Sunday, February 11, 2018

Seven Supplements to Your Faith- Part III

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?
            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?
            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. 

            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?

            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

Sunday, February 4, 2018


(The Supplement of Knowledge) II Peter 1:1-7, 2/42018
          There's a story about a proud young man who came to Socrates asking for knowledge. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, "O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge." Socrates recognized a pompous numb skull when he saw one. He led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water. Then he asked, "What do you want?" "Knowledge, O wise Socrates," said the young man with a smile. Socrates put his strong hands on the man's shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. "What do you want?" he asked again. Wisdom," the young man sputtered, "O great and wise Socrates." Socrates crunched him under again. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five. Forty. Socrates let him up. The man was gasping. "What do you want, young man?" Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, "Knowledge, O wise and wonderful..."Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed. Fifty. "What do you want?" "Air!" the young man screeched. "I need air!" Socrates said, "When you want knowledge as you have just wanted air, then you will have knowledge."
            Last week we saw how the Apostle Peter reminded the persecuted believers of his time that only by God’s grace and through their faith in Jesus Christ they were saved. But after that God calls believers for total dedication. Peter used these words, “for this very reason, make every effort” to emphasize the fact that they were to make every disciplined effort to supplement to their faith with the following seven supplements. 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.
            Undoubtedly many of us take supplements daily because we came to believe that they are necessary due to our sedentary life style and eating habits. Supplements may add to what may be missing in our regular diet, therefore our quality of life may be improved. In the passage we read, the Apostle Peter recommends seven supplements to all those who want to be spiritually healthy and productive. Last week we learned that, faith without works is dead. We are called to do good, respect and honor all people. How do we know what is the difference between good and evil? Who is our standard when it comes to doing good? What will increase goodness in us? Let’s explore the second supplement called Knowledge to find answers to these questions.
            During the time of Peter’s writing of this letter, Gnosticism seemed to threaten the core foundations of the Christian faith. Gnostics believed that, “acquiring special, and mystical knowledge as the means for salvation which is contrary to the message of salvation through Christ alone (Acts 4:12). Peter challenged the heretics and their heresies by highlighting the true knowledge of Christ. The Greek word, ginosko which is translated into English “Knowledge” literally means, “to know experientially.”
            What did Peter mean when he said, supplement to your faith, goodness and to goodness, knowledge? He was saying as you exercise goodness in your life, continue to grow in the experiential knowledge of Christ. We need to acquire not just the head knowledge but experience Christ deep in our hearts. How can we get to know God deeply? When we are desperate for Him, when we yearn for Him as the deer pants for the waters.
            When we can say like Paul, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8 When we press on to know Him, then we will have the true knowledge of Christ.
            Unlike in many other religions including Judaism, in Christianity God calls His children to know Him intimately and it is possible for us to develop such intimate relationship with God. Christianity is not a religion made up of bunch of dos’ and don’ts, but it is a relationship with Jesus. The Apostle Peter was making a distinction between the knowledge of the world vs the Knowledge of Christ in II Peter, (1: 2,3,5-6, 8, 2:20, and 3:18).
            Not only here in Peter but throughout the scripture God makes such distinction between the worldly knowledge and spiritual knowledge. Consider the following scriptures: We hear the wise King Solomon talking about a worldly knowledge that leaves God out, and when people go after such knowledge in the end they are stricken with grief and sorrow. Ecclesiastes 1:16-18, “I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”
            Unfortunately, there are so many highly educated, and bright minds like Richard Dawkins and the likes with all their acquired earthly knowledge and wisdom think that they are greater than God, they deny the very existence of God who is the wisdom and the source of all wisdom. How would God deal with such foolishness? I Corinthians 3:19, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” Isaiah 29:14, “Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” These are just a few scriptures in regards to how God views all those who only pursue worldly knowledge but never pay attention to know God and His ways. God is delighted when we run after Him.
            After acquiring worldly wealth and knowledge later in life, we hear the wise King Solomon giving fatherly advice to his son about pursuing true knowledge and wisdom: Proverbs  2:1-6, “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
            How many of us want to pursue this kind of wisdom, knowledge and understanding? This wisdom is not taught in universities. It comes by knowing Christ personally and pursuing to know Him. This truth is often ignored by educated and successful but cherished by the uneducated, yet whose hearts are transformed by the love of God. Let me Illustrate:
            Alexander Grigolia had immigrated to America from Soviet Georgia, learned English, earned three doctoral degrees, and become a successful professor at the University of Pennsylvania. But despite his achievements, he had a misery in his heart that he couldn’t dislodge. One day while getting a shoeshine, he noticed that the bootblack went about his work with a sense of joy, scrubbing and buffing and smiling and talking. Finally, Dr. Grigolia could stand it no longer. He said in his funny sounding accent, “What always you so happy?”
            Looking up, the bootblack paused and replied, “Jesus, He love me, He died so God could forgive my badness. He makes me happy.” The professor snapped his newspaper back in front of his face, and the bootblack went back to work. But Dr. Grigolia never escaped those words, and they brought him eventually to the savior. He later became a professor of anthropology at Wheaton College and taught, among others, a young student named Billy Graham.” What a powerful story! What matters here is not how much you know but Who you know.
            The bootblack knew his savior, he knew that he was dearly loved, in that he found his purpose in life, even if it was just shining the boots of others, he did it cheerfully and joy fully.
We talked a lot about wisdom, but what is wisdom, why is it important that we get it and how do we get it? Proverbs is a great book to read if we want to know what is wisdom like, how you can obtain it and grow in it. Proverbs starts with these words: “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: “for gaining wisdom, and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young.”
            Let’s hear what Wisdom have to say to us, Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 19:8, “The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.” Here Wisdom is talking, Proverbs 8: 35-36, “For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord. But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.” It is only to our folly when we don’t seek wisdom for in it is life and prosperity.
            Let me explain practically how we can grow in the wisdom of the Lord? Firstly, we ask God to give us wisdom who is the source of all wisdom, like King Solomon asked. Secondly, when we ask God for wisdom as James puts it, “we must ask in faith without doubting.” When we ask Him sincerely in faith we will receive wisdom. We are encouraged to supplement to our faith, goodness and to goodness knowledge. Not the worldly knowledge but the experiential knowledge of Christ. Let me leave you with this question, do you know Jesus, I mean do you really know Him? The way you will get to know Him is by spending time in prayer and reading His Word daily, not as a must do item in your list. But cultivating a discipline which leads to desire and delight in God. When we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. Amen!


