Posted in theology

It’s more fun to control others than to control self

By Elizabeth Prata

In Paul Twiss’ sermon in the series at Grace Community Church “Sundays in July”, at about the 25:00 minute mark, Twiss said,

There is a decided lack of virtue in society today. It’s an old-fashioned word, virtue. Virtue is “behavior showing high moral standards.” Synonyms might be: goodness, virtuousness, righteousness, morality, ethicalness, uprightness, integrity and so on.

Society is not exercising self-control, and that’s not a good thing. In large measure it’s because of our preoccupation with the idea of freedom, misconstrued. The way people think of freedom today is just licentiousness. We just substitute it for freedom and it’s wrongly used.

Another indication of a society not exercising self-control these days is because we have no end goal in sight. Society has no idea where it’s headed. We don’t know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it or where we’re meant to be going.

When you have an end goal in sight, all of a sudden the notion of self-control becomes a lot easier. Think of putting your 4-year-old in time-out because he threw the cereal bowl on the floor after you told him not to. If you just put him there, and he’s in there without an idea of how long, he will not go quietly into that good night, lol. If you tell him it’s 3 minutes, and remind him at intervals of the countdown, he will be more amenable.

Adults are like that too. Anything we do that has no end date is a lot harder to endure than one where we have an end goal, even if the end is far away. This American society is juvenile, and we are behaving like we’re three-year-olds in time-out with no end goal in sight.

Christians have an end goal. We know at death or the rapture, all our tears, trials, difficulties, and sadness will be washed away. We know that the self-control we’re developing as a fruit of the spirit has a purpose and we can hang on even as societal pressure mounts.

Unsaved people don’t have knowledge of release. They just live a life of spiritual anguish and confusion and sometimes great anger on earth feeling like it’s forever. They do not know it can end. That there can be peace with God on earth and joy forever in heaven. So their self-control goes out the window and they just “let it all hang out”. This was an idiom that entered American vernacular in the 1960s and it meant ‘be totally candid in expressing feelings and opinions; hold nothing back’. It’s been turned from a catchphrase to a lifestyle. And worse, a lifestyle where not only do the unsaved let it all hang out, but insist that others do, also. (Romans 1:32). Society is increasingly trying to control Christians by insisting on participation in their lack of self-control.

Restraining ones’ self in word and deed for civility’s sake, for politeness’s sake, for the sake of others around us, has become passe.

Of course a society on its way to total abandonment, populated by sinners galore, would soon turn that phrase ‘let it all hang out’ into a life trajectory of lack of self control. Lives lived with no virtue, honor, or dignity. Naked feminists in libraries flaunting to children, pedophiles clamoring for acceptance, Sodomy parades vying for attention, ‘proud’ of their depravity, and so on. A society that lacks self-control en masse is a society that impacts neighbors in highly negative ways.

The Bible commends self-control and discipline. We are told that self-control is fruit of the Spirit, an imprint of God’s presence in our lives. We are told to discipline and train ourselves to godliness (1 Timothy 4:7), to labor for habits and patterns that will drive us toward holy thoughts, holy desires, and holy lives. Challies, The Lost Virtue of Self-Control

As this American society collapses, the more we develop and display self-control, the more we will be shining the light in the darkness, even if the darkness comprehends it not. (John 1:5). But Jesus will be honored, and that is what we live for, with the end goal in sight, when faith becomes sight.

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God,1 and to enjoy him forever.

1 Corinthians 10:31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Romans 11:36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Psalm 73:24-26. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God isthe strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
John 17:22, 24. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one… Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

 

Posted in theology, word of the week

Word of the Week- Fruit of the Spirit, Self-Control

By Elizabeth Prata

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23).

In past essays, I explored the previous characteristics in the verse, from the first, joy, to gentleness, the second to last. Now we look at self-control.

In a previous essay it was noted that the 9 characteristics Paul outlines in the verse can be grouped by three threes.

Warren Wiersbe notes the triple triad within the verse. The first three characteristics of the fruit are love, joy, and peace. Those reflect the Godward aspect of Christian life.

The next three are patience, kindness, goodness; characteristics reflecting the manward aspect of Christian life.

Faithfulness, gentleness, self-control are aspects reflecting the selfward part of the Christian life.

