Tag Archives: Self-Control

The Well-Worn Playbook

The Well-Worn Playbook (CaD 2 Pe 2) Wayfarer

They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
2 Peter 2:19 (NIV)

The Great Story is, at its heart, a story of good and evil. The evil one tempts Adam and Eve into disobeying God’s demand by questioning God’s goodness and promising them that they will be “like God” if they just have a taste of that forbidden fruit.

The punishment is their expulsion from the Garden and fellowship with God to live and die in the world, where the “Prince of this World,” as Jesus referenced the Evil One, has dominion over the kingdoms of this world. Before starting his mission, Jesus and the Prince of this World met, and Jesus faced the same basic temptations used against Adam and Eve (the Evil One’s playbook is really pretty basic). He offered to give Jesus all the “kingdoms of this world” if he would merely bow and worship. Jesus passed on the offer. The night before He was crucified, Jesus told His followers that the “Prince of this World” stood condemned. His sacrificial death and resurrection was righting a wrong on a grand scale.

The final chapters of the Great Story tell of the climactic confrontation of God and evil. It’s an end, and then a new beginning, which is yet another recurring theme in the Great Story.

Along my life journey, I’ve tried to be mindful of this foundational conflict as I interpret all that see and experience along the way. God is Love, and that Love is the source of life and goodness. Evil is an oppositional force. It opposes all that God is, and does, and desires. God is love, and so evil sows hatred. God is for life, thus evil gloats in death. God is about goodness and order, and so evil rejoices in destruction and chaos.

In today’s chapter, Peter is writing to the first century followers of Christ about the oppositional forces that were already at work to disrupt the powerful impact that their faith, expressed through Christ’s love in action was having in the world. Individuals with selfish and evil motives were leading Jesus’ followers astray. Interestingly enough, one of the tactics Peter mentions is their promise of freedom. He states that these false teachers were telling people that they are free to indulge any and all of their appetites (both the Greeks and Romans were famous for indulging all their appetites in creative and unrestrained ways). Peter warned them to be wary of this deceit.

Jesus is often quoted: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Rarely do I hear the previous sentence quoted with it: “You are truly my disciples if you do what I tell you. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

See the oppositional forces at work? Evil tells me “indulge your appetites and you’ll experience freedom,” though what I end up experiencing is self-focused indulgence which leads me into slavery to my own appetites and all the destructive consequences that go with it (personally, relationally, physically, spiritually, and mentally). In contrast, simple obedience to Jesus’ law of love, which gets expressed in part by the spiritual fruit of self-control keeps me free of those destructive consequences so that all the other fruit of love (goodness, kindness, etc.) has room to pour out of me into others.

In the quiet this morning, I couldn’t help but recall a Tweet I saw yesterday from a celebrity and former Disney star:

Again, the playbook is pretty basic. “Indulge your appetites and you will experience freedom.” As the Sage of Ecclesiastes says, “There’s really nothing new under the sun.” And yet, I’ve never found anything really free or good traveling down any alley of indulgence. Pleasure? Certainly. But that’s fleeting and then requires another fix to feel it again, then a bigger fix, and then yet another even bigger fix. I like the way Bob Dylan described it: “A bad motorcyle with the devil in the seat, going ninety-miles an hour down a dead-end street.”

And so, I press on in this earthly journey one more day, choosing the path that Jesus prescribed to freedom. As for me, I have yet to be disappointed on this path, nor has it ever led me down a dead-end street.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Embodying Wisdom and Love

My son, pay attention to what I say;
    turn your ear to my words.

Proverbs 4:20 (NIV)

This coming Sunday I’m scheduled to deliver the message among our local gathering of Jesus’ followers. The assigned topic is “self-control” which is the final “fruit of the Spirit” Paul lists in his letter to the believers in Galatia:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

One of the key things on which I’ve been meditating of late is the fact that in the original language and among the earliest manuscripts of Paul’s letter there is a stop after the word “love.” The implication is that love is the fruit and all that is listed after are, in fact, descriptors of love. No surprise. In fact, in Paul’s famous description of love in his letter to the believers in Corinth, he describes love with many of the same adjectives.

As I contemplate self-control, the most obvious definitions that spring to mind are abstaining from immoral acts and/or avoiding the indulgence of unhealthy appetites. But then I began to think about self-control specifically it in terms of loving others well, and it changed my thinking.

In today’s chapter, King Solomon continues to implore his children to seek wisdom. At the end of the chapter he uses the parts of the body to describe how one seeks after wisdom:

  • Ears the pay attention to what is said
  • Eyes that are focused and searching after wisdom
  • A heart that is guarded from wandering into foolish places
  • A mouth that speaks good things, not bad
  • Feet that choose wise paths

As I mulled this over, I began to realize that these metaphors could also be just as easily applied to how I apply self-control in the loving of others (and here I examine, specifically, the love I show to Wendy, our children, my family, my friends, as well as strangers and enemies):

  • Ears that listen to another’s thoughts, feelings, and needs
  • Eyes that are focused and seeking out what another needs
  • A heart that is guarded from things that would hurt another
  • A mouth that knows when to speak, when to be silent, and speaks words that build up, encourage, and heal another
  • Feet that keep oneself alongside another

In the quiet this morning I find myself contemplating the connection between the daily choices I make in the use of my body (my ears, my eyes, my mouth, my heart, my brain, my hands, my feet) and both wisdom and love.

I am reminded this morning of one of the verses that I, as a young man, memorized and chose as words I wanted my entire life journey to embody:

Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.

1 John 3:18 (TLB)

featured image from KandM Classroom