Sermon Presented on 08-31-13


       Today will be the tenth and final sermon in a series I have been doing on the fruit of the Spirit.  As I stated at the beginning of this series, bearing fruit demonstrates our being disciples of Christ and by bearing fruit we also glorify the Father as Jesus said in John 15:8.  The fruit we bear is defined by how we conduct ourselves before God and man.  The ability to bear fruit is related to allowing the Spirit of God to be manifest in our behavior. Paul told Timothy that God’s Spirit is a Spirit of power, love and self-discipline as the NIV translates it.

       2 Timothy 1:7: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

       It is instructive that while the Greek word translated “power” in this passage can mean inherent power such as is true with God, this word also means strength, ability, and the putting forth of effort.  Expressing the Spirit of God in our behavior is to show strength, ability and effort.  The Greek translated love in this passage is agape.  Paul instructs Timothy that agape love is a manifestation of the Spirit of God. God instructed the Galatian Christians that agape love is a fruit of God’s Spirit.  We discussed agape love in detail in part two of this series.

      It is apparent from the Scriptures that agape is a very active and outgoing form of love that is heavy on deeds.  It is a love that shows itself to always be concerned for the welfare of others regardless of who they are, how they behave or what circumstances they may find themselves in.  It is a sacrificial kind of love that is not at all self centered but is outward centered in its preoccupation with the welfare of others even at the expense of one's own comfort and safety.  Love is the most dominant and all encompassing fruit of the Spirit.

       It is instructive that Paul includes self-discipline in defining the attributes of God’s Spirit to Timothy and also lists self-control as a fruit of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatian Christians.  It is apparent that the attribute of self-discipline/self-control are very important expressions of the Spirit of God.

       To date we have examined and discussed the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness.  Today we will examine the final fruit in Paul’s list which is the fruit of self discipline/self-control. 


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

       As I discussed previously in this series, it is apparent we humans were created with certain passions and desires and the power to choose how those passions and desires are expressed.  Human passions and desires are not sinful in and of themselves.  They become sinful when expressed contrary to what God intends.  They become sinful when we fail to exercise self-control over our God given passions and desires. For example, sexual passion is not sinful in and of itself.  It becomes sinful when expressed as fornication, adultery and other forms of prohibited sexual conduct.  Anger is not sinful in and of itself, but it can be expressed sinfully.  The Scriptures teach we should not sin when angry.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4; 26).  It is when anger is expressed as rage or when it leads to hatred and violence that it becomes sinful.  Desiring to have something someone else has is not sinful in and of itself but if it leads to envy, greed or theft, it becomes sinful behavior.

       It is when we fail to exercise a spirit of control and discipline over our human passions that bad things happen and sin can occur.

       When Paul wrote in Galatians 5:24 that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires,” he was not teaching that in Christ we lose our human passions and desires.  We do not kill our human passions and desires.  We continue to have human passions and desires.  What we crucify in Christ is the sinful expression of our human passions and desires.  What Paul is essentially teaching is that in Christ we exercise control and discipline over the sinful expression of our human passions and desires. Our human passions and desires are now expressed in righteous behavior pleasing to God as opposed to being expressed in behavior that is contrary to God’s will.

       Jesus had the same human passions and desires we all have but never made choices that resulted in those passions and desires being expressed in behavior contrary to God’s will.  He was totally orientated to obeying His Father God.  No other human has ever been born with the level of power Jesus was given to submit to the will of God.  Jesus had the appropriate level of power to consistently resist temptation to sin.  This is why Jesus, as the Scriptures show, was able to be tempted in every way we are and yet without sin. 

      We are born with the ability to make choices.  Our choices determine whether our behavior is sinful or righteous.  Apostle James wrote, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins” (James 4:17).  This statement by James is a witness to our ability to choose how we behave.  All humans, except for one, have make sinful choices and have consequently been condemned to death since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  Jesus never sinned because of the powerful presence of God's Spirit He had from birth which gave Him the ability to resist sin throughout His life.  We have access to that same Spirit.  Let’s look at what Paul told the Romans.

       Romans 8:5-8: Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.  

        Paul associates sinful nature with what goes on in the mind.  It is in the mind where behavioral choices are made.  God wants us to have thoughts that are expressed in righteous behavior and Paul associates such thinking with having the mind of God. Sinful thoughts are hostile (against) to God and can’t be subject to God.  God wants us to pursue righteous thoughts which result in righteous behavior. 

