2 Peter 1:9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. (NKJV)
We’ve been looking at “things” that characterize the Christian. What’s more, doing these things will keep us from stumbling and gain us a “rich” welcome into heaven (v. 10-11). Notice that there are seven qualities listed. Seven is always the number of Godly perfection in the Bible. Everything that is in the Bible is there purpose!
2 Peter 1:5-7 – But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. (NKJV)
So far we’ve learned that we are to come along side of God, doing our very best to add (“abundantly supply) these qualities to our lives… all the while understanding that in reality only God can give results. We are incapable, but our effort is still required. It’s like having your small children “try” to do a new chore knowing full well they won’t be successful and you will have to actually do it for them. But their effort is what we are seeking from them.
We are to add morally excellent and courageous living (virtue) to our faith. In order to live a morally excellent life we must seek the knowledge of God to understand exactly what the virtuous life consists of. As we gain the knowledge needed to live a life of virtue, we begin to exercise self-control and discipline in order to conform our lives to the knowledge of Christ.
The self-control or temperance spoken of here is the idea of gaining mastery over our lusts and sinful desires. The Apostle Paul frequently used athletic word pictures to convey this idea. It is the concept of doing what “has to be done” no matter painful or devoid of “fun”. Our bodies and passions want non-stop pleasure. Our self control denies that in order to cultivate virtue founded on Godly knowledge.
We live in a “self” controlled world
but this is not Godly “self-control”.
The self control in question here is conforming your life to your Godly knowledge not your lusts. You take what you have learned from God and filter each behavioral decision through that knowledge. The essence of self-control is deciding to cause every action, choice and desire to come into line with what you know to be Godly.
Keep in mind this is not a “sheer will” type of self control. If you resolve by pure personal choice to conform to Godliness then you will experience short term success followed by sure defeat. The proper type of self control is allowing and trusting that God’s way is best (that’s why we choose it) and that God will empower us in that way (that’s how we have consistent victory in it).
In this verse, self control literally means to “hold in”. It speaks of mastering our fleshly passions so that they become a servant to our will rather our life remaining a servant to our lusts. A good analogy is that of an athlete who chooses to train and practice rather than indulge in laziness or overeating because he “feels” like it and it is easier.
In Matthew 5 we find the Beatitudes and a blessing for “meekness”. Scriptural meekness is “power under control”, in this context the Holy Spirit’s control. This is Godly self control. The Holy Spirit empowers us and reigns, or controls us through our submissiveness to His control.
Compiling our lessons so far, we have learned:
- As a Christian (who by default must already have faith if genuinely saved) you are to live a morally excellent and courageously good life; how do you know what that is?
- Because you have added Godly knowledge through diligent study, prayer, meditation and asking God for wisdom.
- Now you are taking your Godly knowledge and you are “holding in” your fleshly desire in conformity with that knowledge.
You now have a clear understanding of how hard our flesh battles for control although it can no longer can enslave you because you are under the Spirit’s control now (unless of course you choose to replace “self control” with “self” control. Because we have lost the true meaning of “self control” in our modern language, it may help to think of this in your mind as “Spirit control”).
Next time we will see how all this natural leads to and empowers us to persevere. And we are half way towards the goal of learning the qualities of the “divine nature” of Christ that are all we need for life and Godliness.
O God, we so desperately need You to empower us to control our flesh. We are incapable of holding it in ourselves. We ask that You add to our virtue and knowledge a full measure of “Spirit control”. In Jesus name, Amen.
Contemplation: Are you person of self control? Do you hold in and control your passions and lusts? Are you tangibly increasing in your ability to do so? Do you do it from sheer will power? CAN you do it from a sheer choice of your will? What is your idea of meekness and have you ever seen it as having anything to do with self control?
Application: There is a danger of two extremes. One is to be “self controlled” by attempting to be “self” controlled, in other words using your own will power to try and conquer your flesh. WON’T WORK! The other extreme is to believe there is no effort required by us, we just “let go and let God”. Both extremes are unscriptural and will be unsuccessful. We are to try our very hardest, with all our heart… all the while knowing that only God will give any real results or victory… but He requires our effort! Another wondrous Christian paradox.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?