Self-Sufficiency vs. Temperance

For September 19, 2021
When asked which was the greatest of all God’s Commandments, Jesus said there were two: we must love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbors to the same extent that we love ourselves (Matthew 22:36–40, Mark 12:28–34, Luke 10:25–37).

The Lord’s answer reveals His desire that we live in harmony with God, neighbors, and ourselves, even when meeting our physical, social, and aesthetic needs. Altruism sustains and improves our quality of life, while exploiting people and things for our own sensual gratification does not.

One biblical example was Simon Magus, who offered Peter money for the Holy Spirit’s power (Acts 8:13; 18–19). His intent was to enhance his own power and magic, when the Holy Spirit was free to all who sought a real spiritual transformation. There are many false teachers who embrace a secular form of Christianity where the Word of God and the Holy Spirit do not govern our thoughts, words, and conduct. Instead, they promote a new theology where whatever “feels” good or right is of greater value.

Theirs is a never ending battle to accommodate two diametrically opposed realities: to acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and experience His abundant and eternal life, or to surrender to the Adversary, Satan, and embrace the consequential life of sin, debauchery and death.

The Bible depicts the time just before our Lord’s return as a lust-driven world of addictions, where iniquity abounds and where people no longer have a regard for their fellow human beings. Instead, using/exploiting human beings while protecting and cherishing animate and inanimate things will be common and expected as people pursue the pride of life, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh.

The pride of life is a self-centered obsession with power or influence, without regard for God’s purpose to maintain order, render justice, and help others in need. The lust of the eyes is coveting things of value for our own gratification when God wants us to show benevolence towards the less fortunate through charitable giving, to provide for His ministers (foreign and domestic) through tithes and offerings, and to take care of their families according to the bountiful measure the Lord has bestowed on them.

The lust of the flesh is the overindulgence of our sensual desires. Gluttony, substance abuse, and sexual incorrigibility are all forms of this obsession. The Bible teaches that sexual incorrigibility devastates God’s plan to sustain healthy, interpersonal relationships. Fornication, adultery, homosexuality, masturbation, voyeurism, pedophilia, rape, and pornography all lead to what one writer terms as false intimacy,

The fantasies of a sex addict are feeble attempts to gain what only God is capable of giving, which we will experience partially on earth and fully in Heaven. Sexual fantasy can conjure up a perfect world of nourishment, love, generosity, and tenderness…The truth is, however, that when we try to bury the core reality of emptiness, the result is false intimacy, not genuine. When we insist that our needs of intimacy be fulfilled and ignore the reality that loneliness is always present, we get the very opposite of what we’re demanding: We’re left alone to stare with open eyes at the harsh reality of nakedness.1

Sexual gratification outside of God’s purpose for intimacy yields shattered hopes, destroyed relationships, and feelings of intense guilt, shame, and emptiness. People who seek mere physical enjoyment outside of the commitment of love and fidelity in marriage, are deceiving themselves,

Don’t buy into the promotion of sex as mere physical enjoyment totally apart from the commitment of love. Men [and women] who open their Christmas present before the holiday invariably find themselves bored by the celebration.2

Sexual promiscuity has never been the identification badge that Christians should brazenly display brazenly before the world, because our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to represent Him with moral (and spiritual) purity. By His Holy Spirit, we are endowed with the remarkable ability to resist not only the lusts of the flesh in general, and sexual cravings in particular.

We admire those who practice a personal self-control by presenting a morally temperate lifestyle to contrast the licentiousness accepted and encouraged by our world. Christ gives us the strength we need to live in a sexually responsible manner. Through Christ, we now can share a willingness to honor him, to serve others, and to meet our needs safely and appropriately. When He transformed us from the inside out, He released us from the bondage of sin and gave us the ability to resist temptation as we walk in His Spirit.

Over time, we can grow into morally astute practitioners of the Christian faith who refrain from exploiting others. With our growing moral consciousness, we produce the living fruit that validates our Christian witness,

There must be a sincere change in one’s lifestyle. A person who has genuinely repented will stop doing evil and begin to live righteously. Along with a change of mind and attitude, true repentance will begin to produce a change in conduct.3

Joseph, in the Old Testament, expressed temperance toward Potiphar’s wife, and He said that having sex with her would be an offense against Potiphar and God. We who are in Christ should practice such chastity, especially since we represent Him and have His omnipotent Spirit living inside us.

Demonstrating a personal self-control before a morally decadent world is one way that we can provide hope to those who struggle in the area of sexual sin. Establishing appropriate sexual boundaries is essential,

What matters…[is] maintaining a boundary against sexual contact so that the unique potential of these relationships can be realized.4

Through this powerful nonverbal testimony, we can point others to Christ so that they too can receive spiritual help and healing. Then they can grow to love the Lord, others, and themselves—without guilt, shame, or regret—just as God intended.

God does not want us to drag interpersonal “baggage” into our personal and/or professional relationships. With the Holy Spirit, we can reveal our total surrender to Christ’s dominion over every area of our lives and experience complete fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Oh that there were more of us who could find greater pleasure in serving God than in the pleasures of sin for a season. Worldly hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure) will not provide lasting fulfillment. It is far better to live for Christ than to own the treasures of the world. His reward will always yield us a far greater satisfaction. Won’t you commit your entire life and passions to the Lord Jesus Christ and experience true fulfillment today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

  1. See: Harry W. Schaumburg, False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), 31.
  2. See: Ted W. Engstrom and Norman B. Rohrer, Making the Right Choices: Maintaining Your Integrity in a World of Compromise (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), 32.
  3. John F. McArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 182.
  4. Peter Rutter, MD, Sex in the Forbidden Zone (New York: Fawcett Crest Books, 1989), 64.