       Romans 8:13-14: For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

       Paul associates the sinful nature with the misdeeds done by the body.  The sinful nature is expressing our human passions and desires contrary to the will of God.  Paul makes this evident when he defines the sinful nature as the misdeeds of the body.  These misdeeds, however, can be replaced by deeds engendered by the Spirit.  When we allow the Spirit of God to be the driving force behind our behavior, we begin to express our natural human passions and desires in a righteous manner and in this manner we put to death the misdeeds of the sinful nature.  We virtually exchange the sinful nature for a righteous nature, a nature controlled by the Spirit of God. 

       Paul speaks of putting to death the misdeeds of the body.  He associates misdeeds of the body with the sinful nature.  Paul is not instructing the Romans to put to death their human passions and desires but to put to death the sinful expression of their passions and desires.  Paul is instructing that we exercise self-control, that final fruit of the Spirit found in Paul’s list in Galatians 5. 

       We put to death the sinful expression of our human passions and desires by expressing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  This is how we express the  Spirit of God.

       Lack of self-control and self-discipline are at the root of many if not most human problems.  Failure to control our human passions is the cause of untold difficulties that we humans create for ourselves.  Solomon makes a rather picturesque statement about what lack of self-control looks like.

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

       In its comments on this verse, the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible states:

       The picture is that of a city whose walls have been so nearly destroyed as to be without defense against an enemy; so is the man who has no restraint over his spirit, the source of man's passionate energies. He has no defense against anger, lust, and the other unbridled emotions that destroy the personality (vol. 4, p. 267). 

       Often our lack of self-control has ramifications far beyond the immediate problem that is created by such lack of self-control.  Let’s consider a few examples:

       We all have the basic physical desire to eat. Without fulfilling this desire we would die. However, this most basic of human desires can be misused.  It’s called gluttony and gluttony can lead to weight gain. Now I know that a number of dynamics are involved in weight gain. But one of those dynamics is a lack of discipline and self-control at the dinner table. Eating too much or eating too much of the wrong kinds of food can lead to being overweight which is the immediate result.  However, such overweight can have many ramifications.  It can lead to a host of health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.  However, it all can begin with dietary indiscretions.

       Failure to exercise self-control at a party where alcohol is being served can lead to drunkenness.  Drunkenness is considered sin in Scripture.  Drunkenness can lead to a host of other indiscretions such as promiscuity and aggressive behavior that can lead to a fight which can lead to someone getting hurt or killed.  Driving drunk can lead to an accident which can result in injury or death for yourself and others.  It all begins, however, with lack of self-control where a person drinks more than he should instead of exercising discipline in restricting the number of drinks he has.

       I mentioned promiscuity.  Lack of self-control of sexual passion can lead to all sorts of problems from unwanted pregnancies to venereal disease.  Unwanted pregnancies often lead to single parent nurturing with its array of pressures and difficulties that are not present in a two parent home. 

       Uncontrolled anger is probably the most universal of all human behaviors and is at the root of many human problems.  When we think about exercising self-control we usually have anger and temper in mind.  This being the case, I will spend a little time discussing this ubiquitous human attribute called anger.

       Anger is a basic human attribute. It is an expression of dissatisfaction with something or somebody.   It is when such expression of dissatisfaction is allowed to fester that it leads to all sorts of problems. Much of human conflict is the result of uncontrolled, undisciplined, unabated anger.   Paul was right on the mark when he wrote to the Ephesians, "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4; 26).  

       Paul recognized that if anger is allowed to be present for any length of time it will eat up a person and create serious conflict.  It can lead to bitterness and hatred and hatred can lead to violence.  We have all experienced the result of uncontrolled anger. Anger may be the most difficult human passion to keep under control.  Yet we are instructed to do just that, to keep anger under control.  The Scriptures clearly teach the need to keep anger under control.

        Proverbs 29:11: A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. 

       Proverbs 30:33: For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife. 

       Ecclesiastes 7:9: Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

        When we allow anger to rule us rather than we ruling anger the results can be devastating.  Every day we hear of violence occurring around the world and much of it is the result of uncontrolled anger. Anger is an extremely powerful emotion. It can destroy lives and tear down relationships.  Apostle Paul understood the negative consequences of anger and its sister emotions of bitterness, wrath, clamor, slander and malice.  He saw forgiveness as the pathway to gaining control of these emotions. 

       Ephesians 4:31-32: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

       When we're right in the middle of a tense situation and emotions are flying high, Paul’s recommendations may seem unrealistic and impractical. But unless we strive to apply his advice, we could easily face the devastating consequences of uncontrolled rage. For example, our anger can shut down communication with others. It can also lead to a silent but very damaging type of resentment where we bottle up anger inside us.  We may become bitter and take out our bitterness on others in subtle ways.  One of the most harmful consequences of uncontrolled anger is depression. Over time, inner turmoil and unresolved conflicts will take their toll on a person's mental health and physical health as well.