Self-control…what does that mean, exactly? As with everything in the Bible, it’s both simple and clear on the surface, but if you dig deeper, valuable truths come out that prick the conscience and grow the believer.

In Barnes’ Notes we learn

The word used here, (ἐγκράτεια egkrateia), means properly “self-control, continence.” It is derived from ἐν en and κράτος kratos, “strength,” and has reference to the power or ascendancy which we have over exciting and evil passions of all kinds. It denotes the self-rule which a man has over the evil propensities of his nature. … It includes the dominion over all evil propensities, and may denote continence, chastity, self-government, moderation in regard to all indulgences as well as abstinence from intoxicating drinks. See the word explained in the notes at Acts 24:25.

The sense here is, that the influences of the Holy Spirit on the heart make a man moderate in all indulgences; teach him to restrain his passions, and to govern himself; to control his evil propensities, and to subdue all inordinate affection.

A Christian must be a temperate man; and if the effect of his religion is not to produce this, it is false and vain.

We see this is so in the 1Timothy 3:2-3 regarding elder qualifications

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.

The man has self-control in demonstrating he won’t drink to excess, thus losing control. He isn’t violent because he controls his anger, and this is an important one because angry situations are full of pressure. Can he control himself when the circumstances become chaotic emotionally or physically? If he is growing in the fruit of the Spirit he will be.

We see self-control again in 2 Timothy 2:24 where again he controls his anger,

And a servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, but he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, and forbearing.

In 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul again remarks about self-control

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

And more, the following verses remark about having self-control, and it’s not exhaustive,

2 Peter 1:6, Acts 24:25, Proverbs 25:28, Proverbs 16:32, 1 Corinthians 9:25, 1 Timothy 2:15, 1 Timothy 2:9, Titus 1:8…

Possessing self-control means you are growing in the fruit of the Spirit as the Galatians verses shows. It means one’s sanctification is progressing. It’s proof that we are relying on the Spirit to resist our depraved and evil impulses. Christ died for us so that we may die, to our sins. Having self-control demonstrates Spirit-led mastery over them.

self-control

———————————————-

Further Resources

Focus on the Family: Got Self-Control?

GotQuestions: What does the Bible say about self-discipline?

Ligonier Devotional: Self-Control

Head Heart Hands blog: Pumping up the Self-Control in the Age of Temptations

Posted in theology, word of the week

Word of the Week: Fruit of the Spirit, Gentleness

By Elizabeth Prata

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Warren Wiersbe notes the triple triad within the verse. The first three characteristics of the fruit are love, joy, and peace. Those reflect the Godward aspect of Christian life.

The next three are patience, kindness, goodness; characteristics reflecting the manward aspect of Christian life.

Faithfulness, gentleness, self-control are aspects reflecting the selfward part of the Christian life. Below, Wiersbe’s longer explanation:

When a person lives in the sphere of love, then he experiences joy—that inward peace and sufficiency that is not affected by outward circumstances. (A case in point is Paul’s experience recorded in Phil. 4:10–20.) This “holy optimism” keeps him going in spite of difficulties. Love and joy together produce peace, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). These first three qualities express the Godward aspect of the Christian life.

The next three express the manward aspect of the Christian life: long-suffering (courageous endurance without quitting), gentleness (kindness), and goodness (love in action). The Christian who is long-suffering will not avenge himself or wish difficulties on those who oppose him. He will be kind and gentle, even with the most offensive, and will sow goodness where others sow evil. Human nature can never do this on its own; only the Holy Spirit can.

The final three qualities are selfward: faith (faithfulness, dependability); meekness (the right use of power and authority, power under control); and temperance (self-control). Meekness is not weakness. Jesus said, “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29), and Moses was “very meek” (Num. 12:3); yet no one could accuse either of them of being weak. The meek Christian does not throw his weight around or assert himself. Just as wisdom is the right use of knowledge, so meekness is the right use of authority and power. The Bible Exposition Commentary, Warren Wiersbe

The word gentleness as it is used in the verse means ‘derived from the root pra-, emphasizing the divine origin of meekness (“gentle strength”) which expresses power with reserve and gentleness.’

