“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). And on the other hand, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).
Self-control is a mighty good thing to have. And as rare as Spanish doubloons in the Sunday offering.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). So, the much-desired quality of self-control is found among the nine traits making up the “fruit of the Spirit,” which is also a pretty solid description of Christlikeness.
The ability to master one’s own spirit is not as recognizable as its opposite, the failure or inability to control one’s inner self. That trait–a spirit out of control–is quickly on full display whenever its owner is offended, attacked, questioned, called to account for something he/she has done, or otherwise challenged. The uncontrolled spirit has no defenses against temptation, no muscles for hard tasks, and no patience with difficult people. “Love one’s enemies”? (Luke 6:27) The uncontrolled spirit has difficulty loving its own friends and thus nothing in reserve for its opponents.
“Joy is the business of Heaven.” –C. S. Lewis
What started me thinking of this was a line from James Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty.”
“Although I have had a different idea of ‘fun’ than most, there were some parts of the Justice Department that had become black holes, where joy went to die.”
James Comey explains further about his days at the Justice Department: “Places where morale had gotten so low and the battle scars from bureaucratic wrangling with other departments and the White House so deep, I worried that we were on the verge of losing some of our best, most capable lawyers.”
Sound familiar, pastor?
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
A smile is outward evidence that everything inside is in good shape. A smile is visible evidence of the joy of the Lord.
Anyone can smile. And everyone should. But those who put faith and trust in the Lord Jesus have more right to smile than anyone. They can number a hundred blessings in their lives as a result of the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ: They’ve been forgiven, cleansed by the blood, and born into the family of God. They are indwelt by the Spirit, overshadowed and undergirded by Him, and surrounded by like-minded disciples. They have the Word of God, the love of God, and the power of God. And so forth.
The unsmiling Christian is a contradiction.
Why aren’t you smiling?
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? The unsaved do that…. But love your enemies and do good and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great…. –Luke 6:32-35
I was a freshman in college, with everything that implies: I was green, scared, eager, excited, learning, stupid, silly, and a hundred other things.
Among the civilians working on our campus was Mrs. Grigsby. I can see her to this day: stern, tight-lipped, unfriendly, and unloving. We thought she looked more like a man than a woman. She was all business, never a ‘good morning,’ and generally unpleasant, we all thought.
Walking our dog this morning at dawn, the breeze was just right and the air so refreshing. I thought, “How could the feel of Heaven be any better than this?” So sweet, so satisfying.
In truth, I’ve not seen anything yet. Heaven’s blessings, of which we have just a foretaste here on Earth, are going to be indescribable.
His sweet peace is one of those foretastes.
Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you. Not as the world gives.” –John 14:27
“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit therefore to God” (James 4:6).
“Clothe yourself with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5). “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time….” (5:6).
A Facebook friend said, “I’m very proud of my humility.”
Humility is not a subject most of us would claim to know much about. In fact, we would shy away from anyone claiming to be humble. The very claim contradicts itself.
In fact, by the paradoxical nature of this trait, a truly humble person would be the last to know it. So, when told that “You are a genuinely humble person,” the appropriate response might be something like “Who, me? Thank you. I wish!”
“Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem saying, ‘Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?….And He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?'” (Matthew 15:1-3)
“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Historians tell us the Pharisees started off well, as revivalists in a way, calling the nation back to faithfulness. Eventually, however, their insistence on righteousness settled down into a code of laws and rules. They went from being encouragers to harassers, from lovers of God to bullies and legalists.
The legalist is someone who says, “I know the Lord didn’t say this, but He would have if He’d thought of it!”
The legalist is smarter than God. He helps the Lord by completing His Word, by filling in the gaps where the Lord clearly forgot to say something, explain something, or require a thing.
“And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.'” Luke 19:41-42
You’ve seen the bumper stickers and billboards. “KNOW JESUS; KNOW PEACE,” followed by “No Jesus; No Peace.”
That’s almost right, but not completely.
We hear Christians say, “If the world just knew Jesus, we would have world peace.” It sounds right, but we might be missing something.
A lot of Christians do not have peace. They are constantly beset by worries and fears, angst and anxieties. Christians are taking the prescriptions along with everyone else to settle their nerves. Something is going on. What?
Many churches–made up of born-again, Bible-believing, Christians (a redundancy if ever there was one)–are constantly at war among themselves. They argue over doctrine, where to situate the organ, whether to even have an organ, whether the pastor should wear a suit and tie or jeans and sneakers, and how much to pay the preacher. They argue over who is to run the church and divide over how long the sermons should be. And they love the Lord.
Something is wrong.
“I have spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I spoke nothing in secret” (John 18:20).
Something happened this week to remind me of why, as a young teen, I hated the typical television sitcom. I could never say “I Love Lucy.” And here’s why.
I was listening to the replay of a 1950’s radio program “The Life of Riley.” William Bendix’ character, the husband and father of the Riley household and namesake of the program, was a bumbling, stumbling embarrassment to the males in the audience, always jumping to conclusions and misunderstanding what the normal people around him were up to. He needed a good whupping, I always thought. As a nine-year-old as well as today, I find that hard to listen to.
In the early 1950s, we had no television. To watch anything, we had to walk down the country road either to my grandmother’s or to Uncle Cecil’s. Now, Granny would watch whatever you wished–she was just glad to have the company–but at my uncle’s, you sat there and watched whatever they chose. And the one program they loved above all others was “I Love Lucy.” They even named their youngest child after the baby in the show.
“Do not lie to one another, seeing you have put off the old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9).
The current issue of Vanity Fair magazine (February 2016) carries a story to keep you thinking for a week or two. You read it and think, “What? How could this happen?”
One of the producers of Meredith Viera’s NBC program fell in love with the famous heart-transplant surgeon on whom they were doing a feature. Paolo Macchiarini was amazingly accomplished, stunningly successful, and fabulously rich. He was handsome, suave, and a charmer.
The producer, Benita Alexander, on her second marriage at the time, promptly forgot her altar vows and fell head over heels for this surgeon, who wined her and dined her. Soon, they were flying all over the world, living a life of luxury, and making plans for a wedding of their own.
Meredith Viera said about the surgeon, “He’s the doctor who does the seemingly impossible, going where no other has yet dared.” The New York Times had done a front page feature on the man. He was clearly somebody.
So you’ll know, the narrator talks about the conflict of a producer having a relationship with the subject of their feature, but I’ll leave that for other people. There was something else about the story more fascinating.