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

Guess which fruit of the Spirit is little spoken of and hardest to practice?

By Elizabeth Prata

You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit!

People of an age know this saying. It used to be said quite often. In some small pockets, it still is.

It was a time when parents were the boss and the kids were supposed to gratefully and quietly receive whatever it is that was being handed out. No asking for something different. No demanding ‘I want it now’. No waiting till a more convenient time for them. It was eat this/do this now or forgo it totally.

I blame Burger King’s “Have it your way“. (Just kidding, but let’s take a look as a metaphorical example).

For 40 years Burger King has been touting that you don’t need to eat cookie cutter meals without substitutions, taking what’s presented as is (take THAT, McDonald’s) but you can mix and match to your liking. After 40 years BK decided that they weren’t only going to let you know that you can have it your way, but you can “BE your way”. In other words, create your own reality. All so that customers can make an emotional connection with the fast food company and their product. Sometimes I wonder about ad people…:)

Fernando Machado, Burger King’s senior vice president of global brand management, explained.

Burger King says in a statement that the new motto is intended to remind people that they can and should live how they want anytime. It’s ok to not be perfect … Self-expression is most important … By contrast, he said, “Be Your Way” is about making a connection with a person’s greater lifestyle. … champion individuality…

And so it continues.

‘Have it your way’ is the embedded motto of a generation. That’s fine, ad people can devise jingles and slogans all they want. The generation they’re aiming at with their message are constantly barraged with societal claims to individuality and instant gratification, so be it. It shouldn’t affect Christians. Until it does.

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Prov. 25:28).

When a child of the millennium converts, he has to dispense with the cultural baggage he’s accumulated, here in the West anyway. They are a new creation and must unlearn the cultural mandates of self-indulgence and instant gratification. The child who won’t take no for an answer in the grocery aisle. The teen who demands a phone upgrade. The young man dilly-dallying in college. The young adults putting off marriage and children because they need more “me time.” All for the aim of gratifying desires and indulging lusts.

Have you noticed the little-talked about mandate in the Bible about self-control? Its silence in preaching and discussion is out of proportion to the number of times we’re told to practice it. I think we do need to talk about self-control more.

Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 1:5-7, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 speaks of self-control in the following particular sense. Discipline and self-control are important. I’ll lay the foundation of what self-control is before getting to why it’s critical to develop it.

In the Greek according to Strong’s, the word self-control as it is used in the above 3 verses, it’s “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).”

Today we will examine the fruit of self-control (Gal. 5:23). Basically, to have self-control means that we behave in a manner appropriate to the given situation. It means we defer when it is appropriate to defer. It means we speak when we need to speak. It means that we control our tempers and do not blow up every time things do not go our way. It means that we ignore the minor mistakes of others instead of trying to prove that we are always right.

Exercising self-control often means that we put other people before ourselves. It often involves putting the good of a group ahead of the good of an individual. Source

Since we know what self-control means, why is it important to cultivate it? Aside from the biblical mandate that says we must, that is.

Because self-control leads to self-denial. We are supposed to pick up our cross and deny ourselves. How can we deny ourselves if we can’t control ourselves?

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

If we are constantly indulging every whim, we won’t have developed the fortitude to deny ourselves on behalf of another person’s good. If we can’t control our tongue, for example, and display some restraint with what we want to say, we tarnish our witness before the unsaved. Even more so, in this age of self-expression and instantly fulfilled desires, a sacrificial, unselfish love will stand out like a beacon.

Here are some resources on developing self-control-

What does the Bible say about self-discipline?

Self-Control

Learning Self-Discipline

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Posted in theology

Dudette, where’s your gravitas?

By Elizabeth Prata

Last week I asked Do You Like or Dislike Podcasts? I’d admitted that my toleration level for any and all auditory stimuli is low, due to my autism. Therefore if I’m going to listen to something I’d rather it be a sermon or soft classical music (very calming).

The title question is a paraphrase from a Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood article which asked the men “Dude, Where’s Your Gravitas?

Gravitas is a Latin word meaning dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner. Bible teachers, speakers, and podcasters are handling the word of God. They are conveying or teaching doctrines or concepts related to theology and its application to Christian living.

Sadly, many podcasts by both men and woman sink into silly behavior from the podcaster, especially when there are two or more hosts, or a host and a guest. There’s so much giggling, laughing, and off-topic, random chats that I usually reach my limit within just a few minutes, and turn it off or move the dial to something more productive. I also think it’s asking a lot of the podcaster to expect busy moms and outside the home working women to devote their limited time listening to their tee-heeing and non-productive repartee.

