Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mastering Temperance

"And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things."
(I Cor. 9:25a)

Modern translations change the word "temperate" to self-control. This is unfortunate for many reasons, not the least of which is that "temperate" is richer in its shadings and more robust. (Don't coddle me with self-control, when I need a strong dose of temperance!) Besides, the context (v. 24-27) will provide any thoughtful person with the clear meaning of the word, if you have any doubt.

Practically speaking, when we say that someone has a temper, we mean their anger can quickly become out of control; and when you have a temperature, you are "all heated up." Metals are tempered by exposing them to extreme temperatures. We know from verse 27 that Paul is speaking of the body, telling us that without temperance to control physical and emotional over-indulgence, we can become ineffective with others and, therefore, unprofitable to God. We live in a society that glorifies and romanticizes intemperance. Extremism is the mark of a real man or a real woman. “Grab all the gusto you can get; you only go around once," as they say. But the world is always wrong in its judgments, so we can discount their opinions, out of hand.

Still, abandonment can be very tempting at times. Not to worry; you and I are not completely exempt from its thrills. God says we're free to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27). How’s that for excess? We need never temper our love and devotion to Him with any restraint.

When you crave the thrill of intemperance and long to go over the top, go ahead. Dance before God as David did. Lavish your love on the Savior like the woman with her alabaster box. Throw caution to the wind, as the disciples who left all to follow Jesus. Experience the glorious abandonment of complete surrender to the will of God for your life.

"Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” -- Jim Elliot

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