Add to Knowledge Self-Control

October 5, 2014 in Bible - NT - 2 Peter, Bible - NT - Galatians, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Ecclesiology, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Sanctification
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.

Justification and Sanctification

July 24, 2014 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Bible - NT - John, Bible - NT - Romans, Cross of Christ, Federal Vision, Justification, King Jesus, Law and Gospel, Rome, Sanctification

“Of course, we must also teach good works and love, but it must be done in the right place – that is, when we are dealing with works, not justification. Here the question is how we are justified and attain eternal life, and so we reject and condemn all good works, for this passage will not allow any argument based on good works.

“Indeed, ‘the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good’ (Romans 7:12). But when we are dealing with justification, it is not the time or place to speak about the law. The question is, who is Christ, and what benefit has he brought us? Christ is not the law; he is not what I have done or what the law has done; he is not my love, my obedience, my poverty. He is the Lord of life and death, a mediator, the Savior, the redeemer of those who are under the law and sin. By faith we are in him and he in us….

“Christ is no law, and therefore he does not exact the law and its observance. He is ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). It is only faith that takes hold of this, not love. Love, however, must follow faith, as a sort of thankfulness. Victory over sin and death, then, and salvation and everlasting life too, did not come through the law, nor through the observance of the law, nor yet through the power of free will, but through the Lord Jesus Christ alone.”

Martin Luther, Galatians, p. 91.

Justified by Faith and Love?

July 24, 2014 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Church History, Federal Vision, Justification, Quotations, Rome, Sanctification

“The right way to become a Christian is to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the observance of the law. Here we must stand, and not upon the wicked interpretation of those who say that faith justifies when love and good works are combined with it. That interpretation obscures this and similar sentences in Paul in which he clearly attributes justification solely to faith in Christ. When people hear that they should believe in Christ, yet faith only justifies if it is formed and accompanied by works of love, eventually they fall from faith and think along these lines: ‘If faith without love does not justify, then faith is empty and pointless, and only love in action justifies, for faith is nothing without love….’

“They say that faith in Christ does not make us free from sin, but only faith combined with love. this is to say that Christ leaves us in our sins and in the wrath of God and makes us guilty of eternal death, whereas if you keep the law, faith justifies you because it has works, without which faith is no help. Therefore, works justify, and not faith, they claim. What pernicious and cursed teaching is this!”

Martin Luther, Galatians, pp. 90, 93-94.

Against the Church

July 24, 2014 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Church History, Ecclesiology, Quotations, Rome, Tradition, Word of God

“No one willingly says that the church is wrong, and yet it is necessary to say that it is wrong if it teaches anything besides or against God’s Word.”

Martin Luther, Galatians, p. 59.

The Church is our Mother and to be treated with respect and honor. But the Church is to honor the Word of our Father. When the Church fails to do so, then the disciple must follow the Father for the sake of the Mother. This is how Luther conceived his calling. Unfortunately many modern self-proclaimed “reformers” do not have a proper respect for their Mother and make themselves the sole arbiters of truth rather than the Word. Luther writes earlier in his commentary:

“Since the church is such a soft and tender thing, and so soon overthrown, we must be quick to watch against these people with their mad ideas. When they have given two sermons or have read a few pages of the Holy Scriptures, they reckon they are in control of all learners and teachers and are answerable to no human authority. You can find many such people today, bold and impudent persons who because they have not been tried by temptations have never learned to fear God, nor had any taste or feeling of grace. Because they are empty of the Holy Spirit, they teach what they like best and such things as are plausible and pleasant to the common people. Then the uneducated multitude, longing to hear news, soon joins them.” p. 47

I like it!

July 24, 2014 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Justification, Law and Gospel, Quotations, Reformation, Sanctification

“When I first took upon me the defense of the Gospel, I remember a worthy man saying to me, ‘I like it, this doctrine you preach, because it gives glory and everything else to God alone, and nothing to man, for we cannot attribute too much glory, goodness, mercy, and so on to God.'”

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Wheaton: Crossway, 1998), pp. 58-59.

The Fruit of Self-Control

September 17, 2012 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification

Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Today we conclude our meditations on the fruit of the Spirit with self-control. Permit me to use this as an opportunity to clarify some things I said last week about gossip.

