Most of us have experience being on a diet. A diet is a tremendous illustration for the spiritual battle we encounter every single day. As human beings we are EXPERTS at something….. and that something is rationalization. I can be on a strict diet – and rationalize my way into eating three pieces of pie before bed. “Oh, I’ll exercise tomorrow” – Boom – done. “Tomorrow I’ll skip breakfast and eat a healthy lunch” – Yep, score. “This is going to be a cheat day” – BINGO! We seem to be naturally great at this! Another way of putting it is that we lack self control. Or, we are susceptible to our flesh.
in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5b-7)
If you possess the qualities in this passage, you are guaranteed to bear fruit as the very next verse states: For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (verse 8)
Below are the qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7 with a brief description:
- Faith – Believing and trusting (relying on) God and what He says.
- Moral Excellence – A commitment to lawful and ethical behavior – with God as the standard bearer.
- Knowledge – Gaining valuable information about God and His ways – with Scripture as the primary source.
- Self Control – Submitting to God (God’s Spirit) rather than one’s carnal appetites.
- Perseverance – Continuing in the Lord, even, and especially when life gets tough.
- Godliness – A life that reflects awe and devotion to God.
- Brotherly Kindness – Devotion, affection, and kindness toward Christian brothers and sisters.
- Love – To love like Jesus loved. Meeting needs in a selfless and sacrificial way.
Where Are You on the Path?
After a brief study of the spiritual qualities above, where would you say most Christians stop growing? Starting with faith and going in order, how many qualities out of these would you say most of us exhibit? Here’s my opinion, admittedly without specific data. I think a large percentage of Christians enter the Kingdom by faith in Jesus, make some moral changes, go to church and study the Bible to gain knowledge, but never quite add self-control. My theory could help explain why we see gossip, extra-marital affairs, factions, disputes, anger, addictions, etc. in the church, just as in the world. If we lack self control, we are immature Christians.
Take the Next Step: Self-Control
To explain self-control, I think it is beneficial to review “what’s in your house.” If you picture yourself as a house, you have three entities living in the house: body, soul and spirit. Think of yourself as a type of trinity in God’s image, one “you” containing three entities.
- Body – This is the physical you. This body of yours is temporary and it knows it. The body, also referred to as “flesh” or “sin nature” in Scripture, has two primary interests: survival and pleasure. The body wants to live and be gratified.
- Soul – The soul is the invisible you, your thoughts, will, and emotions. The Christian’s soul is connected to the body and the Holy Spirit. It gathers information from both the physical and spiritual realms. And it has the ability to reason and choose between the two.
- Spirit – The spirit is our connection to God. Christians have a spiritual connection to a spiritual God. This spiritual connection can be disrupted by sin, but the connection ignites when we receive forgiveness through Christ and draw near to God. When we are saved, we gain the ability to communicate and have a relationship with God.
Self-control simply means that your soul controls your “house” based on input from the Spirit rather than the body. In other words, your spirit hears from God, your soul submits to the Spirit, and your body submits to the soul’s decision.
I’ve also heard it described the following way. In your house there are three people:
- A child (represents the body). The child screams for what he/she wants without reason.
- A teenager (represents the soul). The teenager knows more than the child, but isn’t quite as wise as he/she thinks and really wants to run the show.
- An adult (represents the spirit). The adult is mature and wise. In this scenario the key to self-control is letting the adult run the house.
Have You Reached This Level?
Have you added self-control to your list of qualities? Do you hear from God and submit your mind and body to Him? The church and the world both desperately need more displays of this quality. God’s will is not for us to spend a lifetime gaining knowledge and yet failing to apply it to our lives. God’s will is not for us to just learn about the Bible and go to church. His will is for us to be transformed by the knowledge that He provides. So who do you listen to more, your body or your spirit? If you’re not sure, let me answer the question for you with a common riddle, that maybe you can solve:
A child brought two puppies to a wise old man, a pure white one and a spotted one. The child then asked the wise man the following question, “sir, can you tell me which one of these puppies will thrive?” The old man looked at both puppies and answered, “the one you feed the most.”
Pornography, impure thoughts, lust, love of money, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, explosive anger, self centeredness, divisions and dissension, drunkenness, drugs, envy, immoral parties….
Flesh food is what the sinful nature cries out for. Flesh food gratifies now without concern for the effect on the soul. Flesh food is contrary to who the Spirit wants us to be.
Reading – studying – memorizing – speaking out and meditating on Scripture, prayer (talking and listening), praise, awareness of God’s presence, worship music, focus on blessings, fellowship, sacrifice, ministering to others….
Spirit food edifies / builds up. Spirit food agrees with the nature of Christ. The more Spirit food we ingest, the stronger our soul becomes to resist the pull of our flesh.
Let’s add self-control to our knowledge, continue to increase our faith and moral excellence. And next, get ready to add perseverance.