Gentleness, ladies, does not mean doormat, but restrained power combined with kindness, peace, and the other characteristics of the fruit. That’s why the fruit of the Spirit is one fruit displaying many aspects, not many fruits.

Wiersbe again with the reason the Spirit grows the fruit in us:

We must remember that this fruit is produced to be eaten, not to be admired and put on display. People around us are starving for love, joy, peace, and all the other graces of the Spirit. When they find them in our lives, they know that we have something they lack. We do not bear fruit for our own consumption; we bear fruit that others might be fed and helped, and that Christ might be glorified. The flesh may manufacture “results” that bring praise to us, but the flesh cannot bear fruit that brings glory to God. It takes patience, an atmosphere of the Spirit, walking in the light, the seed of the Word of God, and a sincere desire to honor Christ.

gentleness

Posted in theology

Word of the Week: Fruit of the Spirit, Faithfulness

By Elizabeth Prata

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23).

The word we’re focusing on this week inside the fruit of the Spirit list is- faithfulness.

As a reminder, the fruit of the Spirit is love. All other fruit stems from that one fruit. There is one fruit of the Spirit, it isn’t a plural. It’s one bundle.

fruit goodness verse 1

The Greek word in this verse for faithfulness is pistis. Helps Word Studies explains,

pístis (from 3982/peithô, “persuade, be persuaded”) – properly, persuasion (be persuaded, come to trust); faith.

Faith/pistis) is always a gift from God, and never something that can be produced by people. In short, “faith” for the believer is “God’s divine persuasion” – and therefore distinct from human belief (confidence), yet involving it. The Lord continuously births faith in the yielded believer so they can know what He prefers, i.e. the persuasion of His will (1 Jn 5:4).

Pistis in secular antiquity referred to a guarantee (warranty). In Scripture, faith is God’s warranty, certifying that the revelation He inbirthed will come to pass.

Faith (4102/pistis) enables the believer to know God’s preferred-will (cf. J. Calvin; see 2307/thelçma).

Reflection: Faith is only (exclusively) given to the redeemed. It is not a virtue that can be worked up by human effort.

Resources:

Ligonier Devotional: Goodness and Faith

Faith is another fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Gal. 5:22). But when the Apostle refers to faith, he speaks not merely of “believing in God.” Paul also calls us to “believe God.” Believing in God is not that remarkable — even demons do that. What the Lord wants is a people who trust in His promises alone (James 2:14–26).

GotQuestions: Fruit of the Spirit- What is Faithfulness?

Faithfulness is believing that God is Who He says He is and continuing in that belief despite the vagaries of life. Functionally, that means we trust what God says in the Bible, and not necessarily what the world or our own eyes tell us. We trust He will work out everything for good. We trust He will work His will in us. And we trust that our situation on earth is nothing compared to our future reward in heaven. The only way we can have such faith is by the Holy Spirit’s influence. He testifies to the truth and impels us to seek God. The Spirit makes us faithful.

Arthur W. Pink:

Faith endures as seeing Him who is invisible (Heb. 11:27); endures the disappointments, the hardships, and the heart-aches of life, by recognizing that all comes from the hand of Him who is too wise to err and too loving to be unkind. But so long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself, there will be neither rest for the heart nor peace for the mind. But when we receive all that enters our lives as from His hand, then, no matter what may be our circumstances or surroundings—whether in a hovel or prison-dungeon, or at a martyr’s stake—we shall be enabled to say, ” The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places” (Ps. 16:6). But that is the language of faith, not of sight nor of sense.

Posted in theology, word of the week

Word of the Week: Fruit of the Spirit, Goodness

By Elizabeth Prata

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23).

What is goodness? If you ask most people, they would declare that they “are a good person.” But is man’s view of goodness the same as God’s? No.

