Retractions are not easy; in fact, they are quite humbling. But as it is very important to ‘come proper’ as the Duke of EarlI used to say, please consider my words. “I dare say, I do not have much authority over any one or anything anymore except maybe my six hens and three dogs,” I stated in my last briefing2. Hours after I sent it, I realized that statement is not true. There is one I have quite a lot of authority over – and that one is me.
Working up a sweat at the gym, I consulted the timer and mileage on my elliptical trainer to see when I could quit… and then it hit me, I alone have the authority over my body to exercise self discipline or not.
Self discipline or what Paul called self control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. “I like fruit,” you say, “tell me more!” Step a little closer.
The tree in my Southern California garden I miss the most is my apricot tree. Though she wasn’t very old, by the time I moved, she produced so many apricots, I had to spend a full day canning, jar after jar. Fruit naturally grows on a tree that is alive—how much and what quality of fruit is determined by the flourishing of the tree. So too it is with the Christian. One of the greatest things about being a follower of Jesus is that we do not do this life alone. Jesus, when speaking to the disciples just before he was crucified, told them it was to their benefit that he left because then the Holy Spirit/the Helper would come.3 While he [Jesus] had been with them, the Spirit would be in them.4
When writing one of his letters from prison, Paul wrote to the Galatians, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...5,6.
So there it is. I am to have authority over myself. Self control.
On Thursdays, I am teaching through Priscilla Shirer’s excellent book, The New Resolution for Women, in which she encourages women to live with intentionality. Last week, the subject matter was on integrity, in which she challenges us to ‘not tolerate evil influences even in the most justifiable form in ourselves or our home but rather to embrace and encourage a life of purity.’ I spent time listening to her messages on holiness, like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhy8tlIXreU. And then considered where I have let 'justifiable evil influences' in my home. hmmm
Perhaps you are above reproach when it comes to holiness . . . hmmm, be careful lest your spiritual pride causes you to stumble. After all, we are looking over Jesus’ shoulder here in the gospel of Mark chapter three, as the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees constantly judge Jesus, looking to catch him in something with which they can discredit him. Jesus aint got no time for that, y’all.7 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.8 Yikes. I do not want Jesus to call me a hypocrite.
Self control, a fruit of the Holy Spirit being alive in my life, ought be the order of the day then. Therefore, I must with his help, discipline myself…
…to take my thoughts captive
…to spend time with the Father at the start of each day
…to take care what I put in my body… not be bound by any substance
…to consider how I spend my time
…to be a good caretaker of the gift of life God has given me … my body
Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard famously said, “And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” Being one half a Dane, I love that. And I am drawn to the claim of John Newton, author of Amazing Grace: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”9
I do indeed have authority over one – myself – meaning, I can10 and therefore must choose daily to take care how I live the gift of life and breath I have been given. Amen.
The Footsteps of Jesus in the gospel of Mark, 10.
1 – my friend and self-appointed bodyguard when I did street ministry in Long Beach, CA at Ninth and Atlantic and Lincoln Park
3 – John 16.7 - But I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I am leaving; for if I do not leave, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
4 – John 14.17 - the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.
5 – Galatians 5.22-23
6 - Paul starts the sentence with ‘but’ as he is saying you don’t have to live bound to the baser sides of the flesh-- sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions,envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these—the verses preceding
7 – there it was. I said I would not be caught saying ‘y’all’, a common plural pronoun employed in the south, but no other word fit better there! ‘All y’all’ I will say because it makes me laugh, but there it was, my first ‘y’all.’
8 - Matthew 23.27
9 – The Way Home
10 – so long as I am of reasonably sound mind