Sunday, January 28, 2018


II Peter 1:4-7
Introduction:  Here is a story of someone who was in prison, yet did not let her imprisonment take away her resolve to be productive and succeed. Tonya Wilson, who is in prison for attempted first-degree murder after she served as an accomplice and driver during a gang shooting in Tacoma. While in prison Tonya applied herself, and worked towards a degree. In 2017 she graduated with high honors. Six of Wilson’s family members came to the prison to watch her graduate: three aunts, one sister, a cousin and her 84-year-old grandfather. “It’s so nice to have people who have been with me for so long and have had sustained faith in me, when I didn’t necessarily have it in myself,” she said. She will be released next year and wants to become a teacher, but she knows that’s a longshot.[1]
            Tonya, could have wallowed in self-pity, and resentment, but she ceased every opportunity to be productive, applied herself, and worked hard as a result she succeeded. Her story is a great example of determination, hard work, and success. God wants all of us to be productive and successful. Is there a path way that would lead us to productivity and success?
            Last week we looked at how the Apostle Peter encouraged the believers who were undergoing persecution and facing the wrong teachings from false teachers that threatened their very Christian faith. He showed them how God’s divine power has given them everything to maintain their faith and combat false teaching. Today we will see how just having faith in Christ is not an end in itself, and what would keep us from being useless and productive and become credible citizens of the society where we are called to exercise our faith. Peter gives the believers seven supplements to their faith.  II Peter 1:4-7.
            To paint a picture of what life was like for Christians during 70 A.D. It was a confusing time for Christians. Jesus was not among them anymore, he was taken up to heaven. The apostles were leading the Church. Christians were hated and persecuted for their faith. The foundation of Christian faith was severely attacked by scoffers, sceptics and false teachers. Christians living under such turbulent times must have been anchored by the Apostle Peter’s two letters.
            In his first letter Peter instructed Christians how to deal with persecution from both inside and outside the church. In the second letter he taught them how to grow up in the true knowledge of Christ so that they can discern and deal with false teachers and evildoers who have come into the church. He instructed the believers how to live a balanced life of faith and action. Let’s see how this combination of faith and practice works out in our daily living.

