Friday, February 28, 2014

Pastorgraphs: “Temperance: All Things in Moderation”


E-Vangel Newsletter
February 24, 2014
[Pastorgraphs now online at ChristSD.com]

“40 Days to Integrity”

https://www.eintegrity.net/
COMING SOON! I’m excited to announce “40 Days to Integrity” is almost ready for release March 5th (the first day of Lent). “40 Days” is a Lenten devotional series of 40 daily 5-minute videos dealing with a topic related to Integrity you can watch on the web. There is no cost, and all you have to do is either:

Click here to send an email registration (no message necessary) and you will receive daily email reminders with a link to the devotional video for that day. (If the link doesn’t work for you, just let me know you want to join the journey.)

Or if you are on Facebook, “Friend” The Integrity Network (www.eIntegrity.net) and the video for each day will appear on your Facebook news feed. Let your family, friends and colleagues know. Everyone is invited to join this Lenten journey to Integrity.

Pastorgraphs: “Temperance: All Things in Moderation”

“And beside this, giving all diligence,
add to your faith: virtue;
and to virtue: knowledge;
And to knowledge: temperance;
and to temperance: patience;
and to patience: godliness;
And to godliness: brotherly kindness;
and to brotherly kindness: charity.”

I identify with Peter as he sets out the building blocks of discipleship in this text. You may have noticed in recent Pastorgraphs I am trying to set out the building blocks of integrity. My feeble efforts are like Peter’s discipleship building blocks, or John Wesley’s defining the steps to holiness and perfection (godliness) for the early Methodists. The common thread is: If you do not have an idea of what discipleship, holiness or integrity are, you surely will never achieve them.

When you hear the word temperance, you probably conjure up images of Carrie Nation breaking up a saloon with her axe as a part of the Temperance Movement. But temperance is not just about alcohol. Temperance is moderation in thoughts, emotions and actions, demonstrated by your personal restraint.

It is too sad that many perceive religion as being against all pleasures. My ethics professor in seminary once said, “God has given us plenty of pleasures for all five senses. When we enjoy the pleasures God intended as He intended, nothing is more beautiful and life enriching. But when we indulge in the pleasures as God did NOT intend, nothing can be uglier and more destructive.”

Temperance is about discretion; the ability to know how much of a thing is too much or too little.

Temperance is one of the four cardinal virtues identified by the Greek philosophers. The Apostles Peter and Paul emphasized their importance in their epistles to the fledgling Christian communities. As a cardinal virtue (along with justice, prudence and courage), no other virtue can exist without temperance. Each of these four cardinal virtues depend upon and amplify each other. 

Golden Mean
Temperance is the virtue of moderation and restraint over a wide range of human vices; such as, promiscuity, drunkenness, gluttony, vanity, or anger. As a virtue, it stands between the vices of excess (self-indulgence) and too little (austerity). Aristotle called “The Golden Mean” what we might today call the “Sweet Spot”, or “Goldilocks Point” (not too much, not too little, but J-U-S-T right!) amount of an activity, thought or action.

Four Virtuous Norms
For each of the four Cardinal Virtues, there is a matching Virtuous Norm which The Integrity Network (eIntegrity.NET) defines as how you “do” the virtue. (A virtue is something you “do”, not something you “have”.) In the Four Virtuous Norms, temperance fulfills: “Doing the right thing…in the right way”. By that, we mean the precise amount (neither too much or too little) for each action, thought or activity.

VIRTUE                NORM
Justice:                 Doing the right thing.
Temperance:       Doing the right thing…in the right way.
Prudence:             Doing the right thing…at the right time.
Courage:               Doing the right thing…for the right reason.

That’s all a bit academic. So how do you exercise temperance in real life, especially since Peter and Paul placed such importance on it with the early church? Here are some keys to help you.

Seven Keys to Living a Temperate Life

1.   Temperance requires discipline. The Apostle Paul wrote: “And every person who strives for mastery is temperate in all things.” (1 Corinthians 9:25).  
2.   Temperance exercises self-denial. Temperance involves delayed gratification, commonly associated with maturity. Immature children throw temper tantrums when they do not get instant gratification. Paul wrote, “That the mature men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.” (Titus 2:2)
3.   Temperance recognizes your long-term goals.  Temperance is the ability to deny yourself immediate gratification for the good of reaching a long-term goal and the benefits reaching the goal will bring.
4.   Temperance controls desires of the mind and soul. Pleasures of the mind and soul include pride, greed, vanity, arrogance, and so on. The Bible says, “Pride goes before the fall.” In many ways, the temptations of the spirit are more devastating than those of the body.
5.   Temperance controls desires of the body. In addition to controlling the mind and soul, the temperate person controls pleasure impulses (passions) of the body. Bodily pleasures encompass the senses. That does not mean every sense is a vice. We may delight in beauty, music, art, taste, touch and smell; but to obsess in the senses (sensuality) is a vice. Thomas Aquinas said, “Temperance is simply a disposition of the mind which binds the passion.”
6.   Temperance controls emotions. This may be the most difficult part. Besides the lures of the mind, soul and body, there are emotions you must control to reach temperance. Particularly, the emotions of anger, fear, and hatred must be replaced with love, acceptance and forgiveness.
7.   Temperance is a Fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). In that sense, temperance is a gift from God. He bestows it upon those who desire it and strive for a holy (and wholly) life.

You might say,”I don’t know if I have what it takes.” Don’t let that stop you, because as Paul wrote in Philippians 4: “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” With God’s help, you can do all things, including receiving the “fruit if the Spirit" of temperance.

Devotedly yours, Bill Jenkins

From the Quote Garden:
“Temperance is reason's girdle and passion's bridle,
the strength of the soul and the foundation of virtue.”
~ Jeremy Taylor ~

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center
“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205

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