Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 24 August 21:
1 Timothy 3:2-3 — Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
Once again, our readings address the issue of self-control. Self-control is a primary, essential attribute of good character, maturity, and leadership of any kind. Here, Paul says church leaders MUST have self-control that is “above reproach” and “blameless.” (1 Timothy 3:1) Impeccable self-control should be the stereotype of the Christian.
As discussed previously, self-control is not primarily the product of personal will power, but rather the product of our relationship with Jesus (see John 15), a fruit of the spirit – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) The bookends of “the fruit of the spirit” are “love” and “self-control” because what you really love ultimately controls your behavior. If you love self above all else, you will, in the end, be selfish and self-serving, driven by your passions and desires. If you love the Lord above all else, you will, as Paul said, be controlled by the love of Christ to serve Him and others sacrificially with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness. (2 Corinthians 5:14) When you are serving the one you love, displaying the above attributes isn’t difficult but rather natural – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) The key to self-control is abiding in Him and His love. If you lack joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, it isn’t ultimately a will power problem, it is a love and abiding problem.
- John 15:4-12 — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
- 1 John 4:12, 13 — No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
- 1 John 4:16 — So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
- 1 John 3:9 — No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16) God gives us His Spirit, but the Bible also says we must respond to the Holy Spirit and choose to walk by the Spirit. We can choose to listen to the Spirit, learn from the Spirit, be led by the Spirt, and live by the Spirit; or we can choose to resist the Spirit, quench the Spirit, grieve the Spirit, get out of step with the Spirit, provoke the Spirit, and even outrage the Spirit by continuing to deliberately sin –
- Revelation 2:7 – [Listening to the Spirit] He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (also, Revelation 2:11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22)
- John 14:26 – [Learning from the Spirit] — But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (See also, 1 Corinthians 2:10-14)
- Romans 8:14 – [Being led by the Spirit] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
- Romans 8:5-13 – [Living by the Spirit] For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Heirs with Christ. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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.
- Acts 7:51 – [Resisting the Spirit] — You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 – [Quenching the Spirit] Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
- Ephesians 4:30-32 – [Grieving the Spirit] And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
- Galatians 5:25, 26 — [Getting out of step with the Spirit] If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
- Hebrews 3:7-14 – [Provoking the Spirit] — Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore, I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
- Hebrews 10:26-29 – [Outraging the Spirit] For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
So, we have our role to play in growing in self-control. We must be fervent in spirit – “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” (Romans 12:11) Beyond diligent Bible study (which is a must), how can you fervently build your self-control? First, learn the habits of trusting, rejoicing, praying and giving thanks in all circumstances. Simultaneously, hold fast to what is good, abstain from evil and put away all bitterness, anger, slander and malice. Make the daily decision to be gentle to all and to forgive as God has forgiven you. Finally, don’t become conceited and provoke or envy others.
Notice how much of self-control involves being content in your circumstances, thankful for the grace and blessings God has given you and resting in the sufficiency of Christ, simply abiding in His love. This is something you can practice today.
- John 13:3, 4 – “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper” [and, out of love, washed the feet of Judas His betrayer and the feet of the disciples He knew would abandon Him in His darkest hour].
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 24 August 21: Today, abide in Jesus’ love to have self-control.