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 Post Post subject: Devotions - Friday, November 16th, 2007
Posted: Fri Nov 16, 2007 11:30 am 
Catspaw knows all

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Bible Reading: Galatians 5

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)

At last we are coming to the end of our exploration of the fruit of the Spirit; the foundational matters of the establishment of the Kingdom in us. I remind you that this fruit is something we bear, we do not produce it because it is only produced by the Holy Spirit. It is his responsibility to transform us into the likeness of the Son, and this is done by the transformation of our character. Self-control is a tricky thing to end with simply because we have a different notion of self-control, yet it is close to the same.

Have you ever been on a diet or some sort of exercise program? If you have then you are aware that such things require a great deal of determination, fortitude, routine, habit and self-control. You are also aware that it does not take much to fall away from such a program. One missed workout; one wrong choice in a snack is all it takes to cause our resolve to come crashing down. There is a verse in the Old Testament that refers to this idea:

"Like a city whose walls are broken down
is a man who lacks self-control." (Proverbs 25:28)

Interesting image considering that a wall protects the city from those things outside of itself. Often self-control is not seen in the light of protecting oneself but instead in the area of self-improvement. Most of you know I have a problem with the self-isms; self-esteem, self-image, self-help, self-made, self-confident, self-disciplined, self-improved. So why would a self-ism be found in this list of the fruit that the Spirit produces in us? Is the concept of "self" not in conflict with the work of the Spirit? Perhaps it is our focus on the understanding of this word.

Self-control has a slightly different meaning in the world than it does in the Word of God. In the Word self-control means more of a self-denial. It is when we deny ourselves for a purpose. In the world we would deny ourselves that dish of ice-cream because we want to look better and feel healthier. As Christians we would deny ourselves in honour of our God, because we love him and would not want to do anything that displeases him. Of course, this is not really possible for us and thus our dependence on the Spirit to produce it in us. Because we are willing and we bow our wills to the Father's the Spirit is free to produce in us the self-control necessary.

There are some dangers for us in our understanding and teaching of a righteous life. We can easily slip into the teaching of morality. In fact, many churches sound like centers of morality teaching. But man's sense of morality is not God's and to please him we must be willing to go beyond our capacity for morality. This is possible only through Jesus Christ. There are too many members of churches who believe they are saved because of what they do instead of because of the act of Jesus Christ. The character of Christ is only produced in us after we have received him as our Saviour and the Holy Spirit has been given.

This character of self-control is incredibly important when we realize it is a matter of self-denial. Remember the charge that was given to the disciples, thus to us:

"Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" (Luke 9:23)

We cannot follow Jesus Christ without denying ourselves. To follow Jesus is not an easy thing in the flesh. It is easier for us when we keep one foot in the world and another in the transformed life. When it gets too tough we simply make reference to our imperfections and call on grace. In case you thought this was acceptable, it is not!

If you want to know where you are with this take a look at what you are like with the tough jobs in your life. Students may want to consider the attitude toward their homework. Do you put off the hard stuff? Do you wait until the next day to do things you would rather not do today? Do you figure you can take a little break and get back to it after? How successful are you at completing the work you are supposed to do? Are you known for being on time with all your assignments and projects? Does your housework get completed? I know there are a lot of excuses but let's be honest with ourselves this morning; is it a matter of no self-control, no self-denial?

Have you ever considered housework a matter of self-denial? You should. It is when you put off what you want to do for the sake of your family's well being. Housework is a great sign of loving our God with all of our heart. It is a great act of service, but instead of focusing on our lazy family who struggle to help out, we should consider it an act of love to our God. It requires self-discipline and, if we want to maintain a good attitude in it, a servant's heart.

Consider this verse for a moment:

"Jesus replied, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'" (Luke 9:62)

Are there any uncompleted tasks in your life? Anything thing that you have started that you are thinking of walking away from? Any responsibilities you have taken on that have become too much and you want to walk away from? We are not allowed to walk away from anything that we have been given to do. We cannot turn our back on a friend just because it has become tough. We cannot walk away from taking care of the family just because it has become tough. Jesus did not walk away in the garden and neither can we walk away from our tasks, or, if you would, our crosses.

Jonah is a good example of someone who tried to run away. He was called as a prophet but when the task suddenly became unreasonable he ran away. Elijah ran away, hiding out in a mountain. Even Peter ran away in his denials.

Now think of those who did not run away and how God used their resolve, their self-discipline, their self-denial to do great things. Once the task was given to him Moses never ran away, even when God threatened to wipe out the people. Moses did not like the people very much at this moment of rebellion, having just killed a few of them himself for the golden-calf thing. However, Moses had accepted the task and did not turn back as he petitioned God to show them mercy.

What about Jonathan when there was only him and his armour bearer? Did he turn back from the task or did he choose to continue with the tough job of putting the enemy to flight? God used this one man to put the whole army of the enemy to flight.

What about Elijah who did not shrink back from all the false prophets? He had his task, his hands were upon the plow and he trusted his God. He took them all on in that incredible scene at the broken down altar. He was used by God to turn the hearts of the people back from Baal.

What about Daniel who refused to waver in his love and devotion for God? Even in the face of the king he respected and served he would not turn away from the path that was chosen for him. Daniel entered the lions' den because he would rather deny himself life than compromise on his relationship with God.

What about Paul who knew the path that lay before him on his journey back to Jerusalem? The Spirit warned him all the way to Jerusalem, preparing him for what he would face. Yet, Paul would not turn away from it. He had set his hand to that plow a long time ago on that road where he had met Jesus. He was not about to turn back now.

In the face of these heroes we look like a bunch of quitters, but it does not have to remain as such. It is also not a matter that we have quit many things. We have remained faithful to where God has placed us in this church. Where so many others changed churches as easy as changing socks you have remained resolute, denying yourself, to fulfill God's calling. Yet, we have compromised on so much more.

In order for God to use us as he wishes to we need to get our hands firmly upon that plow and refuse to look back. There has been too much looking back and we have allowed a large crack to form in our foundation. We need to resolve in our heart to submit our will to that of the Father's, to deny our self of our desires, and press on in our service and relationship. We have to plow in the blistering heat, in the storms that bring plenty of rain, when we are alone, when we are tired and even when crowds of friends would call out to us to quit.

Many of Paul's letters contained sections encouraging the believers not to turn back, to press on, to run the race, to not grow weary and other such words. He also told us to encourage one another. However, the greatest source of strength for our resolve not to avoid the tough jobs is Jesus Christ. Let's get our eyes on him and bend our will to the Spirit, allowing him to produce in us the fruit of self-control.

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