The word for goodness as it’s used in Galatians 5:22 is agathōsýnē occurs four times in the NT. Paul and only Paul uses it. It is apparently strictly a biblical term, i.e. it does not seem to appear at all in secular Greek. The occurrences of this particular Greek word for goodness appear in Galatians 5:22, Romans 15:14, Ephesians 5:9, 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

Goodness (agathōsynē) may be thought of both as an uprightness of soul and as an action reaching out to others to do good even when it is not deserved. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, J. F. Walvoord)

In the note on Romans 3:12 (All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one) MR Vincent explains goodness,

It is rendered kindness in Eph. 2:7; Col. 3:12; Gal. 5:22. Paul, and he only, also uses ἀγαθωσύνη – agathōsynē for goodness. The distinction as drawn out by Jerome is that agathōsynē represents a sterner virtue, showing itself in a zeal for truth which rebukes, corrects, and chastises, as Christ when He purged the temple. [The normally occurring Greek word for goodness], chréstotés is more gentle, gracious, and kindly. (Vincent, M. R., 1887, Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 3, p. 35).

John MacArthur explains

There’s a third virtue in this little trio – and we’ll close with that one. “Goodness” is it, goodness, verse 22: agathōsunē. Goodness was a deep-down virtue of moral sweetness, moral excellence; and we can’t even find the word in secular Greek sources. It sort of was coined by believers as a way to express a kind of goodness that was deeper than anything the world experienced. It usually is compared with righteousness; and that’s really helpful to kind of get the meaning of it.

In Ephesians chapter 5 we read in verse 9, “The fruit of the Light” – the Light, capital “L,” the divine Light, the heavenly presence our Lord. “The fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” So there “goodness” is connected to “righteousness.” And I think that’s very helpful, because righteousness can tend to be the hard edge. Righteousness can tend to be the stern aspect of Christian character, right?

You are righteous: you have righteous standards, you have righteous convictions, you know what is right, you expect people to do what is right, you uphold the standard of what is right, you defend what is right. That is the sterner aspect of Christian character. But the backside of that – and that’s what Light produces, according to Ephesians 5:9 – the backside of that righteousness is goodness. That’s the soft side of your convictions.

That’s the kindlier expression of your convictions. It’s right to have those convictions, it’s right to hold those convictions, it’s right not to compromise those convictions, but it’s also right to be full of goodness so those convictions don’t wind up bashing people.

When you have the full knowledge, the full understanding of the Word of God, when you have the full picture, it doesn’t just make hard-nosed convictions, it produces strong, immovable convictions that have a soft side of goodness. Look, you don’t have convictions stronger than God, right? And yet the goodness of the Lord extends to the highest heavens.

So if interpreters say goodness as it’s used here means a strong moral rectitude, an excellence and uprightness, tinged through and through with gentleness and kindness, how does that relate to your and my actions? Our growth in sanctification? Are we growing a righteous goodness in our lives?

I’ve seen the sad slide of people drawn into harsh discernment ministries who believe they are standing up for Jesus, but are simply bashing people with a hardness that is far from ‘good.’ I’ve also seen people soften into jellyfish in refusing to correct or rebuke, claiming that kind of hardness isn’t “good.” The Christian life is one where we seek God’s guidance through His word at all times, so we stay on the center line.

Prayer: Valley of Vision

Thou hast revealed to me myself
as a mass of sin,
and thyself as the fullness of goodness,

The rest is here, it is worth the read

fruit goodness verse 1

Posted in theology, word of the week

Sunday Word of the Week- Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

By Elizabeth Prata

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22).

The fruit of the Spirit is singular. It’s all one fruit. It’s not like the believer works on love one month and then patience the next and then moves on to self-control. It’s all one, and the one is love. If one loves the Savior, they will be joyful, and that joy will permeate all that he or she does, including relationships with believers and non-believers. Same with peace. Peace will characterize their relationships, and patience will be a hallmark of relationships, and so on.

What IS patience? GotQuestions explains:

Answer: There are two Greek words translated as “patience” in the New Testament. Hupomonē means “a remaining under,” as when one bears up under a burden. It refers to steadfastness in difficult circumstances. Makrothumia, which is used in Galatians 5:22, is a compound formed by makros (“long”) and thumos (“passion” or “temper”). “Patience” in Galatians 5:22 literally means “long temper,” in the sense of “the ability to hold one’s temper for a long time.” The KJV translates it “longsuffering.” A patient person is able to endure much pain and suffering without complaining. A patient person is slow to anger as he waits for God to provide comfort and punish wrongdoing. Since it is a fruit of the Spirit, we can only possess makrothumia through the power and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

More here

Be patient in prayer. Be patient in sanctification. Be patient in persecution. Be patient with the children. Be patient with mockers, slanderers, and gossips.

