Virtue #3: Temperance – 1 Cor. 9:24-27

Posted by: cghearn | 07/20/2014 | 12:00 pm

How do I live out temperance?

First, I need to define temperance and it is defined as, “moderation or self-restraint in action, statement, etc.; self-control.”  So therefore, self-control and temperance are synonymous with one another; they are the same.  The opposite of temperance or the sin that correlates with it is gluttony or over-indulgence.

ILLUSTRATION: Loaf of banana bread with butterscotch chips that I can’t ever seem to conquer, so I ask for it sparingly.  Another problem that sin that comes over me when I’m given this bread is greed.  The last time that I was given this bread, I was told it was for my leadership team as a whole…then I ate it whole!

This virtue is particularly important to exercise in our culture where over-indulgence is encouraged.

ILLUSTRATION: Temperance is a word taken from the word “temper” which referred to the tempering of steel.  A good sword would be heated till it was red hot, then cooled rapidly, and then it would be heated again until it was red hot and then it would be pounded on until it had the desired shape, then finally cooled again.  Temperance is something we must repeat over and over again to get it right.

What could be better if we’ve already had our fill of food than to gorge ourselves?  What could be better than 1 beer?  How about 12?  What could be better than being a millionaire?  How about being a billionaire?  Inside of religious circles what could be better than being justified by God’s grace completely and freely?  How about falling victim to becoming like the Pharisees that Christ himself detested who demanded that the righteousness of God comes through good works and not the sacrifice that was made for the elect on the cross?

Thomas Aquinas says of temperance, “Temperance is simply a disposition of the mind which binds the passion.”  There are times when passion is directed toward God and His purposes when it is a good thing, when we are passionate about an important issue or our family when passion is necessary.  But what about when we allow our passion to run free in our emotions?  How about in our anger?  How about in our lust?  I believe that temperance is the key to practicing all the other virtues because without self-control, we maintain a spirit of carnality.

Doctrine of sermon: Temperance is essential to the longevity of the faithfulness of a believer

How do I live out temperance?

Think of yourself as a spiritual athlete

Paul is using a metaphor concerning salvation and he’s not telling us to simply try to be saved; he’s saying go all out.  Athletes don’t compete for 2nd place (no one says I can’t wait to race so that I can win that bronze medal!)

CAN YOU IMAGINE GOING ONLY MOST WAY WITH MARRIAGE? (talk about partial wedding vows)

CAN YOU IMAGINE A COACH MOTIVATING HIS ATHLETES TO GIVE SOME EFFORT? (talk about a coach giving a semi-motivational speech)

CAN YOU IMAGINE A WITNESS TAKING THE STAND THAT COMMITS TO PARTIAL TRUTH? (talk about a witness that swears to tell part of the truth)

The Isthmian games, in which the foot race was a leading one, were a subject of patriotic pride to the Corinthians, to whom Paul was writing.  They would have very clearly understood the illustration that Paul was using here concerning being of a temperate, self-controlled nature.

This word that Paul uses here for “self-control” is the same word used by him later on in Galatians which is “ἐγκράτεια” and the idiom of the word meant “to hold one’s self in.”

ILLUSTRATION: HAVE YOU EVER WISHED THAT YOU HAD HELD YOURSELF IN RATHER THAN SAID SOMETHING STUPID?  That happens a lot as a pastor.  You come into a situation where someone is expecting wise counsel and instead you say something absolutely moronic (you say it then try to pull it out of the air and put it back into your mouth).

Redemption: If we’re going to learn to hold ourselves in, then we’re going to have to be able to endure through hardships in our lives…

How do I live out temperance?

Hardship requires temperance

What Paul is talking about here is discipline which is an extremely unpopular word in a “me first” society which is why it is so extremely vital.  Living a life filled with discipline means that we’re living with a certain aim.  We’re not flowing with the breeze, we have a direction that we’re going.

ILLUSTRATION: Husband or wife praying, “God, I really don’t want to have sex with them right now because I’m really mad at them….”

Some would say, “but life is hard and sometimes you just have to go with the flow.”  Let me say this so that you can understand it, God never said obey me until it is inconvenient for you.  God demands that we are obedient even if it costs us our life…even if it costs us the things we love most in this world.

ILLUSTRATION: I have a letter that I want to read to you from a lesbian to the modern church.

