Bridle Those Wild Horses!
James 3: 3:"When we put bits into horses' mouths to make them obey us,
we control the rest of their bodies also." (20th Century Version)
The wild horses in which we have to deal with are our instincts which are the untamed impulses
of human nature.
The Apostle James had never heard of the psychologist, William James, but he knew something
about the problems of the human heart.
He had never heard of Sigmund Freud, but he knew the turbulence of desire.
He had never read a book by Carl Jung, but he knew about the conflicts in the soul.
"What is the cause of fighting and quarreling that goes on among us?
Is it not to be found in the passions which struggle for the mastery in your bodies?"
(James 4: 1, 20th Century Version)
It has never been said better.
Wild horses reside inside of us!
That's our problem, and the problem of the whole human race in a nutshell.
What shall we do with the wild horses of human instinct?
All of us have a bit of that wild stuff within us.
Often, as we talk to one another, we might say:
"He's as sly as a fox."
Or, "He eats like a pig."
Or, "He is as stubborn as a mule."
Or, "He is as proud as a peacock."
The resemblance is there, and sometimes, it might be a bit unfair to the animals.
We come into the world with a powerful set of impulses, which, though back of all our sins,
are nevertheless the great driving force of life.
And for clarity's sake -- we call them, instincts.
Nobody seems to be able to tell us what an instinct is, except to say that it is a "natural impulse
prior to experience and instruction."
But we know that the name of a thing doesn't matter.
Call it impulse, call it urge, or anything you wish; the reality is still the same.
Psychological research of past years confirms what the Bible has always taught us
-- that not only in our bodies, but in our nature, crouch these untamed animal forces
which, like wild horses, sometimes run amuk, and that the great business of life is learning
what to do with them.
So, we look for an answer to the question of what we are to do with the wild horses of human instinct.
There are three major answers, although there are many variations of the answers.
The first answer is that of self-assertion.
Let the wild horses run!
Give them free rein to your natural instincts.
Nature itself is all natural -- therefore self-justifying.
Whatever is natural is beautiful, and whatever is beautiful must be right.
The wrong thing about this philosophy, is that it inhibits or suppresses a natural desire.
It was amusing to hear this view presented some years ago as "the new morality."
It wasn't new, and it isn't morality.
It's the oldest idolatry on earth.
You can go back any where in ancient life, and you will find people making gods.
Often, they worshiped animals -- bulls, snakes, sacred cows -- in some lands, they still do.
More often, they worship the animals within themselves.
They bow down before the passions of their own natures which they could not control or understand.
Ancient men deified his passions.
Bacchus was the worship of his appetite.
Venus and Aphrodite were the embodiment of his love and passion.
In Mars and Jupiter and countless other warring gods, he incarnated his fighting spirit
and his stormy impulse to conquer and kill.
Men have always worshiped their own powers.
Powers which are stronger than themselves control them and push them around.
Today, man has outgrown the images of Bacckus, but he is still controlled by his appetite.
He has destroyed the Temples of Venus, but he is still dominated by his lust and passions.
He has dismissed Mars as a creation of superstition, but the gods of war still call him into battle.
And the wild horses of carnal desire still drives rough-shod over the earth.
What shall we do with the wild horses?
Self-assertion says: "Kill the riders and let the horses run."
Which is to say, "Obey your instincts."
Nietzsche was probably the number one prophet of self-assertion.
To him, civilization was the great corruptor, and Christianity was the great perverter of human instincts.
Nietzsche came up with a solution, which was:
" Get rid of your pious priests and their weak-livered gospel of mercy.
Purge out of your souls this desire, this devil of Christianity.
Progress depends on the strong man and the strong peoples.
Therefore, be strong, and assert yourself; be a superman."
Then, later came the psychology of behaviorism which said emphatically that repressions
are bad for human nature, and that instincts were made to be obeyed,
and that life was made to be "untrammeled and free."
So, the old idolatry got under way, and we must wake up and see the terrible consequences
of permissiveness, open marriage, self-assertion in government, business, family, and church.
We saw the Nazis take Nietzsche's self-assertion and put it into government.
Then, you had the making of the strong man, and the super-race.
We saw it in the terrible extreme consequences at "Dachau and Buchenwald",
where unrestrained intellect piled up human bodies like a pile of wooden logs, and set them on fire.
Communism said: "There is no God or heaven. We make our own god.
We must throw down our Bibles, take up our guns, level down the rich and take their property for ourselves."
Out of that came a world without heart or conscience or pity.
What are we? Savages?
None of us can afford to be smug about it, or to imagine that it is all about people
who are made differently than ourselves.
Long ago, Carl Jung warned us that the evils of primitive man is still crouching in all of us,
and it is alive and ugly in the dark recesses of the heart under the thin veneer of civilization.
He said that "only Christianity is keeping them in check, and that if Christianity be neglected
the old horrors will sweep in again like a roaring global flood."
Paul wrote, "I tell you that deeds of the flesh are quite obvious, such as sexual vice, impurity,
sensuality, idolatry, dissension, party spirit, drinking bouts, and the like
(Galatians 5:19, Moffatt)
If you live by the flesh, and if you obey the unredeemed, unrestrained instinct,
you shall die -- for that is the "Realm of Death."