I’ve found that praying for people brings patience, because it casts my cares and worries onto the Lord, who has His own timeline. Once an issue is on His timing, it makes being patient easier.

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. When He works through us, we can exhibit the fruit. He grows it. As the sap that runs through the tree, His growing of us will yield beautiful fruit, an honor of the King.

Spurgeon Sermon: The Pearl of Patience

Ligonier Article: The Fruit of Patience

Ligonier Devotional: Patience and Kindness

patience is a fruit of the spirit

Posted in theology, word of the week

Sunday Word of the Week: Fruit of the Spirit, Peace

By Elizabeth Prata

On Sundays I usually post a theological word with its definition, then an explanation, and use it in a verse. I also use a picture to represent the concept. This is my effort to maintain a theological literacy among the brethren and between generations, something I believe is critical. We have to know what we believe, why, and know the words to express it. Words like Justification, Immanence, and Perspicuity have all been a Sunday Word of the Week.

Similarly, when we discuss other words representing the fruit of the Spirit, such as love, peace, and joy, we think we know what they mean, but often times these culturally embedded words have a totally different flavor when used from a biblical context. It is true of the words pertaining to the Fruit of the Spirit. Even these ‘simpler’ biblical words are misunderstood.

Therefore, over the next few weeks the Word of the Week will be one of the Fruit of the Spirit. Previously I published short essays about Love, and Joy. This week it’s Peace.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

What does ‘peace’ mean? I hear people saying in their decision-making, “I have a peace about it.” Is Galatians talking about that kind of peace? Or, is it the peace that comes after a war or a struggle with someone?

The Greek word as it’s used in the verse is (they think) from eiro. It means in this verse, a harmony and an accord.

Once we possess the Spirit, we are no longer at enmity against the Lord. (Ephesians 2:16). We have peace with Him since we are no longer rebelling against Him. We have relational peace. Strong’s defines it partly as:

According to a conception distinctly peculiar to Christianity, “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoerer sort that is”: Romans 8:6; namely, is used of those who, assured of salvation, tranquilly await the return of Christ and the transformation of all things which will accompany that event,

John Gill Comments on the two kinds of peace, peace with God and peace with each other, on the Gal 5:22 verse,

which is another fruit of the Spirit: and designs peace with God in a man’s own conscience, produced there by the Spirit of God, in consequence of peace being made by the blood of Christ; and that through the application of the blood of Christ for pardon, and of his righteousness for justification to the soul of a sensible sinner by the blessed Spirit, the effect of which is peace, quietness, and tranquillity of mind; also peace with men, with the saints, and with all others; for such who are under a work of the Spirit of God, and are influenced and led by him, seek after the things which make for peace and edification among the brethren, and are desirous if possible to live peaceably with all men: hence appears another grace in them,

But beyond that, as the verse in John 13:34-35 says,

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

We cannot have peace with one another if we are feeling less than loving.

What was “new” about this commandment? Love wasn’t new, it is in the Ten Commandments. What was new was the depth and the extent of the love Jesus commanded His people to do. Jesus loved His own to the end, fully and consistently and completely. He gave the sop to Judas. Giving the morsel to someone at a dinner was a manner and custom in Israelite banquets. The host showed utmost respect and love to a person, by personally handing him a morsel, sometimes even placing it in the recipient’s mouth himself. Judas was to betray Jesus in mere hours, but Jesus still loved Judas to the end. He gave him the sop. THAT is the new kind of love.

The fruit of the Spirit is all one fruit. It isn’t that we work on peace one week and then patience the next… The first fruit mentioned is love. ALL other fruit stem from this one fruit. If we are loving we will be patient, we will be joyful, we will be gentle, we will employ self-control, and so on. Jesus was at peace relationally with Judas the Betrayer and demonstrated that peace through His loving act of giving the morsel.

