FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
GENTLENESS AND SELF CONTROL
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5: 22-23)
There are some sayings of Jesus that stand out as being SOOO important that we need to return to them time after time after time. One of them is:
‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ (John 13: 34-35)
This is the command for Christian family. Family love one another. And this love is shown in the attitudes that we have towards each other and the outworking of this – the way we treat each other. We bring to conclusion our study of the “fruit of the Spirit”. When the Holy Spirit is in us, He is making us daily more like Jesus and this shall be seen in the way that we love each other – as family. And when those outside the church family see us treating each other in this way then they shall be amazed and will want to be a part of what we have.
And so we love each other, are joyful with each other, show peace to each other – and kindness and goodness – and the rest.
And so we come to the end of the matter. People will know that we love each other; people will see that God is in us; when we manifest gentleness and self control in all that we do.
GENTLENESS AND SELF CONTROL ARE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
That’s what Paul tells us in Galatians 5: 23 – right? We can have gentleness and self control when we have the Holy Spirit – right? And that gentleness and self-control will make us like Jesus because He was gentle and self-controlled – yes?
Well, He certainly declared Himself to be gentle:
“I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11: 29)
And at the Cross He certainly showed Himself to be self-controlled – He could have just jumped down from there with legions of angels to “splat” those Jews and Romans.
But…what about this?
12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘“My house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it “a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21: 12-13)
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it “a den of robbers”. (Mark 11: 15-17)
Here we have two accounts from different authors of the same incident. Now…I don’t know about you, but Jesus doesn’t come across as “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” here! No! This seems the very opposite of gentleness – this looks like forcefulness, even aggression! And this doesn’t look like self-control to me – rather it looks like out-of-control!
Have we “caught Jesus out” and discovered He could sometimes lose that gentleness and self-control – you know, He wasn’t perfect? Or is it that sometimes it is right to be gentle and self-controlled but at other times we set these aside?? Or do we need to review our understanding of what this fruit of the Spirit actually is? Now, I believe that Jesus WAS perfect and that the Word of God is profitable for doctrine – so I MUST go with the latter view.
THE WORLD, GENTLENESS AND SELF-CONTROL
For too long a world that does not value any longer the things of God has mocked us that gentleness and self-control are attributes of weakness. The one who is gentle allows others to dominate them, does not argue back, does not fight for what is right, never raises their voice or their fist. They shall be subservient, they shall not prosper, they shall be ruled over. And the one who is self-controlled is boring! They never “let their hair down”; never laugh at a joke, never take a risk, never have a good time.
How wrong the world is!
The two greatest characters of the Bible – Moses in the OT and Jesus in the NT were both described as “gentle” and they were certainly NOT weak:
The classic Amplified Bible translates Numbers 12: 3 in this way:
Now the man Moses was very meek (gentle, kind, and humble) or above all the men on the face of the earth.
Jesus in Matthew 11: 29 describes Himself in the following way:
I am gentle and humble in heart
Qu: In what ways do their lives show that “gentle” cannot possibly be mistaken for “weak” or “placid” or “unwilling to challenge” or “unwilling to be forceful”?
THE SPIRIT AND GENTLENESS
God is love – but His is a “tough love” – in loving us so much and wanting the best for us, He was willing to sacrifice His Son, and He is willing to discipline us when we do wrong. His gentle love is strong.
Jesus is “gentle” but He too is One who will turn over the money tables of those who are doing wrong – causing harm to themselves and hurt to others. His gentleness is strong.
To truly understand what gentleness is we must understand the Greek from which the word is derived. A study of gentleness in the New Testament may begin in a Greek lexicon, looking up “praus” (gentle) and “prautes” (gentleness). Somewhat surprisingly, the classic lexicon defines” praus” as “not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance.” It’s a good definition, but to see what it means, we need to examine Scripture’s use of the term.
Gentleness is spoken of by Paul as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5: 23, and then goes on to explain its use only four verses later: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1).
So, maybe the best way of understanding “gentleness” is to see its opposite as “overbearing”. The overbearing man is he who seeks to impose his will, his ideas, his importance on others Oh! How the church has been infected with this attitude over the years! How many times has the church insulted the Name of God by persecuting those who believed differently from itself!
The gentle person is one who, although right, although more powerful or more important, will not impose themselves over others but will rather help them, support them, stand by them.
This is the example of Jesus – who, although in very nature God, made Himself a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death.
This is the example of Jesus- who declaring He was gentle actually said:
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11: 29)
This is Jesus who was saying that He will walk by us and work with us in all the trials of life.
This is the example of Jesus of whom it was said:
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out (Matthew 12: 20)
And this is the example set us, and this is the fruit that will manifest itself on us when the Holy Spirit is within us.
A wonderful example of this is found in the true story of a church elder who had been discovered to be in an adulterous relationship. Two fellow elders were despatched to face him with what had been discovered. On the way to his house they discussed how they were going to manage such a sad situation. One elder said that they should be blunt and hard – he had done wrong and should be faced with what he had done and his resignation demanded immediately. He had sinned against God and against man and should be disgusted with himself. His colleague stopped the car and asked him to get out – saying he was not fit to go and face the fallen brother. He went on alone and met with the elder. Together they wept as the truth came out. As they hugged each other the elder who had come declared tenderly “there but by the grace of God go I”. The elder repented, asked forgiveness of God and the church and was restored. In gentleness he had been brought to his senses and helped through this time to turn from his sin.
