2 Peter 1:5–9 (NKJV)
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
For the last couple weeks we have been studying Peter’s exhortation here in his second epistle. He has instructed us to employ all diligence as we add to our faith virtue and to our virtue knowledge. Today he exhorts us to add to our knowledge self-control.
Webster defines self-control as “control over your feelings or actions; restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires.” While self-control is sometimes an unpopular subject, it is one that is frequently addressed in Scripture – in both the Old and New Testaments. Solomon tells us in Proverbs 16:32, He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. And later in 25:28 he reminds us, Whoever has no rule over his own spirit Is like a city broken down, without walls. In the New Testament, Paul teaches us that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit and that a lack of self-control is evidence of a people under God’s judgment.
So let us note a few things: first, self-control is a gift of God’s Spirit. And so if we would grow in self-control we must seek it from God Himself. This reminds us to pray regularly for God’s grace and mercy. When the Spirit is at work in our lives, we will gain increasing self-control. Despite the claims of some, the Spirit doesn’t primarily manifest Himself in miracles and signs and wonders. His primary work is the hum-drum work of equipping us to resist that second bowl of ice-cream.
Second, self-control is a Christian virtue which we are to develop with all diligence. We are to gain increasing control over our feelings and actions, over our impulses, emotions, and desires. The feeling of anger wells up within us – we need to control it. The impulse to spend money and go into debt strikes us – we need to control it. The desire to look at pornography assaults us – we need to control it.
This diligent cultivation of self-control is something that applies to adults and children alike. Parents, one of your primary duties is to teach your children self-control. And children, one of your primary callings is to develop self-control in your youth. You want to lay in bed all day; control your feeling and get up. You want to open your lips and be disrespectful; control your impulse and speak respectfully. Self-control is a Christian virtue which we are to develop with all diligence.
Finally, Peter’s calling to add to knowledge self-control means that we are to use the various means at our disposal to cultivate this virtue. We are to study, observe, and gain knowledge of ourselves and the world, so that we can become increasingly self-controlled. So how are you doing? Teens, are your music choices helping you cultivate self-control? Music is one of the most powerful means for strengthening virtue and, on the other hand, destroying inhibitions, destroying self-control. What is your music doing for you? What do the musicians you listen to want it to do? Concerts are a good indication of the direction the music you’re listening to leads. Study. Think. Consider. Add to your knowledge self-control.
Reminded that we are to be a people who control our emotions and actions, let us confess that we often fail to do so. We are often driven by our impulses, controlled by our feelings, governed by our desires. So let us confess our lack of self-control to the Lord and kneel as we’re able.