"When you try to treat yourself, whether it's in the realm of physical medicine or in the realm of spiritual medicine, it doesn't go so well. We need the great Physician. And really, that's what part two of this study on preventive religion is about. Our premise is that the same eight simple remedies that the school of health and the preventive-medicine people use have their counterpart in the spiritual life. In physical life these eight simple remedies, God's remedies, are the simple agencies of nature: pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, and trust in divine power.".... This week "we will cover the spiritual counterparts of abstemiousness, rest, trust in divine power, and sunlight."
"Abstemiousness is a tough word. Let's face it, a better word is temperance, and perhaps an even better word that that would be self-control. Abstemiousness or temperance and self-control are significant. We understand that self- control is the highest evidence of nobility in the Christian. It gets high marks. But what is self-control? Is it something we do ourselves, or is it the result of something else? This is a practical question to consider.
So, self-control is a fruit, or fruit from the Holy Spirit. It is not so much something that we achieve as it is something we receive. I wonder how many of you have worked hard to develop more self-control. I wonder how many of us understand the difference between what we really have control over and what we don't! May I remind you that everyone in this world is either under the control of God or under the control of Satan. There are no other options. There is no third choice. The only control we have is which one of these two powers we want to control us. And that is hard for some people to accept, but it's still the truth. Romans 6 makes it clear that we are either servants of God r of the enemy, and we are only servants. So how much deliberate control do we have over our lives? All we have is the choice of deciding to come into fellowship with the Lord Jesus, and choosing to continue or discontinue that relationship. If we choose not to put ourselves under God's control, we will automatically be under the control of the enemy of souls.
The result of choosing to come under God's control, which is always ours and is never taken from us, is something we should rather call "God control" than "self-control." It's true that Go never bypasses our capacities. He works through us and never outside of us. But God's control allows people like Paul to say, It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me(see Galatians 2:20). and, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do His good pleasure"(Philippians 2:13). Therefore there are two kinds of control. One is the only kind we can choose, and we have to use whatever grit, backbone, determination, and self-control we have toward that. This choice is toward which of the two powers we want to control us. The other is something that is a fruit of the Spirit, the results of that choice. If we choose God's control in our lives, we will receive something better than self- control. God will control our appetites, our passions, our thoughts, words, actions, our motives, our purposes, and all the rest of it.
The example of self-control tat people bring up most is appetite. It would be well for us to take a look at how the control of our appetite really works. I wonder how many of you have ever tried to control your appetite. That is a foolish question, isn't it? I suppose that even some skinny people are wiling to admit that appetite can be a problem for them. I've heard a few of them admit it.
People will never be truly temperate until the grace of Christ is an abiding principle in the heart. All the pledges in the world will not make you health reformers. No mere restriction of your diet will cure your diseased appetite. You will not practice temperance in all things until your hearts are transformed by the grace of God. Circumstance cannot work reforms. Christianity proposed a reformation in the heart. What Christ works within will be worked out under the dictation of the converted intellect. The plan of beginning on the outside and trying tow work inward has always failed and always will fail. God's plan with you is to being at the very seat of all difficulties, the heart, and then from out of the heart will issue the principles of righteousness. Reformation will be outward as well as inward.
So of all the things, health and diet and appetite are classic categories in which we see that our only hope is in the fruit of the Spirit. If the self-control you have been using for years is the fruit of the person, then the person gets the glory. Strong people who live a lie apart from Jesus, and whose whole religion is made up of trying to do what's right and thinking they succeed- these people will discover sooner or later that that kind of self-control is not enough. It will not carry them through. But when we accept self-control as a fruit of the Spirit instead of a fruit of the person, then we discover the kind of control that comes from God, which deals not just with outward actions, but with the inward heart and motives and purposes and feelings and inclinations as well. Then it's worth something.
I'd like to invite you to circle this whether you're talking about Peter's ladder in 2 Peter 1, or temperance, which is part of growth in the Christian life. Whatever you call it, it is a fruit of the Spirit, not a fruit of the person. Let's also allow for growth. Baby Christians who discover problems with their self-control probably ought to remember that babies in the physical realm don't have much self-control, either. That's why we have Pampers and things like that, and that's why babies are forgive when they thrown things. Self-control is part of the growth in the Christian life, and I'm thankful that God understands that as well, aren't you?"