Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Add to your knowledge: Self Control

We've been working through the list in 2 Peter, and are now at #4, self-control:
2 Peter 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your (1) faith (2) goodness; and to goodness, (3) knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, (4) self-control; and to self-control, (5) perseverance; and to perseverance, (6) godliness; 7 and to godliness, (7) brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, (8) love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

What does "self-control" mean?

4. Self-control: (KJ - temperance) egkrateia {eng-krat'-i-ah}
1) self-control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites)

In other words, self-control is not giving into temptation. Do you remember Joseph and Potiphar's wife? Joseph was handsome, and Potiphar's wife was probably beautiful and bored. She wanted him to sleep with her. Again and again she asked him, even going so far as to attempt to trap him. Finally, he had to run away, even though she was grabbing onto him:  She caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me." But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside (Genesis 39:12). So, I'm guessing that whatever this garment, he was probably naked without it - especially as she used it to get back at him by accusing him of attempted rape to her husband. (which in case you ever wondered - Potiphar certainly didn't believe her or Joseph would have been immediately killed, not sent to prison). The point is, Joseph did whatever it took to avoid falling into sin, even fleeing naked.

Although Peter says "make every effort," about acquiring self-control, which is very active and something you consciously work on, it is also listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, which was completely passive:

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

When you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit works in you to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

Why does Peter list it in an active sense? This is acting on what the Spirit has given us - making use of it. We each have two natures - the sinful nature and our new nature. They are always at war with each other. Whichever one gets fed the most is the one that will be strongest. So, how do we get self-control? We stay connected to Jesus (the vine) so that the Spirit can produce fruit in us, of which self-control is a part. We "feed" our new man and starve our old one.

This exact word, translated "self-control" here, only appears three times in the Bible. The first two were above. The third is below:

Acts 24:24-25  Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 

Do you notice that Paul spoke on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come? What's the connection there? Self-control is not giving into temptation. When you hear that word, what do you immediately think of?

Matthew 6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

That word, translated "temptation" in the New King James Version is peirasmos . Here is what Strongs says:

1) an experiment, attempt, trial, proving
a) trial, proving: the trial made of you by my bodily condition, since condition served as to test the love of the Galatians toward Paul (Gal. 4:14)
b) the trial of man's fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy
1) an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from the desires or from the outward circumstances
2) an internal temptation to sin
a) of the temptation by which the devil sought to divert Jesus the Messiah from his divine errand
3) of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness
4) adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and serving to test or prove one's character, faith, holiness
c) temptation (i.e. trial) of God by men
1) rebellion against God, by which his power and justice are, as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves

Guess where else that exact same word is found?

Revelation 3:10 "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

That "hour of trial" that is coming on the whole world IS the judgment to come. It is THE temptation. Why? Because more than any other time on earth, men will be tempted to follow the false Messiah who is really Satan. With all lying signs and wonders, he will attempt to fool us, and Jesus warns that the deception will be so good that if possible, the very elect would be deceived.

But - that is not you, not if you are in Christ and allowing His Spirit to work in you. Make every effort to add to your knowledge, self-control.

And, remember:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

When you are tempted to sin, God will provide a way out. I speak to myself just as much as you here - Look for that way out!

While there are only the three places the exact word translated "self-control" appears, there are many places where God talks about that same concept:

Bible Verses about Self-Control  and, a different link, but with the same title: Bible Verses about Self-Control 

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