Quite often when I publish an essay regarding false doctrine brought by a false teacher, I receive angry comments and emails telling me to ‘judge not’ and the like. But strangely, the angrier emails and comments I receive come when I publish an essay urging women to behave biblically. My, how so many women resent being urged to behave like biblical women!

But the Bible demands certain behavior from all of the faithful in every age group. We women, we are told to be a graceful pillar

May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace; (Psalm 144:12).

Pillars, ladies, Not a braying donkey.

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A friend sent me a link to an Elisabeth Elliot talk on Youtube. Elliot (1926-2015) was a missionary along with her husband to the unreached group the Auca of eastern Ecuador. After what seemed a successful first few contacts, the Auca massacred her husband and four other missionaries with him. Elliot remained in Ecuador after her husband’s death for two years as missionary to the tribe members who killed her husband. She remained in Ecuador overall until 1963.

Elliot was a popular speaker and author. Many of her talks to women about wifelihood or missionary life were recorded, as the one my friend sent.

Something one notices immediately upon listening to Elliot is her demeanor. She speaks slowly, carefully, soberly. (Titus 2:3,5). I think of someone like Beth Moore, where her speech patterns are so frenetic that when Chris Rosebrough introduces a segment about her he plays “Flight of the Bumblebee”. Or Christine Caine, who, at Passion 2019, yelled a lot and never stopped striding around the stage (in a track suit). A Bible teacher’s demeanor like Elisabeth’s will cause one to stop, listen, and take what is said more seriously because of the gravitas inherent in the woman. She spoke of heavenly things with respect for heaven.

The following is from Council of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, it says of gravitas in men (change the pronoun to woman)-

“That is a man of gravitas. There is a solemn weight to the way he carries himself. He believes in truth. He walks in love, joy, passion, and conviction. There’s an undeniable winsome seriousness evident in his character, his words, his thoughts, and his motivations.”

The Bible says of women,
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3-5).

From Strong’s,

 

  • reverent in Titus 2:3- means, befitting men, places, actions, or things sacred to God, reverent
  • self-controlled in Titus 3:5- sṓphrōn (“acting in God’s definition of balance”) makes someone genuinely temperate, i.e. well-balanced from God’s perspective. True balance is not “one-size-fits-all” nor is it blandly static. This root then reflects living in God-defined balance.
  • The root is the root of “diaphram,” the inner organ (muscle) that regulates physical life, controlling breathing and heart beat.
  • The whole word-family comes from sōos “safe” and phrēn “what regulates life”, which is the root of the English term “diaphram”.
  • Example: An opera singer controls the length (quality) of their tones by their diaphragm which even controls the ability to breathe and moderates heartbeat. Hence it regulates (“brings safety”) to the body, keeping it properly controlled.

A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches. (Proverbs 11:16)

The word honor as used in the Proverb here means ‘of a woman’. It’s used elsewhere to indicate- a doe (Nahum 3:4); a precious stone (Proverbs 5:19); of ornaments (Proverbs 17:8; Proverbs 1:9; Proverbs 4:9; Proverbs 3:22.) Source, Strong’s.

One thing that Phil Johnson and Todd Friel remarked upon when discussing a “teaching” clip from Beth Moore was that her demeanor strayed from teaching the Bible with reverence and gravitas, to performance as a stand-up comedian. Dear sister, speaker, podcaster, ladies, if we are blessed with the gift of teaching and undertake that endeavor, do we want to point to ourselves in performance, or do we revere the subject matter enough to speak about our subject with not only skill and clear doctrine, but reverence and self-control?

If women are going to teach on Bible subjects, shouldn’t we act like the Bible says to act?

Just some thoughts. Let me know what you think.

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Further reading/listening

Podcast by The Thankful Homemaker: Cultivating Self-Control. Contains good thoughts on approaching Christian life and holy things with reverence, which includes self-control.

Equipping Eve by Erin Benziger is a good podcast for content, and also to demonstrate a woman with gravitas in handling the subject matter well.

Michelle Lesley is a Christian blogger, speaker, teacher, and vlogger. She projects a demeanor of joy without silliness. Both the theological content and her speaking style are, in my opinion reverent, and self-controlled. Check out her Youtube channel here

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

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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