The term “gentleman” used to be one of honour. A gentleman spoke politely. A gentleman opened the door for a lady and gave up their seat on a bus. A gentleman did not overbear a servant or a serf. Yet, a gentleman would not allow a wrong to go unpunished. A gentleman would always uphold what was right while supporting those who needed care, help and justice.
A gentleman will overturn the tables of the money changers in order to honour God and protect their family.
If we wish to see the family of God at ACC built up then we need to see this same gentleness on a daily basis amongst us all. We need the fruit of gentleness.
THE SPIRIT AND SELF-CONTROL
The Triangle Methodist Church in Lancashire explains self-control in the following way:
An overweight man decided it was time to lose some weight.
He informed his work colleagues that he was going on a diet and that he would no longer be bringing donuts to the office.
The man knew it was going to be really hard to resist stopping off at the bakers on the way to work, but he committed himself to remaining strong and resisting temptation.
His co-workers were surprised one morning to see him arrive at the office with a big box of donuts. When they reminded the man of his diet, he just smiled.
“These are very special donuts” the man explained. “When I left for the office this morning, I knew that I was going to drive by the bakery, and I wondered whether God might want me to have some donuts today. I wasn’t sure, so I prayed – Lord, if you want me to stop and buy some donuts today, let there be a parking space in front of the bakery. As you know – parking spaces in front of that bakery are hard to get. “So the parking space was there?” asked one of the man’s work colleagues. The man replied “It was a miracle – the 8th time I drove round the block – the parking space was there!”
But even when we are Christians; even when we have received the Spirit, there are always being tempted to go back to our old sinful ways. It is a daily struggle that each of us struggle with. Thinking back to that story about the man and his donuts – that man had a daily struggle to resist stopping off at the bakery. Sometimes our temptations get the better of us and we do go back to our old ways. Sometimes, like the man with his donuts, we even use God to justify when we go back to our old ways.
Yet it is because of our daily struggle with temptation that the Spirit helps and equips us to resist temptation by giving us the spirit of gentleness and the spirit of self-control. That’s why gentleness and self-control are so important – because they help us to avoid temptation and continue living by the Spirit.
Yes, there IS an element of self-control being the Spirit within us enabling us to resist temptation.
However, this doesn’t help us understand the seeming contradiction of Jesus having self-control (He NEVER sinned) and yet seeming to be out-of-control when turning over the tables of the money changers in the Temple.
Again, the answer is to see that our understanding of the opposite of “self-control” is not “out-of-control”. Rather, I put it to you that the opposite of “self control” is “control by others”.
The writer James in Chapter 1 and verses 7-8 of his letter says the following:
the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
The one who allows others to control their thinking and their actions is the one who is “tossed to and fro” and has no “self-control”.
When Jesus turned over the tables of the money-changers He was TOTALLY in control – He was not out-of-control in any way. He knew totally what He was doing and with “righteous anger” He whipped those money-changers out of there – upholding the honour of Father God.
When the Spirit of God is in us then we shall be self-controlled. We shall be focused on what is right. We shall be focused on being more and more like Jesus.
So, it could be said that “self-control” is the same as “Christ-controlled” – it is a decision that we make. And when we allow Jesus to be the One who controls our life then we shall be seen by all to be good and wise and loving and caring and all the other things that mark out Jesus as wonderful.
Read the following:
In a family arguments abound, tempers are easily lost. Self control in the church is a virtue that, standing side-by-side with gentleness, will dampen arguments, secure reconciliation, offer forgiveness. A good example of this is in post-apartheid South Africa. The fear was that the black majority would go on a rampage of revenge against the white minority; however, the example of God’s people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu was “self control” in the form of the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” process. Countless lives were saved by this expression of self-control emanating from the church.
Qu: If forgiveness, rather than revenge, is an example of spiritual self-control, then does that mean that the one who has wronged you is able to “get away with it”? Are you aware of how Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela used the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to get the wrong-doers to admit their past mistakes before there could be reconciliation?
CONCLUSION: GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL AND THE FAMILY OF CHRIST AT ACC
Our Vision 2019 is to see ACC being built up as a family that will be loving, caring, nurturing; a family that shall be the envy of all around; a family that shall grow in maturity and numbers as others press in to join.
Key in a good family life will be the Spiritual “fruit” of gentleness and self-control being manifest amongst us. Whether we are leader or led, deacon or dishwasher, there shall be no over-bearing amongst us. We shall be known for standing alongside each other and helping each other. When we go wrong we shall gently guide each other back on the right path. There shall be no control over us by the world or by opinion – we shall be self-controlled and walking with Christ.
But where there is wrong, where there is hurt, where there is an attempt to harm the family – then we shall “turn over those tables” and chase out those money-changers.
Read this statement:
So, let us be gentle in the society in which we live and are so different – not condemning them, not judging them, but loving them while still refusing to accept the societal changes that are taking place – maybe a bit like Gandhi’s non-violent resistance; telling society what we believe and why we believe it without telling them how wrong they are.
Qu: Do you agree with this? If you do, then how do we go about putting this gentleness into practice?
Now read this statement:
And let us be gentle in our church family by refusing to compromise on what we believe to be right but just standing by each other and helping each other and loving each other – without any suggestion that we are better or more important or more spiritual.
Qu: Do you agree with this? If you do, then how do we go about putting this gentleness into practice?
Paul in Ephesians 4: 1-2 summarises all of this so brilliantly:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love
Two clips that I found so useful are: