The Supplement of Self- Control
II Peter 1:4-7
Introduction: Daniel Akst in a secular article called, "Whose in Charge Here?" wrote:
"Life in modern Western cultures is like living at a giant all-you-can-eat buffet offering more calories, credit, sex, intoxicants, and just about anything else one could take to excess than our forebears might ever have imagined. With more possibilities for pleasure and fewer rules and constraints than ever before, the happy few will be those able to exercise self-control."
It is so true of what Daniel Akst has said about life in modern Western culture, but it is not only limited to the West, we see this phenomenon all over the world. A call for self-control goes out more often than it is practiced. If we are honest with ourselves we all could take some help when it comes to having self-control. We have been on a journey to discover a pathway to spiritual wholeness, wellness and productivity. We have been following a series titled, “Seven Supplements to Your Faith,” based on the second letter of the Apostle Peter, 2 Peter 1: 5-7 “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”
So far, we have learned that God supplies faith to us freely. By His grace and through our faith in Christ alone we are saved. Faith in Christ is not an end in itself, but just the beginning. The Apostle Peter encouraged the early Christians to supplement to their faith goodness, to goodness, knowledge. We looked at these two supplements more in depth the last two weeks. Today we will look into the supplement of self-control. It is not a flashy concept or an attractive idea. Preachers won't become popular when they preach on it, yet it is so important that we must not overlook the subject, so let’s get started with answering the question what is self-control?
I.SELF-CONTROL, WHAT IS IT?
Let’s look at what it is not first. Have you ever opened a bag of chips took one or two then in no time finished the entire bag, that is lack of self-control! Have you walked through Macy's or Sears kept picking up clothes though you didn’t need them but then charged it to your credit card, that’s lack of self-control! Have you ever lost your cool over a trivial matter and kept yelling at your loved ones that is lack of self-control! I could go on... you get the point, right?
What is self-control then? Self-control is the ability to control oneself, in particular one's emotions and desires or the expression of them in one's behavior, especially in difficult situations. It is to say enough- is enough! It is to stop yourself from doing things you want to do but that might not be in your best interest or others. Who needs self-control? If we care to admit, we all need it in one area or the other, if we want to be productive and successful in life.
In the passage we read, Peter was urging early Christians to exercise self-control because at that time many false teachers were misleading people saying, self-control is unnecessary all you need is knowledge, whereas according to Peter Christian knowledge leads to self-control. Self-control literally means “holding oneself in.” In Peter’s day, self-control was used of athletes, who were to be self-restrained and self-disciplined. Similarly, a disciple of Christ is called to control the flesh, passions and bodily desires rather than allowing himself to be controlled by them.
We will be entering into a forty-day lent season beginning February 14, (Ash Wednesday concluding on March 29). This is a good time for us to pause, take a stock of our lives and see where perhaps we need to exercise self-control and self-restraint.
For now, I invite you to look with me, at the implications of a life that lacks self-control, what the Bible says about self-control and the end times, can self-control be taught, and how can we cultivate self-control?
II. THE IMPLICATIONS OF LACK OF SELF-CONTROL
God has given all of us certain natural appetites, they are the appetite to eat, drink, sleep and to have sex. We are to control those appetites rather than other way around. It’s like putting a rein over our appetites and control them, otherwise they will ride over us. Some research tells us how devastating life can be when we lack self-control. (Knoch & Fehr, 2007): The self-control theory of crime, tells us that the lack of individual self-control is the main factor behind criminal behavior. Lack of self-control leads to selfishness.
Scriptures are very clear about the consequences of a life that lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” In ancient times the cities were built with a wall around them. For example, the city of Jericho and the city of Jerusalem. The walls are there to protect the residents from the invasion of wild animals, thieves and their enemies. Hence these walls were tightly guarded and protected. When they are broken down, the inhabitants are exposed to all kinds of vulnerabilities and they live in insecurity, fear and danger.