       But we have a choice. We can let our anger control us and opt to suffer the negative consequences of such control or we can opt to be kind and compassionate toward each other and forgive those we feel have in some way sinned against us as Paul advises. 

       In what appears to be a true story, a Christian writer I ran across relates the following story:

       "During early childhood I had a fiery temper which often caused me to say and do unkind things in the heat of anger. "One day, after I had bawled out one of my playmates and sent him home in tears, my father told me that for each thoughtless, angry word I said, he would hammer a nail into our gatepost. And each time I was patient and said something kind and gentle, one nail would be taken out.

       "Months passed. Each time I entered our gate, I was reminded of the reasons for those ever-increasing nails!--Until finally, I decided that to get them out would be a challenge and I'd try my best!  "At last the day I longed for arrived!--Only one more nail! As my father pulled it out, I danced around proudly exclaiming, `See, Daddy, the nails are all gone!'  "I remember Father gazing intently at the post riddled full of holes, and he thoughtfully replied, `Yes, the nails are gone--but the SCARS remain!'"

       I have heard it said that the anger of today is the remorse of tomorrow.”  It is difficult to remove the scars cause by uncontrolled anger or any other uncontrolled human passion.  The word danger has just one letter more than the word anger.  You take the D away from danger and you have the word anger.  When you experience uncontrolled anger, you are adding the letter D to the word and placing yourself and others in danger.

        Proverbs 16:32: Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.   

        Although there are many examples in the Scriptures illustrating the negative effects of uncontrolled anger, there are also examples of becoming angry for righteous reasons. 

        The Scriptures record that Jesus became angry at times with the behavior of the religious leaders.  In Mark Chapter 3, we read that Jesus went into a synagogue of the Jews on the Sabbath and found a man there with a withered hand. Some of Jesus’ hypocritical religious enemies were watching closely to see if He would heal the man and thus "break the Law" by doing work on the Sabbath. Jesus ordered the man with the withered hand to stand before him.  He then turned towards the religious leaders and asked them if it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath.  They remained silent and it is recorded that Jesus was angered and grieved at their attitudes.

        Mark 3:5: He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.

       How to Handle Anger:

      What motivates our anger is of critical importance. Much of human anger results from selfishness, wounded pride or believing we are being mistreated or slighted.  When we become angry over such matters, one way to exercise control is to stop and think of the consequences of our anger.  Will our anger lead to a frayed relationship?  Will it cause emotional or physical harm to others?  Is our anger going to break the Golden Rule of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us?  James said,  "Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger."--James 1:19.

       To "be quick to hear" is another way of saying, "listen carefully." If you can patiently listen to what's going on and hold back long enough to think about what you're going to say or how you're going to respond, you can usually control your anger and express your feelings in a disciplined way. Remember the proverb we quoted earlier.

        Proverbs 29:11: A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

        James said to be slow to speak.  Do not talk when you are angry and upset.  Wait to calm down. Hot words never result in cool judgement. A wise man controls his temper. He knows that anger causes mistakes, hurts those whom we love and destroys friendships!

       Anger is a normal human passion that needs to be expressed.  But its expression needs to be controlled and disciplined.  Some Christians feel guilty for being angry, so they simply try to pretend that they're not. But ignoring anger can be like taking a waste-paper basket full of burning paper and hiding it in the closet!  True, the fire may burn out but more likely it will burn the house down!  

       Pent-up, unexpressed anger is unhealthy and has been medically proven to cause all kinds of problems ranging from ulcers, anxiety and headaches to depression!

       Anger, like all other human passions can be expressed properly or improperly.  It is not human passions that are sinful in and of themselves.  It is the sinful expression of human passions that we are instructed to control. God has provided us with behavioral guidelines whereby we are told what are acceptable and what are unacceptable expressions of our human passions. 

       Self-control along with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness are all attributes that Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit. In this ten part series we have examined each one of these attributes in some depth to learn more about them and learn how to express them in our behavior.  To express these attributes in our behavior is to express attributes of the Spirit of God.  Paul wrote that we are not to quench the Spirit of God but to stir it up.  To stir up God’s Spirit is to express the fruit of that Spirit in our lives.

       2 Timothy 6-7:  For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.  

       I trust this series on the fruit of the Spirit has led and will continue to lead to a greater expression of the Spirit of God in the lives of all of us.