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Lesson 9: Temperance *

Introduction: Is temperance the right goal for a Christian? My old Webster's dictionary tells me that the word temperance comes from the Latin for "moderation." The new Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as "moderation in action, thought or feeling." I hear Christians say that they are "sold-out for Jesus." Preachers tell me that I must give my heart 100% to Jesus. This is consistent with Deuteronomy 10:12 which tells me to serve God with "all" my heart and soul. It seems to me that 50% of my heart and soul would be more in accord with the goal of the moderate, temperate person. 100% seems a little extreme if moderation is the goal! Let's move cautiously into our study of the Bible and find out if temperance is truly God's goal for our life!

  1. Christian Leaders

    1. Read 1 Timothy 3:1. What is the "highest" office in your church? (Some Bibles translate the word "overseer" as "bishop," "elder," or "pastor.")

      1. Would it be sinful to want to hold that highest office? (The context suggests this is a proper ambition.)

    2. Read 1 Timothy 3:2. What do we learn about temperance and holding the highest office in the church? (Being "temperate" is a requirement.)

      1. If someone had, say, ten wives, then that might be a little extreme. Isn't it just as extreme to have only one wife, as opposed to a more moderate three? (We learn from this that the way the Bible uses the term "temperate" might not be the same way we use the term "moderate." The Bible takes the "extreme" one wife standard.)

    3. Read 1 Timothy 3:8-9. Deacons are the next level of leadership. Are they to be temperate?

      1. Is there anything temperate about holding the "deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience?" (This suggests that the deacon knows the truth and then obeys it. This does not suggest a moderate approach to sin.)

  2. Moderate Christian Followers?

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3. What topic is the Bible discussing? (The end of the world.)

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:4-7. In this context, if you were to be moderate, you would be in favor of twilight, right?

      1. If I told you someone never slept, would you consider that temperate? (No.)

      2. Is God telling us not to sleep?

        1. If you say "no," then is God also not discussing getting drunk? (God is not talking about sleep or drunkenness, He is talking to us about being alert. A person who is asleep or drunk is not alert.)

      3. What, exactly, is God telling us about temperance? (He is telling us to be alert and self-controlled. When we think about temperance, we need to think about self-control.)

    3. Read Revelation 3:14-16. Are these temperate, moderate, people? (Yes. Luke-warm is the picture of moderation.)

    4. Before you reach a firm conclusion about moderation, read 1 Corinthians 9:20-23. What does this suggest about moderation? (Paul seems to change with the crowd - the perfect moderate!)

    5. Read Romans 14:19-23. Are standards to be sacrificed for the sake of peace? Isn't this the picture of moderation? (It seems so.)

    6. We've gone through a number of Bible texts, some seem to promote moderation, others say moderation is terrible. How can we determine what situation requires moderation and what situation requires "extremism?" (Read Romans 14:1. We have to decide what matters to God. On disputable matters we need to be moderate. On matters of growing faith for others, we need to avoid condemnation. On things that matter - like promoting the gospel, we need to be "hot," we need to be extreme.)

  3. The Path to Temperance

    1. Read 2 Peter 1:5-8. What kind of list is this? (It is a progressive list of Christian attributes.)

      1. Where do we start? (With faith! The text assumes that we have faith because it says to "add to" your faith.)

      2. Does it make sense to start with faith? (Read John 11:25-27. Faith in Jesus as God is foundational.)

    2. Look again at 2 Peter 1:5-8. What is added next? (Goodness.)

        1. Has goodness anything to do with temperance? (Goodness must refer to actions. Temperance refers to actions. God is asking us early on in our Christian experience to have good actions. To have a positive attitude towards others. This means moderation in condemnation on disputable issues.)

      1. Does it make sense to you that "knowledge" would be added after goodness? How can you be good without knowledge? (This is a call to understand God's will with regard to our actions. Just being good is not sufficient. We need to know how best to act to help others.)

      2. Why would "self-control" and "perseverance" logically come next? (Faith is a belief in Jesus. Goodness is a kind attitude towards those around us. Knowledge, is an understanding of what God would have us to do. Self-control and perseverance, involve putting in place those things taught to us.)

        1. Do you think that self-control and perseverance would be included in what the Bible calls temperance? (Yes. We see that the Bible equates self-control with temperance. Perseverance is extended self-control. These calls to persist in living a temperate life are next to the most important step in the ladder of life.)

    3. How do you explain that love is last step in the list? (This suggests that it is the most difficult to add to our Christian character. It involves a conversion of the heart to the greatest extent. This is not seem to be a 50% conversion.)

  4. Examples For Christians

    1. Read Genesis 6:9-10. What kind of man was Noah? (Righteous and blameless.)

    2. I'll assume that you know the story of Noah and the flood. If not, read Genesis 6:11-9:17.

    3. Read Genesis 9:20-22. Why would Ham tell his brothers about the condition of his father? (He wanted them to laugh at their father. This would decrease the stature of a man the Bible called righteous and blameless.)

    4. Read Genesis 9:23. How did Noah's other sons treat him? (With love and respect. They took steps to retain the dignity of their father. They were not like Ham, who took steps to increase his father's shame.)

    5. Read Genesis 9:24-27. Now we get to the hard issues. Isn't Noah the one at fault? He got drunk, no one made him do it. If Noah is at fault, why does the son of Ham get cursed?

      1. Let's think back to our conclusions about the Bible and moderation. How would you apply those lessons here? (We must always ask "What is important? What matters to God? What will promote the gospel? In the ladder of Christian character, love was at the top. Ham and his son were not showing love and respect to Noah, a righteous man of God. This mattered much more to God than Noah getting drunk.)

      2. What logic is there to the curse and the blessings? (Slavery degrades a person. Ham (and apparently Canaan) were degrading Noah. Thus, the curse imposes the same type of harm.)

      3. What lessons should we to learn from this? (It is important to be able to decide when "moderation" is required and when "standing firm" is required. We need to "stand firm" on love and respect. Another important lesson that we must not miss is that alcohol opens the door to being humiliated. Finally, an important motive for love is that God's system of justice has a "pay back" aspect to it. See Ecclesiastes 11:1.)

    6. Friend, in the past have you stood strong when it mattered and been moderate when the issues didn't matter very much? If you think you might not have gotten it right in the past, ask the Holy Spirit, right now, to convict you about God's priorities.

  5. Next week: Integrity: Wholeness and Holiness.
* Copr. 2010, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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