritual mentors who have a loose grip of spiritual realities. We dont want teachers who are easily
shaken in the faith which they claim to preach. What kind of heart do you have? It will not be a tempered one
if it is easily wavered.
2. Judged in his heart. Assuming we have the capacity for conviction, we should strive to be those who weigh
and assess options, thus coming to the best conclusion. Thus our second primary factor in being temperate is
this: we must have the ability to come to our own convictions. This is absolutely vital. There are so many
opinions in circulation within Christianity that we can be tempted with two extremes: (1) we can blindly accept
and adopt one system of thought for consistencys sake, because it shows itself to be right is some areas,
thus becoming creed-based rather than Scripture-based (2) we can give up on absolute truth, because it is
too confusing to filter through all the possibilities. However, the truth is that we need to face these issue head
on and be competent in thoroughly weighing what others say with what Scripture says. Controlled Christianity
is convicted of the truth.
3. Power over his own will. Having arrived at a Scriptural understanding of things, we can have a basis to
control the direction of our will. God has made us to be creatures of free-will, that is, creatures with the ability
to choose. Yet this potential is not reached as long as we are driven by other pressures, such as peers,
media, lust, etc. It is obviously easier to go with the flow, but is that really having power of our own will?
Temperance is not simply making a decision. The alcoholic technically chooses to take another drink, but is it
him or his addiction that is really choosing? The same applies to our will. We make choices every day. But
when it comes to the hard choices, do we have power over the will to make them because they are
necessary? When right seems inconvenient, will we still choose it? This is the test of true will-power.
The Tongue and Ones Self-Control
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this mans
religion is vain. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and
able also to bridle the whole body. James 1:26/3:2.
When it comes to the tongue we are almost presented with an all or nothing sort of scenario. The first verse tells us
that if a mans tongue is not controlled/tempered, the entire religious claim of this man is empty: he has nothing of
true spirituality. On the other hand, James 3 tells us that if the tongue is controlled, it represents that our entire body
is controlled; and therefore, assuming a genuine heart, we would have a balanced spiritual life. You see, the tongue
is representative in two ways: (1) because it is the most difficult to control, if it is indeed controlled, surely we have
the power to control the other members which are easier to get a grasp of, (2) the tongue is the manifestation of
what has gone into our hearts and minds, both of which by nature must be subdued before the tongue can be. Thus,
the tongue should be a primary target in self-control. Here is the problem: sometimes it is easier to conquer many
smaller enemies rather than one seemingly invincible enemy. So it is with the tongue. Just because of its singularity,
it is not easier to defeat. No doubt we dont have to look very far back into our memories to prove this to ourselves.
What is the solution? Well, in some cases, the solution is purposeful silence. Sometimes it is perfectly reasonable
for words not to be verbalized, and we need to realize that. Our human nature wants to be heard, as if we always
have something to say in every situation. But we need to be humbly honest with ourselves and realize that we are
not the master of all things, nor the greatest sage of all time, nor the most skillful comedian on earth. Words of
wisdom and notes of humour are not sin of course not but they are usually only appreciated for their quality, not


their quantity.
In other cases, exercise of thought is essential. Most of our problems lie in our tendency to speak before or faster
than we think. Thus, one problem could be solved if we approached each social gathering with the mentality of
mindfulness, that is, the training of our minds to be conscious of specifically when, where, and why we are saying
something. We could avoid a lot of embarrassment if we began our day with the prayer Lord, keep me mindful of
my speech.
But sometimes the answer goes further than purposeful silence into giving purpose to what we do say. We were not
made to cease communication. Words are a gift, and they are precious when used in an edifying way. Proverbs 25
says A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Thus we should concentrate, not only on
decreasing our empty words, but increasing our profitable words. On the one hand, we will give account for every
idle word we speak. On the other, God rewards those who add truth to the conversation. Let us be balanced. Let us
be honest with ourselves. And let us be mindful of what we say. If we can control the tongue, temperance will be
The Mind and Ones Self-Control
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
While the phrase a sound mind does not itself contain the Greek word for mind in the original, the concept of wise
discretion and self-discipline is still the point, which cannot properly be attained without proper mental faculties. The
key is sobriety and self-discipline: the ability to discern and direct ones self at his own will. (This is why anti-alcohol
campaigns are associated with the word temperance, because a lack of being sober is associated with a lack of
self-control.) Peter tells us the connection between sobriety and the mind in his first epistle: Wherefore gird up the
loins of your mind, be sober Further, Ephesians 2 describes the lifestyle of unregenerate man and attributes the
mind to the cause of vanity: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh,
fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. The blinded mind is what drove us to vanity in our past days.
Surely the enlightened mind is what can drive us to purpose in these present days.
So then, our goal should be an enhancement of the mind if we are to truly achieve self-control. As a man thinketh in
his heart, so is he. Where does that begin? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. The same is said
about wisdom. Only on that basis can we increase the ability of our minds. It is only then that we can become true
students of the Word. It is only then that we can have enough incentive to intelligently control what goes on in our
walk. Let us learn to gird up the loins of our mind. Let us stretch them. Let us use them to their full potential. Let us
be thinking Christians. When the mind is sober, the walk can be tempered.
In all of this, let us again not forget just how pivotal of a subject this is. To neglect temperance is to live arbitrary
religion religion that sways wherever it drifts, religion that is carefree, religion without purpose, religion without
meaning. True Christianity demands effort and purpose. How can these be ours without the ability to control
ourselves? We can be thankful that God didnt call us unto flimsy Christianity, but unto a Christianity that is
intelligent, controlled, and convicted. Which do we subscribe to?