September 11, 2017

The Fruit of the Spirit
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Today we’re on the last quality of the Fruit of the Spirit, and hopefully as we’ve gone through this series it’s been an eye opening.

Through it we’ve seen that all these qualities are not distinct from each other, as is often taught, but they’re related and interact with each other. It’s important that one quality should never supersede any other, because they’re all necessary, and they’re the authentic mark of what it means to be a Christian.

Before we begin, however, let’s set the stage. Tell me if any of these sound familiar.
– Why can’t I lose weight? – Why Can’t I get in shape?
– Why can’t I get out of debt? – Why can’t I break this bad habit?
– Why can’t I consistently spend time with God?

The answer may be in our lack of self-control.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”

We often think of being disciplined or having self-control as an enemy, or an unwanted guest, when in reality it is our friend, because it enables us to be the best we can be.

Surveys have found that people who exercise self-control are far happier and healthier than those who don’t.

The Bible has some interesting endings to those without self-control.
• Uncontrolled anger leads to punishment, cruelty, harsh words, and strife. (Job 5:2; Proverbs 27:4; Ephesians 4:31; Proverbs 29:22).
• Uncontrolled lust makes a person a prey to their lust. (Proverbs 6:26)
• Uncontrolled spending destroys a person’s treasures. (Proverbs 21:20)
• Uncontrolled drinking, or for that matter any addiction, brings sorrows, contentions, complaints, and wounds. (Proverbs 23)
• Uncontrolled ambition dulls and ceases a person’s ability to discern and understand, and takes what is gained away. (Proverbs 23:4-5), and
• Uncontrolled eating is like putting a knife to your throat. (Proverbs 23:1-3)

Self-control comes from two Greek words meaning to have fixed power or strength, or having the power to stay in one place. The idea is to get a hold or grip on something. Literally it’s to get your hands on something until you’re in control of it rather than it being in control of you.

Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

This verse reeks of our need for self-control. The word temperate is the same word used by the Apostle Paul in describing this ninth quality of the Fruit of the Spirit, Self-Control.

As believers, we are far too often ruled by our emotions as well as our wants and desires. Instead those outside the faith need to see Christians who have self-control in their personal walk. It’s where we don’t allow the appetites of the flesh, or our lusts to dominate our lives.

How can we accomplish this? It’s by giving complete control of our lives over to the Holy Spirit where we are God-controlled instead of self-controlled. And then, like the Apostle Paul, when we reach the end we’ll not be disqualified.

Basic Elements to Self-Control

1. Know The Objective

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” (1 Corinthians 9:24 NKJV)

When we run a race our objective is to win, to cross the finish line. But before we run, we must understand the requirements. If we run a marathon we need to know how many miles it will be, the type of terrain, and the weather. This will allow us to train properly and how to pace ourselves.

My Military School Story: I didn’t prepare myself and barely finished

Besides knowing the requirements, we also need to know the rules of the race. In other words we can’t cut across the track or take a short cut. We must run between the lines.

As Christians our objective is to be like Jesus. Therefore, how are we to train? What sorts of disciplines do we need to meet this objective?
• It’s having that quite time in prayer along with reading and studying God’s word
• It’s being in fellowship, connecting with other believers.
• It’s actively using our gifts and talents in His service, and
• It’s being those witnesses making disciples of all nations.

We therefore need to ask ourselves what’s controlling us? Are we in control, or is God in control? Are we living in accordance to God’s word, or are we allowing our wants and desires to control us?

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV)

Literally this says that where there is no prophetic revelation from God the people will cast off all restraint and live like hell, that is, they become uncontrolled in their behavior. God’s revelation is for us to be like Jesus Christ. That is our goal, our objective, and if it’s not then we’ll run wild without any direction or purpose, and in the end we’ll fall for just about everything that is out there.

Does God have us here upon this earth so we can grow up, get married, have a job, make money, have children, grow old, and die? Or is it to glorify God, doing that which will hasten His kingdom, grow in the image of Jesus Christ, and to see others come into His kingdom?

And it really is that simple. Each of us needs to decide, and our ending and whether or not we’ll receive the prize is wholly dependent upon that choice. Paul said that we are to run the race in such a way as to obtain the prize, and to be disciplined about it lest we become disqualified in the process.

2. Decide Upon the Greater Good

“Everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” (1 Corinthians 9:25 NKJV)

Jesus brings this out when confronted by the Pharisees as to whether it was right to heal a person on the Sabbath.

“What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:11-12 NKJV)

Jesus then healed the man with a withered hand. Jesus brought forth the principle of doing the greater good. He used a real life scenario, in that if they found it good to pull a sheep from a ditch on the Sabbath, how much greater is a human being who is made in the image and likeness of God.

We can get so caught up with doing a lot of good things that doing what is best is left behind.

In our work we get tied up with doing the little things, wrongly thinking that by getting these out of the way we’ll free up more time to get the really big or important things done. But what happens is that we never get to these more important things because the small stuff never seems to end.

We do the same thing spiritually. We end up majoring on the minors. We get so caught up in doing things, no matter how good or noble, but we fail doing what’s really necessary.