Peace with one another is to be sought because we love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here is a wonderful 45 minute sermon by Harry Walls at Grace Community Church about the kind of love Jesus expects from us.
Connecting with Quality Love by Harry Walls

Here is an article about Peace from Compelling Truth:
In What Way is Peace a Fruit of the Spirit?

peace verse.jpg
EPrata photo
Posted in theology, word of the week

Sunday Word of the Week: Fruit of the Spirit, Joy

By Elizabeth Prata

On Sundays I usually post a theological word with its definition, then an explanation, and use it in a verse. I also use a picture to represent the concept. This is my effort to maintain a theological literacy among the brethren and between generations, something I believe is critical. We have to know what we believe, why, and know the words to express it. Words like Justification, Immanence, and Perspicuity have all been a Sunday Word of the Week.

8341e-word2bcloud

Similarly, when we discuss other words such as love, peace, and joy, we think we know what they mean, but often times these culturally embedded words have a totally different flavor when used from a biblical context. It is true of the words pertaining to the Fruit of the Spirit. Even these ‘simpler’ biblical words are misunderstood.

Therefore, over the next 9 weeks the Word of the Week will be one of the 9 Fruit of the Spirit.

Joy

 

 

The following is from the systematic theology book Biblical Doctrine, by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, eds.

Joy is a happiness based on unchanging divine promises and eternal spiritual realities. It is a sense of well-being expressed by one who knows that all is well between oneself and the Lord. (1 Peter 1:8). Joy is not the result of favorable circumstances but occurs even when those circumstances are the most painful and severe. (John 16:20-22; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). Joy is a gift from God, and as such, believers are not to manufacture it but to delight in the blessings they already possess. (Philippians 4:4).

Produced by the Holy Spirit, (Romans 14:17), joy is appropriate both in the good times (3 John 4) and in the times of testing (James 1:2-4). Joy is a deep, abiding inner thankfulness to God for His goodness that is not diminished or interrupted when less-than-desirable circumstances intrude on one’s life.

joy verse

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

The Herd Mentality v. Self-Control

My grandparents were born in around 1900. The emigrated to the US in their 20s and soon after had accumulated enough money to buy a car. They liked to drive. However they were not so great with directions. When my grandfather didn’t know in what direction to go, my grandmother would helpfully advise, “Follow him. He looks like he knows where he’s going.”

Have you heard of the phrase, ‘herd mentality’? Wikipedia explains it,

Herd mentality, or mob mentality, describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors.

Or this definition from The Royal Society-

Herding can be defined as the phenomenon of individuals deciding to follow others and imitating group behaviours rather than deciding independently and atomistically on the basis of their own, private information. Article- Herding, social influence and economic decision-making

We see the follow-the-crowd mentality in stock markets and even in home design trends.

Sociologists researched this phenomenon at Leeds University.

Researchers at Leeds University performed a group experiments where volunteers were told to randomly walk around a large hall without talking to each other. A select few were then given more detailed instructions on where to walk. The scientists discovered that people end up blindly following one or two instructed people who appear to know where they’re going. The results of this experiments showed that it only takes 5% of confident looking and instructed people to influence the direction of the 95% of people in the crowd and the 200 volunteers did this without even realizing it. (Source)

Herd mentality is real. Following a crowd in home decor trends is not a dangerous activity, but other follow-the-crowd activities are.

Parents often worry about their teenager falling in with the wrong crowd. That’s because they know how impressionable youths can be and how easily they can be led to certain behavior through peer pressure. It’s one reason I object so strongly to the exclusion of parents or other adults from the youth-oriented Passion conferences. This is a conference where tens of thousands of youths congregate for allegedly spiritual purposes, to receive instruction, and to engage in social justice activities. This last is helped along by the organizers having stationed many ATMs throughout the venue so the youths will donate money to social justice causes. And they do. Of course, donating to charities is not bad, but arming teenagers with credit cards, separating them from their parents, and inoculating them with incessant sermons preaching about donating to social causes, means it’s easy to induce the desired behavior from your captive subjects.

However, the herd mentality phenomenon is not restricted to youths, as the example above from Leeds University shows. Here is an example from the Bible which shows, in my opinion, just how easily led the heart and mind can be. In this example, we see how easily adults can fall prey to blindly following a crowd.

So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.  (Acts 19:29-32).

