Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Power of Self-Control

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control“ - Galatians 5:22

I am truly stubborn.  I don’t say that out of pride, but humility.  I’m stubborn in the worst way – the strong-willed child of God way.  I know to do good, and don’t do it.  What I often do is let my inner me overcome the me I want to be.

This morning I was reading in Judges how the Israelites moved into the Promised Land, and within one generation they turned to idols, and forsake God.  I sat here thinking, “How could they? What was it they saw in these idols that God did not give them?”  The answer was immediate. 

Rebellion feels good.  Admit it – that’s why most of us were troublesome in our teen years.  Even now, those tiny things we hide are our pleasures.  Sneaking the piece of chocolate while we diet. Taking a break from social media but checking it anyway.  Telling a lie just for the sake of telling it.  We love to rebel. It’s in our nature.

Jesus warned us that our will would get in the way of our work for Him.  Matthew 26:41 he said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  The spirit He speaks of is with a small “s” – meaning our spirit – not the Holy Spirit.  While we’re willing to do good, our flesh is so very weak and inclined to sin.

There’s a battle raging inside every child of God.  It’s the battle of wills – God’s will for you, or your own will.  Paul describes it in detail in Romans 7:15-25 (NLT):
“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.  But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.   And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.] I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.   I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

I know that’s a brain twister when we first read it with 10 Do’s and 5 Don’ts, but Paul explains the battle inside so well!  The condensed version is this:  Yes, there’s a battle of wills inside us. But through the Holy Spirit given by Jesus Christ at salvation, we can be free from the chains of sin. That Holy Spirit gives us a fruit called self-control.  Self-control is our weapon against temptations. 

I used to pray that God would give me more love, the first fruit of the Spirit. But now I realize that if I have self-control, I can become a fruity Christian!  I am able to love when my nature wants to hate, make peace when I indeed want to lash out, be longsuffering instead of spiteful and grudgeful, be kind (even at Wal-Mart!), show good to others, be faithful to my God’s will, be gentle instead of rambunctious like a bull in a china store!  With self-control, I can be obedient to God’s will.

Lord, grant us an abundance of self-control! Holy Spirit remind us with that internal nudge when we are going off track that we have control – we just have to surrender, and choose to do what is right.  Remind us of the blessings, the fruits that can be born from our obedience in our lives.  And Father, thank you for your undying love and patience. Amen.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Receiving the Counsel of God

Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord." – Joshua 9:14

Joshua and the Israelites had defeated many of their neighbors as they moved into the Promised Land.  This caused fear to rise among all the nations that remained.  They had heard of the power of God, how the Jordan River was heaped up to stand while they all walked across on dry land.  They had heard how they defeated mighty armies and burned Jericho.

In a scheme to try to befriend them, men from Gibeon disguised themselves as travelers from far away.  They work old torn clothes, carried moldy bread and torn wineskins, and broken sandals to appear as if they’d travelled very far.  They spoke to Joshua and stated they had heard the work of God and how He delivered the Israelites and wanted to make a treaty with them.  They asked to be their servants, trying to find a peace treaty with Israel.  Yet, the Gibeonites were an idolatrous nation, a very large nation, and God had asked them to tear down all idolatry. 

What happens next changed the course of history.  Without seeking God’s wisdom, which knew the scheme these men had created, Joshua made the treaty with them.  Only days later as others in the camp had searched out the lands around them, they discovered these men were liars.  After swearing to them by the Lord God of Israel, there was no turning back on the treaty.  This treaty ended up putting the Israelites at war with the Amorites trying to protect Gibeon.

Friends, our God knows the future as history.  He knows every lie told, every obstacle in our future path.  Nothing in this life is more important that asking God for His will in our day to day decisions.  This is where the men of Israel messed up with Gibeon – “but they did not ask counsel of the Lord”. 

Let us never forget the great wealth of information God has regarding our lives.  He knows our life, our relationships, our health, our wealth, our past, our future, and more.  Let us never fail to ask Him to deliver us from the lies of mankind and the obstacles He already has seen.  When we make our own choices based on what we believe to be true, we risk more than we are aware. Our loving Father is just a prayer away.