Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate.  Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.  For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.

 
 
 

Going to Jesus

Daily Thoughts

 Select a tract, month, or collection:

 

Thought for the Evening
12-31

Moderation In All Things

I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I betrothed you to one man, to present a chaste virgin to Christ. But now, I fear lest, as the serpent led Eve astray by his craftiness . . ."
2Corinthians 11:2-3

Let your moderation be known to all men."
Philippians 4:5

The root meaning of the Greek word translated "craftiness" in the above verse from 2Corinthians is "readiness to do anything". All sin is fundamentally like that. Sin is "over the line" behavior before God; it is an openness to some extreme thing. Most of the time, sin is nothing more than something good done too much, or at the wrong time, or in the wrong place, or with the wrong intent. Sin is straying outside the bounds of the will of God, who has "given us all things richly to enjoy." Fundamentally, sin is behavior that proceeds from a heart that is ready to do anything, an unrestrained spirit.

One example of a spirit that is willing to do anything is the spirit of a professional actor. Professional actors, as a rule, are people who for a price make their bodies available to act in any way they are told to act and to say words that do not come from their heart. The very concept of renting one's body to do and say things other than what comes from the heart is strange, both in heaven and in the hearts of godly people everywhere. Even in ancient Roman society, before the gross moral collapse of the Empire, it was considered beneath a dignified person's dignity to be an actor, and I assume that the more noble Romans felt that way because it was beneath their dignity to rent their tongues and other body parts to theater owners and producers.

(It was outlawed , for a long time, in early Rome for any lawyer to charge for his services, too, lest a man stand before the Roman senate and, for money, take a stance that he did not in his heart believe was good and true. Apparently, for a lawyer to rent his body to argue a legal case was to the Romans an even more despised act than for an actor to rent his body.)

The Wickedness of Excess

The wickedness of excess is in opposition to the righteousness of moderation. But to avoid the wickedness of excess, people often go, not to the righteousness of moderation but to another excess.

For example, to overcome the "lusts of the flesh", some men and women deny themselves any pleasure at all. They refuse food for long periods of time, or forbid themselves and others to marry, etc. But God does not condemn "lust of the flesh" as long as it is controlled. He does not want lust to control our choices in life. Paul said, "I keep my body under[control]." He did not say, "I deny my body every pleasant thing." God told the Israelites that when they took Canaan's land, they were free to enjoy "whatsoever thy soul lusteth after" (Dt. 12:15, 20-21; 14:26). Lust, then, of itself is not sin. And unless one allows the lust of his flesh to influence him to a certain extent, he may well become the kind of person who by abusing himself assumes that he has overcome the flesh. This is the "voluntary humility" that Paul warned the saints to avoid lest it rob them of their heavenly reward (Col. 2:18).

For another example, to overcome "the pride of life", some men publicly humiliate themselves to demonstrate that they are humble before God. They are willing to do any harsh thing to themselves in order to convince people that they are very humble. This attitude is sinful, and it leaves no room for the self-respect that all righteous people have. It can become impossible for people to blush because they desire public humiliation. Jesus and others sent by God never took pleasure in being publicly humiliated. The Lord said through David, "Reproach has broken my heart" (Ps. 69:20). Jesus did not want to be humiliated.

So, not only is it ungodly to be willing to do anything but it is also ungodly to be willing to have anything done to you. Godly people are neither willing to do anything nor willing to have just anything done to them. My father once told me, "God doesn't want His people to be a door mat for anybody." Submission to God does not mean that we are to submit to anything anyone wants to do to us. The willingness to "turn the other cheek" can become a willingness to let anything be done unless it is balanced with a healthy measure of "the pride of life".

Another example concerns the "lust of the eye". If God had wanted us to walk around in black, having no pleasures in this life, He would have never created flowers, or made sunsets, or put pretty smiles on the faces of children. Beauty is of the Lord. But when we are willing to do anything to the extent that we scorn those who decorate their homes or cultivate their yards, or who wear attractive clothes, or paint lovely pictures, we have gone to the other extreme. God does not want an excess desire for pretty things to destroy our souls, but He most certainly is pleased if we appreciate His creation and glorify Him for it. Isn't a talented painter a little like God?

John wrote, "All that is in the world [is] the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." The trouble with those things being in the world is that they are ALL that is in the world , just as John said. There is nothing in the world to restrain or control those things because those things are all that is in the world. The world is in the flesh, and we all can say, as Paul did, "In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing." But in Christ, we have power to control what is in our flesh so that we can "richly enjoy" all things in this life. A person who is in control of his own flesh and all that is in it is a happy man. One principal reason there is so much frustration and anger in the world is that people are seeking contentment only by the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. Those are the only tools that people of the world have with which to seek pleasure, peace, and safety, and those things constantly fail them.

Taking Sides

In a vain attempt to appear wise, some choose not to take sides in any controversy. That choice is just another ungodly extreme. To refuse to take sides with the God of all temperance and righteous judgment is an extreme position to take. It leaves room for anything to be done or said, for it will neither challenge nor reprove wrong. When a furious Moses cried out, "Who is on the Lord's side?", those who loved the holy life of moderation came to Moses and pulled out their avenging weapons at Mount Sinai. When Samuel took his sword and hacked the cruel King Agag into pieces, he was taking a public stand for the holy life of moderation that God demanded of His people. David slew Goliath to save Israel from Goliath's intemperance.

Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters abroad" (Mt. 12:30). We either take sides with God, or we are extremists, making room for anything to be done. That "anything" may be too much religious activity or too little, too much work or too little, too much play or too little, too much food or too little, too many clothes or too little, too much desire for earthly wealth or too little. Whatever it is, if it is too much, it is not godly, it is not wise, and it will warp the mind of right judgment, rob the life of good things, and possibly even destroy the soul.

To alter somewhat a famous phrase, it is no vice for God's children to be extremely devoted to the way of the God of all peace and temperance, and it is no virtue for God's children to be moderate in their devotion to Jesus.

Go Top