One of the chief obligations that we have as the people of God is to exercise self-control over our tongues. Providing that we are exercising self-control, there are times when speaking about an individual or situation is not gossip. For example, it is not gossip to seek counsel. If you were struggling with a decision, endeavoring to act in wisdom, then Solomon would urge you to seek counsel. Seeking counsel necessitates that you explain the situation about which you need counsel. Remember that the principle the Shunammite revealed was that we beware telling our problems to those who are not part of the solution. Seeking counsel is not gossip because the person to whom you are speaking is part of the solution – but beware gossiping under cover of seeking counsel.

Likewise, speaking is not gossip when you are endeavoring to understand. Paul commands wives to be quiet in the public assembly and to ask their husbands at home if there is something they do not understand. And Solomon urges us to seek for understanding like silver or gold. This implies that seeking understanding, asking questions, is not gossip provided that we’re prepared to learn from the questions we’re asking and that we’re not simply asking questions to vent the matter more openly.

Finally, Scripture tells us that it is not always wrong to speak negatively, even harshly, about specific individuals, provided that such words are in accordance with God’s judgment. Jesus calls Herod a fox, Paul called down a public curse on Alexander the coppersmith, and John in his third epistle rebukes Diotrephes publicly for his arrogance and pride. If the charge is accurate then it is not always wrong to pronounce such – indeed, at times, it may be wrong not to do so. The important point is that in all cases, we must exercise self-control – governing our tongues in accordance with God’s Word.

James warns us that “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity” (3:6). With the tongue we can bless our neighbor and with the tongue we can destroy a city. So Solomon observes that “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles” (Pr 21:23). Our tongues can get us into trouble not only with men but with God Himself. God hates a lying tongue; he hates those who cause strife; he hates talebearers and malicious gossips. God takes our tongues seriously.

Because of the seriousness with which God takes the tongue, the instruction of the Church is to address sins of the tongue routinely. Paul contrasts righteous elders with “idle talkers” – those who pratter on and on about their own opinions rather than speaking the Word of God. He commands that deacons not be “double-tongued” – speaking this way and that just to gain the approval of others. Rather, they must be men who speak the truth with integrity. Paul also insists that the female assistants to the deacons are not to be slanderers – that is, those who use their tongues to destroy the credibility of others. And in his letter to Titus, Paul urges Titus to instruct the older women according to the same principle. We must govern our tongues. We must exercise self-control in our use of the tongue.

So reminded of our calling and obligation to manifest self-control in the use of our tongues, let us kneel and confess that we have often failed to do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Fruit of Gentleness

September 9, 2012 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Holy Spirit, Meditations

Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Today we come to the fruit of the Spirit identified by Paul as gentleness. It “is the character that will show calmness, personal care, tenderness and the Love of Christ in meeting the needs of others.” It is the opposite of roughness and violence, endeavoring to force others to comply with one’s own wishes.

Since gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, it is quite obviously a characteristic of God Himself. Jesus assures us, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus is gentle and displays this gentleness throughout his earthly ministry.

Following in the footsteps of our Master, we are to be gentle in our dealings with believer and unbeliever alike. Paul writes to the Thessalonians that when he and his companions were among them, they did not “seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” Paul’s love for the Thessalonians moved him to treat them with gentleness.

This same gentleness is to shape not only our conduct toward our fellow believers but to unbelievers as well. Paul writes to Timothy, “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth…” God has treated us gently, not holding our sin over us but forgiving us freely in Christ. So we are to be gentle in turn.

Often, however, like Moses we grow angry and frustrated with others and fail to treat them with gentleness. When God told Moses to speak to the rock and provide water for the people, Moses was too consumed with anger to follow the Lord’s will. Instead of speaking to the rock he spoke to the people in anger, rebuking and chastising them. Then he struck the rock and water gushed forth – but Moses lost the privilege of leading the people of Israel into the promised land.

So how are we doing with those who make demands of us, irritate us, frustrate us, annoy us, and disappoint us? Are we showing gentleness, reflecting the character of Christ, or have we been rough and violent. I fear that it is often the latter – so let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord.

We will have a time of silent confession following which I will pray on behalf of the congregation.

