Christ-Centered and Spirit Filled by Kim Reisman

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Scripture Focus:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-25 (NIV)



As we discovered when we explored the virtue of justice, the biblical notion of virtue draws upon and deepens the classical notion. The same holds true with temperance. Scripture raises the stakes of temperance, making it not only more demanding but more meaningful and rewarding as well. From the classical Greek perspective, temperance produces a well-ordered and well-proportioned soul. This is also true of the biblical perspective; however, from the biblical perspective there is a goal to that order. The goal is love. Our souls are not simply to be well-ordered; they are to be well-ordered toward love, the love of God and the love of our neighbor. The order we achieve through temperance isn’t for our own sake; although that’s certainly a benefit. The order that comes to our souls through temperance is for the sake of God and our neighbor.

In classical Greek thinking, the mind conquers all problems; thus, the root of evil is ignorance. Reason is what saves us; therefore, temperance is the rational ordering that comes through an exercise of the mind. On the surface, Christian temperance is quite similar; but it has a completely different foundation. The biblical notion of temperance asserts that it’s not ignorance but sin, that distortion or our heart, that’s the root of evil. Reason alone is unable to save us. Reason can fix ignorance, but it can’t fix sin. Only Christ can fix sin. Therefore, it’s not reason that produces temperance, but the Holy Spirit that indwells us when we come into relationship with Jesus Christ. Temperance, then, is the living of a Spirit-filled, Christ-centered life.

Creating the balance that is temperance has always been a challenge; yet these days the challenge seems greater than ever. We live in an age where there are so many things competing for our time, attention, and energy that we can often become numb from stimulation overload. It’s imperative that we find our center and order our lives around it.

As Christians, Christ is our center. He is the one to whom we look to provide the order for our souls. Taking on the yoke of Christ guards us against intemperance. When Christ is Lord of our lives, nothing else can be; when Christ is not Lord of our lives, anything and everything else will be. With Christ as our center we’re oriented toward wholeness, which prevents the whole form being ruled by a part, or from being fragmented by the excess of many things. With Christ as our center, the order that comes to our lives is oriented toward love. Stephen Shoemaker said it well:

You have been created in the image of Christ; He is your secret self, the truest truth about who you are. This real self gets overlaid by many layers of false selves; your true self stays a secret even from you. When you receive Christ and invite him to be Savior, Lord, and Friend, you get in touch with your true self. Because you know who you are, the compulsions of the false self fade away. When Christ is Lord, then all the good desires and appetites God has given us find their frightful place and stay as good as God made them. [1]

Placing Christ at the center of our lives allows the Holy Spirit’s power to move us toward temperance. It also makes us aware that temperance doesn’t stem from the law. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.” We cannot enforce temperance by strict rules and regulations. The law forces an ordering that is external rather than internal, and therefore is never successful for very long. The temperance that springs from a Spirit-filled, Christ-centered life is one of joyful obedience rather than grim obligation. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Taking on the yoke of Christ, making him Lord of our life helps us to organize our life toward the love of God and neighbor. It isn’t a yoke of abstinence or a denial of life; it’s a yoke that reorders our life so we’re able to experience the deep happiness, the blessedness, we talked about earlier this year. With Christ as our center, we make decisions because of what is right for us, not by anyone else’s law or rule. In this way we’re able to live happily; freely, and responsibly. We’re able to live temperately, in joyful obedience, affirming the abundant life to which Christ has called us.

As you continue to pray and fast, reflect on what you might need to do to be more Christ-centered and Spirit-filled, and this will be my prayer for you: Gracious God, enable each of us to live by the Spirit. Help us, Lord, to keep in step with the Spirit. Amen.




[1] Shoemaker, p157

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