The scene is Ephesus, and Paul is preaching. Ephesus was a wealthy city with numerous guilds such as coppersmiths and silversmiths. The smiths were engaged in a monetarily healthy trade in making false idols to the local deity, Artemis. Demetrius, a silversmith, had quickly seen the effect Paul’s preaching had had on the city’s new converts. They no longer bought idols of silver, and his income was affected. This could not stand. Demetrius incited a riot. The city-folk streamed into the amphitheater.

One reason I love the scriptures the way they are written is the Holy Spirit-inspired details. If you read the entire passage in context, It’s pretty dramatic. The scene is vivid. Picture any B-movie from the 1950s where the villagers are storming the castle with pitchforks. The crowd is unruly, loud,angry, and dangerous. They were also intent on making their point and the adrenaline rush of fury and tumult carried them along. But then you see the few words at the tail end of verse 32, lol.

most of them did not know why they had come together

MOST of them
did NOT know why
they were THERE

Not a few of them, not that some of them, MOST of the people did NOT know why they were headed up the hill and sitting at the local colosseum yelling their heads off.

I’m reminded of this past week’s Women March on Washington where thousands of feminists streamed to the capitol to demand nebulous ‘rights’. However, when Christian reporters and theologians who were there interviewed several women and asked them why they came, the women didn’t know. It reminded me of the riot in Ephesus all over again.

If you read to verse 34, it says But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

I’m sure you’ve ever been to a high school pep rally or a sports event. The crowd stomps the bleachers and sings ‘We will rock you’, we are the champions’ etc. We have Queen to thank for his everlasting rally cry. Listen, if you will, to the first 35 seconds or so.

I avoid loud gatherings as an adult, but in high school pep rally assemblies were compulsory. I vividly remember the reverberations of the bleachers, the stomping, how quickly the first stomp grew to a unified sound that morphed into the song. It went on for a while, maybe a few minutes. But it didn’t last long. It’s hard for a crowd to remain vigorous in its unified efforts and soon the effort fall apart into distinct voices and scattered stomps, then ended.

In Ephesus, they cried out with one voice for two hours. Just imagine if the entire football stadium was singing ‘We will rock you’ for two hours, solid.

We see another mob mentality moment in Genesis 19:4-11. The scene is Sodom and the place is Lot’s house. The mob surrounded the house where the two angels dwelt and pressed so hard against the door that the angels struck them blind, but they still groped for the door.

Imagine the scene just prior to this, though. The news that two handsome men – strangers – were at Lot’s house spread through the city like wildfire. The verse says that men from all quarters of the city came to Lot’s house. The news spread and it ignited feet. Soon the men were like pillaging villagers ready to storm the castle, or in this case, Lot’s door. An entire population rushed there, yelling, demanding, just as the people did in Ephesus.

I think these examples of herd mentality (and also the example of the angry mob that stoned Stephen in Acts 7) show just how sinful we are. Even after salvation, the tendency to follow the crowd is still present in the heart and mind, because we are still sinners and not glorified yet. I believe this is why so many passages and verses advise wisdom and self-control. I think it’s especially important when a church is considering leaders for their local body. Anyone who consistently engages in self-controlled, measured actions based on wisdom and not an unreasoning follow-the-crowd mentality is definitely leader material.

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

Strong’s Concordance says of the word self-control here-

egkráteia (1466)  – properly, dominion within, i.e. “self-control” – proceeding out from within oneself, but not by oneself.
For the believer, 1466 /egkráteia (“self-control, Spirit-control”) can only be accomplished by the power of the Lord. Accordingly, 1466 /egkráteia (“true mastery from within”) is explicitly called a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:23).

Paul talked about this exact kind of self-control to Felix in Acts 24:25. Peter talked about self-control in 2 Peter 1:5-6,

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 

It’s easy to follow a crowd. All too easy. It’s hard to withstand the stream of thousands of people headed in one direction. It takes self-control to stop either actually or metaphorically as you’re buffeted by people all around you headed in a certain direction and you’re not at all sure you want to go. It takes strength to stand quietly for a moment and think, assess, and pray for wisdom. It is very hard NOT to follow the crowd.

But always remember that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Though we have the sinful tendency in us to easily become unreasoning animals and follow whatever crowd is doing, we have the Holy Spirit. Self-control proceeds out from within us, but is not by us. It’s Him. All him. When we rely on the Spirit to induce in us the control we need, Jesus receives glory.