Now, I’m not saying not to do these other things, but we need to be careful not to neglect what is best, or what Jesus refers to as the weightier matters.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” (Matthew 23:23 NKJV)

Now, Jesus isn’t advocating the end to the tithe, rather He confirms the tithe. But by referencing justice, mercy and faith as weightier matters, He’s saying that while tithing is good; let’s not overlook the greater good.

What is the greater good?
• Loving God with the whole of our being and loving our neighbors as ourselves
• Faithfulness to God and to His word, and
• Living our lives in full accordance with our faith.

When we weigh our decisions, are they based upon the greater good, or upon other factors? Maybe this is why our families, finances, and community are so far out of whack. It’s because they don’t revolve around God, His word, or the church. They revolve around other things, that while they may be good, they are not the best.

Therefore, to be self-controlled is to determine the greater good and do it, and then all that is out of whack will start falling into place.

3. Count the Cost

A fan came up to a famous pianist and said, “I’d give my life to play like you,” to which the pianist replied, “I did.”
• Someone else came up to him and asked if he could do a recital at the last minute, and he replied, “No problem.” The person was taken back a bit and asked how, and the pianist said, “I’m always ready. I have practiced eight hours a day for 40 years.”
• The man replied, “I wish I had been born with such determination,” and the pianist answered, “We were all born with it, I just use mine.”

Jesus said there’s a cost involved in what we’ve been called to do.

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it.” (Luke 14:28 NKJV)

Far too often Christians use this verse to get out of God’s calling. They’ve “counted the cost” of investing their lives and found that it was too high. But what Jesus said wasn’t to give us a way out, but to make sure we ended well. A tower was a necessity in those days. So they needed to make sure they had enough to finish the project and not leave it half done.

Having self-control, self–discipline, will cost, but if we don’t apply it then our relationships and spiritual lives will suffer. It’ll cost us time in prayer and in God’s word. It’ll cost us time in fellowship and being witnesses to this lost and dying world.

But if we refuse, then spiritual flabbiness will set in, bad habits will flourish, and our relationships will suffer and be on life support. So we need to count the cost and pay the price, and then we’ll gain control and no longer be at the mercy of our emotions, circumstances, or the situations we find ourselves in.

4. Submit to God’s Control

Once our objective is firmly established, and we’ve counted the cost and decided on the greater good, then we need to submit to God’s control the rest of the way.

Self-control is developed as we submit ourselves to God’s power. Self-control isn’t merely self-produced behavior; rather it’s God’s power enabling us to gain control.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)

The Greek word for “sound mind” can also be translated “self-control.” The word describes a person who is disciplined through the working of the Holy Spirit within. It’s the Holy Spirit that takes away fear and in its place gives power, love, and a disciplined mind. That’s why we need to submit ourselves to God’s control.

What Areas Need God’s Control

1. Our Bodies

“Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5 NIV)

Paul says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, therefore we’re not our own. Therefore we are to glorify God in both our body and spirit, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

In this passage Paul is speaking of our need to flee sexual immorality, because as believers our bodies should be under God’s control. So we need to get our bodies under control so that we are truly honoring God.
• We don’t honor God when pornography has control of our actions
• We don’t honor God when our eating habits are out of whack
• We don’t honor God by being addicted to alcohol, drugs or for that matter anything.
• We don’t honor God when offensive habits take precedence and we just excuse them as being harmless. We see this in statements like, “But I’m not hurting anybody.”

2. Our Thoughts

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)

This is where the battle begins, in our minds. Nobody wakes up, looks out their window and says, “What a great day to commit adultery.” Rather adultery has been brewing in our minds for some time. The Apostle James says that we’re tempted and drawn away by our own lusts and desires, and this is what gives birth to sin and death, James 1:14-15.

Jerry Bridges in his book, “The Practice of Godliness,” said, “Our minds are mental greenhouses where unlawful thoughts, once planted, are nurtured and watered before being transplanted into the real world of unlawful actions … The thought life, then is our first line of defense in the battle of self control.”

3. Our Time

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NKJV)

We only have so much time, and we can’t buy any more than what God has allotted. Those who are successful know how to use their time more efficiently. So it’s important to get control over our time.

When you drive, listen to worship or teaching tapes, or drive in silence listening to God. Or turn off the T.V. or Internet and read God’s word. I read a sad statistic where the average Christian watches more TV in one night than they take to read the Bible in the entire week.

How Can We Get Started?

1. Start With Ourselves

If we could kick the person responsible for most of our troubles, none of us would be able to sit down for a week. It begins with us, not others.

2. Start Small

There’s an old saying, “You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.” The Bible says that when we’re faithful in the little things, then God will give us more, Luke 16:10. The greats of the faith didn’t start that way, they started small and built up their faith.

3. Start Now

The Bible says that today is the day of salvation, 2 Corinthians 6:2. Many great ideas come while we’re in the shower? The difference between being successful and unsuccessful is determined once we get out of the shower. The successful person follows up on the idea and implements it. The unsuccessful person leaves it in the shower for the next day.

Let’s start now,
• Let’s make becoming more like Jesus our main objective.
• Let’s decide upon the greater good.
• Let’s count the costs and discipline ourselves towards godliness, and
• Let’s submit our lives to God’s control and like Jesus say, “Not my will, but Your will, O Lord, be done.”

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