Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fruits of the Holy Spirit(3): Continence (II)

We have just learned what the first fruit of Continence is, by studying two people who totally lacked it, Adam and Eve. This is called learning by "negative example," where you first learn the definition of something by studying something that lacks that quality. In that way you see the consequences of not having it. Now we will look at the one person who had total, perfect Continence, the anti-Adam of Continence, and that would be Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the model of what perfect Continence (which no person can ever achieve) looks like. Jesus Christ alone has the perfect gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit because he was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and thus he has not only the perfected nature of the Holy Spirit but also the Holy Spirit's indwelling. Here is the scripture where he demonstrates perfect Continence.

Before we start, let me point out two things that now that your eyes are open, you will notice anyway. One is how this event was just like the Garden of Eden, except Jesus is now demonstrating how Adam and Eve should have behaved in that situation. The other point is to answer what some ask, which is how Jesus, being perfect, could be tempted? He was not tempted in the sense of ever considering anything anyone says that takes him from his perfect will to God, of course. The Holy Spirit took him to the desert so that generations after him can study what Adam and Eve should have done. In other words, the devil is doing the tempting, but simply because Jesus is being "tempted by the devil," this is not an open ended tempting whereby Jesus ever would consider doing what the devil suggests. Jesus did all this in order to "rewrite" history, in a sense, as the Redeemer, Jesus demonstrated what Adam and Eve should have done.

Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led into the desert by the [Holy] Spirit, to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread." But he answered and said, "It is written, Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God."

Then the devil took him into the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If thou art the Son of God, throw thyself down; for it is written, He will give his angels charge concerning thee; and upon their hands they shall bear thee up, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." Jesus said to him, "It is written further, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. And he said to him, "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Begone, Satan! for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou worship and him only shalt thou serve." Then the devil left him; and behold, angels came and ministered to him.

We need not discuss here all the vast richness of this event in the life of Jesus for all its teachings and meanings, since they are well covered by preachers and in previous postings. Just look at the amazing and perfected example of the fruit of the Holy Spirit of Continence, demonstrated by Jesus.

1. Adam and Eve already had food aplenty, with no effort, the company of God, the servitude of animals and the promise of dominion of the world, and yet they so lacked self control that they accepted the offer of the devil for something they did not even understand (they wanted to know evil without even knowing what it was! Duh!)

2. Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights (try that out sometime, most humans would be dead of course), Jesus was alone as he had not yet chosen his Apostles and, further, he did not take angels along to minister to him, and Jesus had no earthly prestige at all yet, even though his was the actual King to come of all the earth and beyond, of course. So lacking at the time everything that Adam and Eve actually had surrounding them, Jesus demonstrates perfect Continence on the opposite side of the spectrum from Adam and Eve. In his extreme privation and isolation Jesus never once considered anything that the devil (or anyone else) seriously or even jokingly as a diversion from his ministry to come.

No one can be like Jesus, of course, but the reason the Holy Spirit led Jesus to the fasting and encounter in the desert is so that believers in the world can see and marvel what the perfected fruit of the Holy Spirit of Continence looks like. Jesus had total self control and containment of both his needs and his desires and thus demonstrated perfect Continence.

Continence thus also needs to be understood as an appreciation of timing, and also of trust in God. Adam and Eve failed in both respects, as they believed Satan equally as they believed God and thus gave Satan's temptation serious thought and merit, but they also, incredibly, had no patience, even though they had everything in front of them already. Patience is another fruit of the Holy Spirit, and we will discuss it in due turn. My point is that Continence is a friendly partner with Patience, because people are able to be more self restrained and thus Continent when they are willing to not only deny themselves something whose time has not yet come or is not good for them, but also to wait for what God genuinely intends for them.

Adam and Eve do not have the excuse that they did not know what God intended for them because they were already living it. The only thing that had not yet occurred was them having children and them inheriting the earthly Garden of Eden. It would be far more understandable if Jesus had been impatient, as he had fasted alone for forty days and nights, and had not yet surrounding himself with his followers, yet of course it was Jesus' timing as much as God's. Jesus and God had, of course, perfect agreement in timing and the order of things, always with eternity in mind. No, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to have the dueling scriptures with Satan in the desert so that people who have now, of course, well known through the scriptures the history of the failure of Continence (and obedience) by Adam and Eve could now see "how it should have gone." This is one reason that some have given the title to Jesus of the "New Adam." Not because there is any comparison, of course, but because Jesus role models how Adam, on his much smaller scale, should have behaved.

Thus Jesus demonstrated how the perfected ripened fruit of Continence looks, having been grown on the perfected tree of the Holy Spirit.