So, there are some terrible drawbacks to the answer of self-assertion.
And the second answer as to what to do with the wild horses of human instinct
is the extreme opposite of self-assertion.
It is the way of self-negation.
This answer says that our primitive desires are so fierce that we must find a way to reduce them.
The horses are wild, so we must tame them.
We must take the fire and life out of them, and make them lie down and be still.
If the way of self-assertion would eliminate the riders, the way of self, negation would eliminate the horses.
This is what Buddhism is and also what Hinduism is.
They are religions dedicated to the elimination of desire.
Buddha saw desire as the source of all evil and suffering and conflict.
He said, "You must free your soul of desire.
Cut out the roots of it.
Rid your heart of every want, and in utterly passionless existence you will find peace of mind,
contentment, and after much practice come at last to Narvana, and a state of nothingness."
It is like saying this: "Get rid of your headache by cutting off your head."
This is saying that we should reduce the conflicts of personality by destroying the powers
that make the person.
You can be sure that any religion whose goal is the destruction of desire has no kinship
with the eternal Christ.
Any religion whose sole aim is the mere curbing of desire is not Christian.
A little boy was playing quietly with his father's tools in the garage, and he was so quiet
that his mother just knew he must be up to some mischief.
So, she called out from the kitchen, "Tommy, whatever you're doing, stop it!"
Whole systems of religion, philosophy and government have been based upon such negative restraint.
They seek to solve the conflicts of life, not by the elimination of desire,
but by the severe and systematic suppression of it.
Curb the wild horses.
Control your desires.
You cannot help but admire it, but it is still too negative an answer to be a Christian answer.
You cannot make a dynamic religion out of a coerced, negative morality.
The third answer of the way of Christ is not self-assertion, nor self-negation, but self-fulfillment.
"I am come not to destroy, but to fulfill."
The answer of Jesus is that the strong passions in our human nature was not be destroyed nor suppressed, but pulled together in a supreme master-passion and consecrated to the Kingdom of God.
The transcendent difference in Christ from all who came before Him is summed up
in this magnificent fulfillment.
The world has always tried to alternate between two fruitless extremes.
One is a kind of Nietzscheanism that leaves man an untamed, though sometimes educated and savage.
The other extreme is that form of Buddhism which breaks a spirit of man, takes the fight out of him,
and leaves him like a dried, up cabbage
Jesus did not come to destroy our powers, but to bring them to fulfillment.
So, what should we do with the wild horses?
Put them to work!
That is His answer.
The Christianity of Jesus does not take the fight out of men.
Look at the record.
Look at the men He picked to follow Him.
It was a public scandal that He spent so much of His time with the rough and the profane
-- with sinners and heathen people.
Jesus genuinely cared about the irreligious.
The people Jesus cared for were people that the Jews considered to be nothing, the black sheep.
"The white sheep are placed, and fed in quiet places;
Their fleece is like silver that the moon has known.
But the black sheep have bigger ugly faces.
The best of all the Shepherd wants them for His own."
Most of them were stormy men with turbulent passions that were often misdirected.
One was a Zealot.
But Jesus did not fear enthusiasm, or even fanaticism.
He knew that torrents in men, like torrents in rivers and waterfalls, could be converted and harnessed,
and use their energy to serve the living God.
I heard one preacher say, "I would rather restrain a fanatic then tried to resurrect a corpse."
Would you have chosen Matthew?
He was considered a cheat, a tax-collector for Rome.
But Jesus knew that every weed is a potential flower, and that even a cheater is bound to have talents
too valuable to waste on some issues.
He said to Matthew: "Come, follow me."
He chose Matthew.
They were ambitious men for they wanted to get ahead in the world, even ahead of each other.
For James and John said: "Grant us to sit on the right hand and the left."
Jesus never feared their consuming ambition.
He laid His hand upon that powerful human impulse, as he found in James and John,
and guided them into a worthy use of that impulse.
In one immortal sentence He lifted ambition from selfish shoving and pushing for place
and position to a high level of spiritual devotion:
"Let him that would be great among you be the servant of all."
Again, there was the fighting instinct which was very strong in them.
Simon Peter could take care of himself on the waterfront.
James and John were nicknamed, "Sons of thunder."
Jesus did not take the fight out of these men.
Instead, He redeems and redirects it.
You have a temper?
God uses that temper.
He already has too many disciples who won't get mad at anything -- not even sin.
God wants people of temper.
He chose such men.
Saul of Tarsus was a man of temper.
He was a born fighter.
After he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was still a fighter -- but after that he was a fighter
for truth and for the Kingdom of God.
When he comes to the end of his road, he said: "I have fought a good fight
In the army of the Lord, he was still a warrior with his temper harnessed.
So, if we have learned something today, it is not to give our horses of instinct free rein.
Self-assertion is not the answer.
Self-negation is not the answer.
We find our self-fulfillment in Christ.
God can take our wild horses of temper, ambition, and that aggressive instinct, and redeem them.
Sermon adapted by Dr. Harold L. White