To the churches concerning homosexuals and lesbians:

Many of you believe that we do not exist within your walls, your schools, your neighborhoods. You believe that we are few and easily recognized. I tell you we are many. We are your teachers, doctors, accountants, high school athletes. We are all colors, shapes, sizes. We are single, married, mothers, fathers. We are your sons, your daughters, your nieces, your nephews, your grandchildren. We are in your Sunday School classes, pews, choirs, and pulpits. You choose not to see us out of ignorance or because it might upset your congregation. We ARE your congregation. We enter your doors weekly seeking guidance and some glimmer of hope that we can change. Like you, we have invited Jesus into our hearts. Like you, we want to be all that Christ wants us to be. Like you, we pray daily for guidance. Like you, we often fail.

When the word “homosexual” is mentioned in the church, we hold our breaths and sit in fear. Most often this word is followed with condemnation, laughter, hatred, or jokes. Rarely do we hear any words of hope. At least we recognize our sin. Does the church as a whole see theirs? Do you see the sin of pride, that you are better than or more acceptable to Jesus than we are? Have you been Christ-like in your relationships with us? Would you meet us at the well, or restaurant, for a cup of water, or coffee? Would you touch us even if we showed signs of leprosy, or aids? Would you call us down from our trees, as Christ did Zacchaeus, and invite yourself to be our guest? Would you allow us to sit at your table and break bread? Can you love us unconditionally and support us as Christ works in our lives, as He works in yours, to help us all to overcome?

To those of you who would change the church to accept the gay community and its lifestyle: you give us no hope at all. To those of us who know God’s word and will not dilute it to fit our desires, we ask you to read John’s letter to the church in Pergamum. “I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore!” You are willing to compromise the word of God to be politically correct. We are not deceived. If we accept your willingness to compromise, then we must also compromise. We must therefore accept your lying, your adultery, your lust, your idolatry, your addictions, YOUR sins. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

We do not ask for your acceptance of our sins any more than we accept yours. We simply ask for the same support, love, guidance, and most of all hope that is given to the rest of your congregation. We are your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not what we shall be, but thank God, we are not what we were. Let us work together to see that we all arrive safely home.

A Sister in Christ

If people think that somehow they can make Disciples of Christ without teaching them to discipline and deny themselves, then they’re not teaching people to be Disciples of Christ because you can’t have disciple without discipline…and I mean that linguistically as well as metaphorically.  In the last few years, the Presbyterians (USA) has made the decision that their pastors can be non-celibate, they can be practicing homosexuals, or they can basically live any kind of life they want, committing nearly any sin and still be affirmed as leaders of their churches.  Over the last 40 years, the denomination has shrunk dramatically and will be dead in another estimated 30 years if they continue on this course.

The Presbyterian (USA) denomination has turned from exhorting others to take the straight and narrow to being toll booth workers on the highway to destruction because they feel better about lying with a smile on their face than caring enough to confront with love and tears.

Redemption: Being temperate demands that you quench your sinful desires while pushing your flesh to do what it knows it ought to do and obey it’s conscience…

How do I live out temperance?

You must discipline your body
I have heard many Christians say apathetically, “God’s still working on me” or “I still haven’t reached perfection” when they’re clearly and unrepentantly caught in sinful habits.  They would like to excuse themselves from the mandate placed on all who confess Christ to have to fight with their fleshly desires that God has given to no man.  They wish to be free from the mandate to behave in a holy manner.

Turn with me to Hebrews 12:14

What Paul is saying here is that if you are not day by day becoming more and more like Christ then your attempt is futile and you will be disqualified from Heaven.  If you are excusing yourself from this race, from this tournament and hoping that by sitting on the bench that you will enter paradise, you are sorely mistaken.

ILLUSTRATION: Imagine that you’re at a football game and someone starts yelling and screaming because they’re sitting next to you.  They tell you that the way that you watch football is the best and that they want your autograph…why doesn’t that happen? 

In order for us to learn temperance and self-control, we must subdue our flesh and make it subject to God’s will and desire.  Then, you may ask, “Where do I start?  How do I bring my flesh into submission?”

ILLUSTRATION: The book of James speaks about the tongue being the way to bridle the whole body.

Redemption: If we are to learn temperance also known as self-control, then we must both run the race set before us as if for our very lives and we do this by mastering our flesh.


Doctrine of sermon: Temperance is essential to the longevity of the faithfulness of a believer

Application: Sometimes, self-control isn’t about learning to hold on to control, but learning to let go of control.  While self-control takes a level of discipline, often times trust is also an exercise of self-control.

ILLUSTRATION: Have someone come up to the front and ask them if they can exercise self-control. Then have them stand on stage and ask them if they trust you while someone puts a chair behind them.  After that, have them take a seat without seeing if there’s a seat behind them.