            Vs 4 “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” Peter reminds the believers of the extravagant and precious promises that were given to them by God himself. All the promises of God are yes and Amen in Christ Jesus our Lord. The nature of these promises is that we might participate in the divine nature. It doesn’t mean that we will become like God, but we will be indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
            All the promises of God are exclusively meant for His children. All those who believe in Christ become God’s children. Therefore, by faith we accept, appropriate and do our best to live according to the promises of God, in this corrupt and evil world.
            As we continue to put our faith to work, and hold on the path of obedience to God, when our life on this earth comes to an end, we will be ushered into the Kingdom of God to live with Him forever. That was and continues to be the hope of every Christian who might be undergoing persecution for their faith.
            What is the purpose of God giving us all these great promises and blessings? So that we can be self-sufficient and become indifferent to the sufferings of the world around us? No! These promises and blessings come with awesome responsibility. God’s grace calls the believers for total dedication. That’s what the words, “making every effort” mean. Salvation is a gift we did not deserve but God gave it to us and we received it by faith. That is just the beginning. Though, God has poured His divine power through His Holy Spirit into our lives, we are required to make every disciplined effort to supplement to our faith. We will be working on the seven supplements to faith in the next coming weeks. Today we may look at one of them

            Vs 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.
            There is a huge market for “Supplements,” in the world today. There are more than 50,000 dietary supplement products marketed in the United States, and more than half of the adult population consume dietary supplements, with the most common ones being multivitamins. For those who fail to consume a balanced diet, the U.S. National Institute of Health states that certain supplements "may have value."[2] I am sure some of you may have some on your shelves.    Why are we so sold out on supplements? Because we believe they add to what may be missing in our regular diet, therefore our quality of life may be improved. The Apostle Peter recommended seven supplements that the early Christians must add to their faith for their spiritual well-being. Similarly, if we want to be healthy and live a productive Christian life we must also add the same seven spiritual supplements to our faith.
            The word supplement is to give lavishly and generously.  In Greek culture, the word was used for a choirmaster who was responsible for supplying everything that was needed for his choir. The word never meant to equip sparingly, but to supply lavishly for a noble performance.
We need to add these supplements lavishly to our faith. Let me share a few thoughts about faith.
            God has given us faith which is the basis of our lives. Faith is the first virtue for all believers who want to be productive. It is the first step in a long journey of productivity. Scripture tells us that only by faith we can please God. On the other hand, having faith in Christ is not an end in itself, but just the beginning. Listen to the advice of James, on faith and actions:   “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So, faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.” James 1:14-19.  These are powerful words, let’s pay attention to them.
            We Christians, for so long have been talking the talk, but it is time that we rise up and put our faith into action. Let’s show our love for God and for others not merely by words but through actions.
            That is one reason why as a church we are getting involved in reaching out to the Homeless in Taunton. Please join us and see your faith grow and come alive. I guarantee you that, you will be blessed as you go out and minister to the poor and the needy who are close to God’s heart. The apostle Peter was challenging the believers of that time to supply in abundance seven supplements to their faith so that they can live productive lives.  Let’s look at the first one:
I. Goodness: In other translation the word moral excellence is used. In classical Greek it meant the God-given ability to perform heroic deeds. It is the quality that makes someone to stand out as good. What is the basis for goodness? Where are we called to be good? What are the consequences when we try to do good? Peter gives us a framework in which goodness has to be put to work in first Peter. It has to do with knowing that we have been saved by the goodness of God, we have tasted that the Lord is good as Peter puts it. We have been given a new identity.
            1 Peter 2:9, “we are a chosen people a royal priesthood and a holy nation and God’s special possession so that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  Now with that awareness we are being sent into our troubled world. “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” I Peter 2:11-12.
            In essence, Peter is saying go live out the goodness of God right there in your office among gossiping, faultfinding, broken, lost, hurting, seeking, sometimes hostile co-workers, employees or bosses.  You are going to get some push back, they are surprised it says in Chapter 4:4 that you do not join them in their reckless and wild living and they heap abuse on you.   Peter goes to an extent to say that it is God’s will for us to do good, by doing so we could silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Part of doing good is to show proper respect to all.
            We are given quite a challenge, aren’t we?  But there is great purpose and meaning to be where you are as a child of God! “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10. Amen!