Keith Hunt - Studies on Fruits of the Spirit - Part four - Page Four   Restitution of All Things

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Studies on the Fruits of the Spirit - Part four

Gentleness and Self-control


           From the Church of God, Seventh Day, Denver, CO, USA


LESSON 9

GENTLENESS (Meekness)

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to
be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be
peaceable, gentle showing all humility to all (Titus 3:1-2).

PRESENTATION: 

The Greek word 'praotes' in Galatians 5:23 implies humility and
is translated gentleness in most versions of the Bible and
meekness in others, as part of the ninefold fruit of the Spirit.
These words are closely related: gentleness is expressed in
outward action, while meekness refers to an inward attitude - a
humility or selfless spirit that doesn't try to strive against
God or assert itself against others. 
In addressing the rebellious minority in the church at Corinth,
Paul said. "I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness
and gentleness of Christ ..." (2 Corinthians 10:1). Having shared
the gospel with thousands of people and seriously confronting
some, Paul had learned the importance of using a Christlike
approach with people. The "meekness of Christ" is a humble
attitude that manifests itself in patient endurance while one is
being treated unfairly. A meek person is not bitter or angry; he
does not seek revenge when wronged. "Gentleness in Christ" is
similar. Gentle people in authority tend to be lenient and refuse
to retaliate even when they have the power to do so. They are
gracious toward those who do them wrong.

Some in Corinth mistook Paul's gentleness/meekness - approach as
weakness or even cowardice, accusing him of being bold only in
his writing but not in person. However, Paul could be bold.
Wanting to spare them (v.2), he asked the Corinthians not to
force him to be bold when they would meet with him because, if
necessary, he would be bold in confronting them (cf. vv.10,11).

Though Jesus was kind and gentle, He showed strength and firmness
when the occasion required it. The gentleness/meekness-approach
does not mean "lay down and die."

Perhaps we can better understand gentleness and meekness by
contrasting the terms with negative approaches. For example, in
his first letter to the church in Corinth Paul said, "What do you
want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of
gentleness?" (1 Corinthians 4:21.) Paul admonished the Christians
in Galatia to restore, in a spirit of gentleness, a brother who
had been caught in sin (Galatians 6:1). Not to do so in
gentleness would have been judgmental and disparaging. Jesus
spoke against being judgmental of others' shortcomings while
ignoring our own (Matthew 7:1-5).

Elsewhere in his letters, Paul associated gentleness with
patience, love, and peace (Ephesians 4:1-3). He described these
virtues as part of the spiritual attire we're to put on
(Colossians 3:12,13) and as a manner for teachers to instruct
those who oppose them (2 Timothy 2:24,25). Gentleness and
meekness are an essential part of the fruit of the Spirit.

EXPLORING:

1. a. How would the Messiah come to Jerusalem, according to one
Old Testament prophet? Zechariah 9:9.
b. How was this prophecy fulfilled at Jesus' first coming?
Matthew 21:1-6.
c. How did Jesus describe Himself as He appealed to the people to
come to Him? Matthew 11:28, 29.
d. Did Jesus' lowly, gentle spirit mean He was weak and unable to
confront? Matthew 7:1-5; Mark 3:1-5; Luke 18:9-14; John 8:11.

2. Regarding the rebellious members of the Corinthian church,
what is the meaning in Paul's statement: "I, Paul, myself am
pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ,"
found in 2 Corinthians 10:1?

Note: See paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Presentation for a discussion
about this.

3. Consider the scriptural admonition to be gentle and humble in
various circumstances.

a. What should be our conduct toward those in authority and
people in general who are not believers? Titus 3:1-7.
b. How should we deal with those who would oppose us and dispute
with us because of Christ? 2 Timothy 2:23-26.
c. How should we treat a brother who has become involved in sin?
Galatians 6:1.
d. What influence should these spiritual virtues have on the body
of the church? Ephesians 2:1-8.

4. What did Paul urge Timothy to pursue? 1 Timothy 6:11. What is
the significance for gentleness to be commonly associated with
other virtues? Galatians 5:22, 23.

RESPONDING:

1. How can gentleness/meekness affirm a person's character? Give
examples you have experienced.

2. How is gentleness/meekness easy or difficult for you to
practice?

3. a. What do you think causes people to forget to be gentle/meek
and, instead, lecture and humiliate someone who has done wrong?
b. What can you and your local congregation do to more
effectively incorporate gentleness/meekness in helping someone
who has transgressed God's Word?
c. If you were the one who had done wrong, how would you like to
be treated?

CLOSING: 

To be truly gentle and meek Christians, we must have a close
relationship with our ultimate example, our lord Jesus Christ.
This is not accomplished by human effort; the Holy Spirit
empowers us so the fruit of the Spirit will flourish in our
lives. But we must humbly seek the Spirit's help and guidance to
be gentle and meek toward all people with whom we have contact
and fellowship, especially fellow believers.


LESSON 10

SELF-CONTROL(Temperance)

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one
receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And
everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.
Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an
imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:24,25).