Similarly, self-control acts as a defensive wall in our lives. When we lack self-control in the area of food and eat any and everything, that defensive wall of immunity breaks down making way for the “free radicals” to attack our health. When we don't have self-control over negative emotions such as anger and sadness they can have adverse effects on our well-being.
We must also exercise self-restraint in the area of sexuality. In a time where there are so many illicit relationships, infidelity and affairs, all those who are aspiring to be married or currently married, have an awesome responsibility to rein in our sexual desires. We need to honor the sanctity and integrity of marriage lest we come under God’s judgment. Hebrews 13:4“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”
But on the other hand, when we do exercise temperance, another word for self-control we will be doing a favor to ourselves and to our loved ones. A person who is self-controlled is a pleasant to be around and to live with. Can you imagine how many fights could have been averted, marriages and families spared from heartache, if only people could control their anger?
If you want to keep yourself out of trouble pay attention to these wise words of Solomon:
Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” An antidote to anger and arrogance can be found in Proverbs 16th chapter. Here are a couple of verses: Proverbs 16:24, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb. sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:32, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Lack of self-control is one of the signs of the end times.
III. SELF-CONTROL AND THE END TIMES
The Apostle Paul warns his young disciple Timothy about the Last Days. II Timothy 3:1-5, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud...without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure... having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
I Peter 4:7, “The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.” I Peter 5: 8-11, “Be self-controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and remember that the strain is the same for all your fellow-Christians in other parts of the world.” (J.B. Phillips New Testament). These and many other scriptures highlights the importance of self-control in the life of a believer, but how are we to cultivate self-control?
IV. CULTIVATING SELF-CONTROL
We talked a lot about self-control from the world’s and scriptural point of view, but can self-control be learned and taught? We will ask an expert, “Marshmallow man” Walter Mischel is an Ivy League professor known for his experiments in self-control. Nearly 50 years ago, he created a test to see how various five-year-olds would respond to being left alone with a marshmallow for 15 minutes with instructions not to eat it — and with the promises that if they didn’t, they would be given two. Famously, preschoolers who waited longest for the marshmallow went on to have higher SAT scores than the ones who couldn’t wait. In later years they were thinner, earned more advanced degrees, used less cocaine, and coped better with stress.
As these first marshmallow kids now enter their 50s, Mr. Mischel and colleagues are investigating whether the good delayers are richer, too. Now Mischel eighty and wants to make sure that the nervous parents of self-indulgent children don’t miss his key finding: “Whether you eat the marshmallow at age 5 isn’t your destiny. Self-control can be taught.”
Self-control is easier said than done, however I would suggest a couple of ways that might be helpful in cultivating self-control. It begins with honesty and a determination. We need to honestly face and answer these sets of questions: First set of questions: what am I a slave to? Food? Lust? Power? Money? The Past? Drugs? Alcohol? Bitterness? Jealousy? Anger? List can go on these deal with what is having a grip on our lives, and the things that we like to work on.
The second set of questions: What do I have to say “no” to right now? What do I have to say “yes” to right now? Where/how do I better incorporate the fruits into my life? These questions deal with on or two things you can actually to work on and take responsibility.
Once we face and answer these questions honestly, then we need to confess to the lord and ask him his forgiveness of the sins we may have committed due to lack of self-control.
Remember God is faithful, when we confess he will forgive and cleanse us from our sin and give us another chance to live rightly. With a forgiven heart now, we will find a trusted friend or a confidant to hold us accountable and walk with us as we work through our challenges.
You may be saying, Pastor it is hard work to develop self-control in my life.
I hear you, yes, it is indeed hard work, but remember Christ has done the hardest work, by going to the cross on your behalf. He offered His life as a sacrifice so that you and I can walk away from our bondage to sin and live as free people. He adopted us into His family of committed brothers and sisters who once were sinners but saved by grace. By being part of such a family we can work together, hold each other accountable, spur one another to good works and challenge one another not to give up but to hold on to our faith. Moreover, Jesus deposited His Holy Spirit inside of us. As we learn to listen, and obey the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit, by His strength we will be able to cultivate self-control which is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Amen