If you look up the word "temperance" in a regular dictionary, you'll find definitions such as "self-control," "abstinence" and "self-restraint." And while those are all appropriate definitions of the word, there is one given in Strong's Concordance that truly made me pause and think. That definition is "a mastery over one's desires and passions." Ouch! Yes, it's the same thing as self-control or self-restraint, but put into those specific words, I understand the term so much better.
A mastery over one's desires and passions. That means saying "no" to the things that I want but that I know are not good for me. That Pepsi that calls my name from the grocery store line. The chocolate cakes that sings such sweet music to my ears. The new gizmo I feel I can't live without. That new project that I want to take on even though I know I don't have the time or other resources to do so. The desire to sit on the couch and watch television instead of doing my workout. Temperance means that I look each of these desires and passions straight in the face and say, "No, you are not good for me, so I will not give in to your temptations."
Unfortunately, I think these desires have more of a mastery over me than I do over them. They call, and I come running. They beckon, and I heed their voices. They convince me of all they have to offer, and I shake off the moment of hesitation and dive into those dangerous waters. And then, I regret it. Can you relate?
The good news is that God is patient, and He is working in us to make us what we ought to be. The bad news (or better news, depending on how you look at it) is that we cannot change our own spiritual fruit. No matter how hard we try to "fix" ourselves, our fruit will remain the same because it is not "our" fruit. It is the fruit of the Spirit, which means only He can produce that fruit in us. Remember, He is the vine, and we are just the branches. The branches don't produce the fruit; they only display it. The production comes from the vine.
At first, that may seem bad because we like to be in control, and if something needs to be fixed, we like to know that we can fix it. But when you think about it, there's really nothing we can do to fix it, and Jesus says we don't have to. He will do it for us. All we have to do is abide in the vine. Surrender everything to Him, including our desires and passions. And in doing so, the fruit of the Spirit will blossom and grow, making it easier for us to stare temptation in the face and say, "No, thank you. I don't need you! I've found something better!"
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. - John 15:4-5