PRESENTATION: 

The Greek word 'enkrateia,' the ninth virtue in the fruit of the
Spirit (Galatians 5:23), is translated self-control in some
versions of the Bible and temperance in others. Persons with this
virtue have the ability to master their desires and passions.

Self-control appears only a few times in the New Testament.

First Corinthians 9:25 helps us understand the concept of this
virtue. Here Paul says athletes must exercise self-control
(temperance) to qualify for strenuous competition. Two versions
use modern wording to make it easier for us to understand today:
"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training"
(New International Version) and "To win the contest you must deny
yourselves many things" (The Living Bible). The same idea of
running a race is used in Hebrews 12:1; self-control is implied.

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12:1-3

OBJECTIVES: 

To learn the meaning of self-control, determine its source, and
study the ways we must exercise it to be unhindered in our walk
with the Lord.

HEALING FOR THE SPIRIT

How can we remove the cancers of our spirit, the aspects of our
character that destroy our integrity? David the psalmist declared
that he would guard his ways "lest I sin with my tongue; I will
restrain my mouth" (Ps.39:1). What a great intention! If only we
could carry it out. Yet the reality is, "no man can tame the
tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:8).
No wonder, then, that as David attempted to restrain himself, he
felt ready to burst - and finally did (Ps.39:1-3). Yet instead of
dumping emotional and spiritual poisons on his enemies, he gained
insight into himself and his condition as a frail human being
(39:4-6). This realism enabled David to cast himself upon God for
help and deliverance from his sinful patterns (39:713).
Perhaps like David you need some new understandings of yourself
in order to diagnose the true condition of your soul. Why not ask
the Lord to perform spiritual healing on you? He alone "forgives
all your iniquities" and heals all your diseases" (103:3).

From "The Word In Life"(TM) Study Bible, copyright 1993, 1996 by
Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

Disciplined runners discard any extra weight that hinders them
and persevere by prioritizing their training. Their activities,
diet, physical rest, etc., must all be geared toward preparing to
race. For many centuries athletes who have been serious about
succeeding in their chosen sport have adhered to a strict
routine. Likewise, Christians need to be just as disciplined in
their spiritual race.

For Christians, self-control is not a way of salvation, but a
result of it. That's why it is listed as a part of the fruit of
the Spirit. In other words, self-control is a result of being
spiritual and not a way of becoming spiritual, as in the eastern
religions. Acquiring spiritual virtues begins with knowing God,
believing in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, confessing our
sins, and receiving the Holy Spirit. Self-control cannot stand by
itself; it must have the support of other spiritual virtues and
the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Self-control comprises thoughts, behavior, and emotions. These
can be detected in the context of 1 Corinthians 7:1-9: Sexual
purity results from self-control in outward behavior, inner
emotions, and thinking. Anger is another area in which Christians
are expected to exercise self-control (Ephesians 4:26). The
questions discuss additional ways in which we must rely on the
Holy Spirit for self-control.

EXPLORING:

1. What is the origin of self-control, along with other Christian
virtues? 2 Peter 1:2-7; Galatians 5:22, 23.

2. In what areas must self-control be effective in a Christian's
life? Consider the respective areas mentioned in the following
texts. 
a. Proverbs 16:32; 25:25; 29:11
b. Romans 12:3
c. 1 Corinthians 9:27


3. a. How does the idea of self-control (temperance) become
clearer when it is compared to the discipline practiced by
athletes? Hebrews 12:1.
b. What do disciplined runners do to prepare themselves for the
race and during the race?
c. How are Christians encouraged to be like disciplined runners?

4. What kinds of things must we exert control over because they
would hinder our walk with the Lord? Consider the following
texts. 
a. 1 Peter 2:1
b. Psalm 39:1-3
c. Proverbs 23:29-35
d. 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4

RESPONDING:

1. a. What kind of actions demonstrating self-control have you
admired in other people - either acquaintances or biblical
characters?
b. What kind of self-control have you tried for yourself?

2. a. Can you remember an athletic person in your life whom you
admired or who was admired by some of your friends? How did you
feel about this person? Why?
b. How do you feel about the self-control exercised by athletes?
c. How do you feel about well disciplined Christians?
d. How do you see yourself in relation to self-control? What
obstacles did you have to overcome?

3. a. Over which of the three areas (behavior, thoughts,
feelings) do you feel are most difficult for people to exercise
self-control?
b. Which of the three areas are most difficult for you? Why? What
do you do to overcome them? What helps you to exercise
self-control?

CLOSING: 

The Holy Spirit gives us self-control so we can be masters over
our desires and passions. In spiritual warfare we are constantly
bombarded with temptations to do things contrary to God's will.
But, praise the Lord!, the Holy Spirit has empowered us to defuse
the temptations by controlling our desires.



Lesson 11

CRUCIFY THE WORKS OF THE FLESH

And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its
passions and desires (Galatians 5:24).

PRESENTATION:

When Paul wrote about crucifying the flesh with its passions and
desires, he was not talking about killing our physical body. The
body was created a neutral, natural entity. The context in which
Paul uses flesh in Galatians 5:13,16, and 17 is the sinful
inclination of fallen humanity. In a person's unredeemed status,
the mind, will, and emotions are all subject to sin. As humans,
we all inherited the inclination to sin from our first parents,
Adam and Eve.

