“to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness.”
to knowledge self-control
The fourth building block of Christian character is “self-control.” We add self-control to our faith.
Another distinction the Christian should add to his character by faith is “self-control,” or the mastery of oneself by faith. This particular term does not regularly occur in the New Testament. The New Testament uses “self-control” two times in our verse and only two other times (Ac 24:25; Ga 5:23). The use of “self-control” is very infrequently because God does not sponsor autonomous self-mastery. Salvation or spirituality by mastery of the self is not the Christian way of life. It comes from our faith in God’s provisions.
We add self-control to “knowledge.” “Self-control” comes from two words: out of and strength. “Self-control” is personal power. “Self-control” is mastery over our passions so that we control our desires and actions. God bestows this power upon us when we draw on His resources by faith.
Self-control is the opposite of the anarchy of passions. Idiomatically, “self-control” means to hold oneself in, to command oneself. Self-control, then, is the mastery of self under God. We stay in command of our desires and wants. It is the ability to say “no” to self. This control is the freedom of self-restraint by trust in God’s resources.
The New Testament does not view self-control as legalistic abstinence. Christianity does not de-sex or empty all desires from the person. However, the Christian does maintain self-control and mastery over those desires by faith.
Co 2:20-23, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ 22which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”
It takes discipline to get into spiritual shape.
The Christian life carries certain qualities. Just any kind of life is not Christian living. It is more than being nice to your neighbors or avoiding legal trouble. There are specific standards unique to Christianity.
Self-control in God’s economy comes from the filling of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Christian self-control is not autonomous self-control.
Ga 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Why do people fail in any sphere of life? People fail in athletics, academics, and business because of a lack of self-discipline. Lazy people fail in athletics and school. Undisciplined people will fail spiritually in Christian living. Indifference is why people fail, especially in the Christian life. They have little internal power that comes from the Holy Spirit.
We live in a wayward generation. People rebel against many kinds of authority. Much of society’s music revolves around that rebellion, especially rap music. Our youth come from undisciplined homes and schools. They resent authority almost from diapers. They go to university, and the theme of thought is rebellion against authority, whether it is the authority of rule or the authority of concepts. Some never accept authority, even police authority. The media also attacks the jurisdiction of the police and government. About the only places where we find discipline today are sports and the military. There is little authority left in the home, the school, or even the church.
The Christian who wants to get in shape spiritually must get into the Word. That is where he gets his spiritual strength. He builds muscles by applying principles of Scripture to experience by faith, and he begins to lose his spiritual flab.
Do you dominate yourself or indulge yourself?
1 Co 9:24-27, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
The believer must go into training to live the Christian life. On the track team, we wave the right to eat certain foods. Others may eat ice cream twice daily, but we do not because we are in training. There is nothing wrong with ice cream, but it is poison if you run the mile. If you want to win, foregoing ice cream is a price you pay. This is self-control for a purpose. Others may eat all the ice cream they desire because they do not run the mile in competition. We want to win in the Christian life. We do not want to come in last. Powerful Christian character is a faith issue.