Our God and Father,

You have been gentle with us – showered your grace upon us time and again despite our sin and rebellion. But we have been harsh – unforgiving to our friends and enemies, cruel to those who have harmed us, short with those who have irritated us. So too our culture. Forgive us for the sake of Christ and restore us into the image of a perfected humanity, full of gentleness and restrain. For the glory of Christ our Lord,


The Fruit of Faithfulness

August 19, 2012 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Holy Spirit, Meditations

Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Today in our discussion of the fruits of the Spirit we touch on the fruit of faithfulness. Faithfulness is defined by Webster either as “the quality of being true and constant in affection or allegiance; loyalty” or as “the quality of being firm in adherence to promises, oaths, or undertakings; firm and thorough in the observance of duty; conscientiousness.” As the Spirit of God works in us He teaches us to be more like God and Yahweh, the Triune God, is faithful – He is loyal and conscientious.

Jeremiah reminds us in Lamentations, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” God’s loyalty to His people has revealed itself time and again. Despite our fathers’ unfaithfulness in the wilderness, God was faithful and brought them into the promised land. Despite the unfaithfulness of Solomon, God remembered His covenant with David and faithfully fulfilled it by sending Jesus as King of kings. Despite the unfaithfulness of the late medieval church hierarchy, God raised up men like Luther and Calvin to recover the truths of Scripture and free God’s people from the bondage of superstition. Despite all men’s unfaithfulness in departing from the living God and serving other gods, God sent His Son to die for us and rescue us from the folly and death of idolatry. God is faithful.

And so, because by grace we have been united to this God and because we become more and more like that which we worship, it is this type of character that the Spirit of God is creating within us – faithfulness, loyalty, conscientiousness. When I make a promise, I fulfill it. When I swear an oath, I uphold it. When I have a duty, I perform it. This is the meaning of faithfulness.

And note that faithfulness manifests itself particularly in the face of the faithlessness, the sin and pettiness, of others. Faithfulness only reveals itself in the context of trials and hardships that make such faithfulness meaningful. I’ve made a promise and it’s hard to fulfill it – do I break my word or do I prove faithful? I’ve made a covenant and that woman/man is just so difficult to love – do I break my oath or do I prove faithful? I’ve got a duty but fulfilling it will demand sacrifice and hardship – do I neglect my duty or do I prove faithful? Mark Dever writes in his book What is a Healthy Church?

You and I cannot demonstrate love or joy or peace or patience or kindness [or faithfulness] sitting all by ourselves on an island. No, we demonstrate it when the people we have committed to loving give us good reasons not to love them, but we do anyway. Do you see it? It’s right there – right in the midst of a group of sinners who have committed to loving one another – that the gospel is displayed. The church gives a visual presentation of the gospel when we forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us, when we commit to one another as Christ has committed to us, and when we lay down our lives for one another as Christ laid down his life for us…

So this is the fruit that Paul places before us today: faithfulness. And reminded how often we and our broader culture fail to be faithful, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord.

The Fruit of Goodness

August 12, 2012 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Holy Spirit, Meditations

Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Our opening Scripture today reminded us that God is good and manifests that goodness toward those who trust in Him. He protects us from harm, preserves us from the plots of men, and shields us from the malicious tongues of those who hate us. Because Christ is risen and reigns at God’s right hand, because He has been appointed by God to judge all men, no evil plots, no crafty schemes, no lying tongues will ultimately prevail. God is on our side and God is good.

And one of the things that God’s Spirit fosters in us as we place our trust in Him is this same goodness – the fruit of the Spirit is goodness, a goodness that looks out for the interests of others more than our own interest. Paul writes that we are not to return evil for evil or insult for insult; instead we are to overcome evil with good and give a blessing instead. In the knowledge that God promises to protect us, shield us, guard us and raise us to new life with Christ, we can face the threats and plots of man with confidence and strength; we can overcome evil with good for the good God is on our side.

So what does goodness look like? Goodness looks a lot like love – it suffers long and is kind; it does not envy; it does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It does not grow bitter, does not wish others harm – but delights as God sends His blessings and prospers. It does not revel in filth, does not gossip, does not slander, does not envy the prosperity of others. Rather goodness rejoices that against all expectations God has had mercy on us in Christ, has rescued us from sin and death, and has promised to work all things together for the good of those who love Him.

And so reminded that we serve a good God, a God who has promised to work all things together for our good, let us kneel and confess that we have often failed to imitate Him and be good ourselves.