Only God is able to change a person's bent to sin, referred to as
the "lust of the flesh" in several scriptures. Through His
unfathomable saving grace, God gave His only Son, Jesus Christ,
to pay the penalty for our sin and set us free from slavery to
sin. Jesus gave us liberty: freedom from sin, from the law, as a
means of salvation, and from the law's ceremonial regulations as
a burdensome lifestyle. But Paul warned to not use this freedom
as a license to sin - not to allow lustful desires to reenter our
lives.

What are the "works of the flesh" we are to crucify? Paul speaks
of such elements in several passages (Galatians 5:19-21a; 1
Corinthians 6:9,10; Colossians 3:5-9). Flesh as used in these
texts clearly refers to our sinful nature and not to our physical
body, which in itself is neither sinful nor holy. The body's
sinfulness or holiness is determined by whether we yield to
lustful desires of the flesh or to the Holy Spirit. Certain
desires are appropriate if we use them properly, but they become
sinful if we abuse them. For example, ambition to serve the Lord
is appropriate, but selfish ambition leads to sin. Also, our
sexuality in itself is natural and neutral, but when allowed, the
sinful nature misguides it. In this case, we do not crucify our
sexuality but our sexual lust (fleshly desire, or inclination to
sin)...

Therefore, we must be careful to understand what the Bible says
about the flesh, so we don't assume all references to flesh mean
the sinful nature. Let's not think negatively of the beauty of
the human body, which is God's creation...

WHAT DOES FLESH MEAN?

The word flesh has several different meanings in the Bible. Eight
categories are listed here with scriptures related to each.

the human body: 2 Corinthians 7:5 (KJV); 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 John
4:2, 3; 2 John 7
people: Matthew 24:22; Romans 3:20
descendant of a particular family, nationality, or designation:
Acts 2:30; Romans 9:3,5; 11:14; 1 Corinthians 10:18; Ephesians
2:11
union in marriage: Matthew 19:5,6; 1 Corinthians 6:16 (analogy to
illicit relationship); Ephesians 5:31
the flesh of living creatures: 1 Corinthians 15:39
the body as distinguished from the spirit: John 6:52; 
1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 4:11; 7:1; Colossians 2:5
this world's qualities: 2 Corinthians 1:12; 10:4 (NASB)
human nature, inclined to sin: Romans 8:3-6, 13; Galatians 5:16;
Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 2:18; 1 Peter 2:11

EXPLORING:

1. Refer to the ABOVE to briefly discuss the different meanings
of flesh as it is used in the Scriptures.

2. What does flesh mean in Galatians 5:17: "The flesh lusts
against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these
are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things
that you wish"? Compare with Romans 7:18; 8:5.

3. a. What are the works (including passions and desires) of the
flesh that we need to crucify to live for Christ in the Spirit? 
1 Corinthians 6:9,10; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9.
b. Which of these acts are prohibited in the Ten Commandments
(Exodus 20:3-17), either by name or implication?

4. a. Some claim that Christians have reached a state of
perfection and they no longer have to worry about the works of
the flesh. What does Scripture teach regarding this? 1 Peter 5:8,
9; Romans 7:21-25.
b. Is Colossians 3:5-12 addressed to believers or non-believers?
What part of the text helped you to arrive at your
interpretation?
c. What does John say about the importance of recognizing our
sins? 1 John 1:8-2:10. What is the first step an alcoholic, or
anyone with an addiction, has to take before starting the process
of recovery?

5. How can we live a victorious life over fleshly lusts?
Galatians 2:20; 5:16.

RESPONDING:

1. a. Pretend the list of works of the flesh is a check list for
your personal review. Are you finding weak points in your life?
b. How may Christians benefit by reviewing this list?
c. How does one go about crucifying such acts? Try to be
specific, instead of philosophical.
d. PERSONAL. On one side of a card write a list of the main works
of the flesh that hinder you. On the other side write, "I
acknowledge my weakness, but I can overcome all things through
Jesus Christ." Keep this with you. When you are tempted to
perform such acts, read the list and then read the statement on
the other side. Trust God to help you, and ask for the Holy
Spirit's strength and guidance.

2. "Those who deny their shadows only project their evil onto
others and see it in them. Those who repress their shadows to
maintain their purity and innocence are sometimes overcome by
them and swept away in their very own evil." William A. Miller,
Make Friends with Your Shadow (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing
House, 1981, p.12).
a. Is there a "shadow" haunting you that appears on the list of
the works of the flesh? How does this quote address you?
b. How does this quote make sense for you? How do you feel about
it?

CLOSING:

Though we have become new creatures in Christ by asking Him to
become our Lord and Savior, we will struggle with our carnal
nature for the rest of this life. Satan cunningly tries to stir
up old passions, tempting us to commit evil deeds, so we must be
alert. The Holy Spirit is our constant companion to help us
overcome the sinful habits of the flesh.

                             .................

TO BE CONTINUED


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