“make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
2 Peter 1:5-11 NIV
Peter always catches me off guard in this passage. I am reading along about how we have been bought into the salvation of Christ, and then he says now that we believe we should keep adding to our faith. This is along the same lines of what James says: faith without works is dead. The faithful are known by their fruit. Peter gets very specific here about what that faith fruit should look like. We should first add goodness. Easy enough. Be good. Say a kind word. Cook dinner for someone in need. Then we should add knowledge. Study! Pay attention in the sermon! Read your Bible. Check. But then he says to add self-control, and this is where I get caught up. Unlike the first two virtues, self- control is not an action. All the sudden Peter is telling me to stop doing something I shouldn’t do, instead of telling me to find something good to do. The assignment just got harder. How do I add self-control? Peter doesn’t leave us hanging. If you skip down to verse 8, you will find the answer, the key to self-control. “But whoever does not have (these qualities) is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” The key is to remember that you have been cleansed from your past sins. If you believe every morning that your sins of yesterday have been completely forgiven, erased, forgotten, you will have the self control to turn from them. You are no longer a mom who yells at her kids, you are a forgiven mom. You are not a wife who disrespects her husband, you are forgiven. Today you are a new wife, you are a respectful wife, because you have been cleansed and you can do all things through Christ. You are not the girl who envies all the other girls at school, you are new. You are no longer lazy, no longer angry, no longer worried, no longer afraid, all those things have been forgotten and taken away from you. Today you are forgiven and you don’t have to worry or be lazy or be angry. You are not that person anymore.
We find some pretty great motivation in verse 11 “For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” If we persevere in goodness and knowledge and self-control and godliness and love then we will be richly welcomed into the Kingdom of saints. Richly welcomed by Abraham and Sarah, by Moses and Noah and Ruth and King David and Elijah and Peter and Paul and so many others who have gone before. How we conduct ourselves in day to day relationships has an effect on how we will be welcomed by these saints when we enter the Eternal Kingdom.
I’ve been meditating on self-control a lot lately, and not just for myself. I’m still learning it, but as I do so I’m also trying to guide my children how to be self-controlled. I don’t want my children to learn how to just suppress all their emotion. That’s not my goal. My goal is to help them control their actions and not act solely on how they are feeling. Easy to say, hard to teach. But this is my starting point, my solid ground for teaching self-control that I need to continually fall back on. If I see they are really struggling with self-control, I need to make sure of two things. First, I need to make sure they know that they are forgiven. I forgave them, God forgave them. They are not my “difficult child”. They are my forgiven child. They are not my child who bites or hits, they are my forgiven child, they are made new every time they are disciplined and forgiven. They are not my stubborn child, they are my child who was baptized into Christ and stubbornness does not have a hold on them. I need to make sure they know this.
Second, I need to make sure my children have the reward of a rich welcome when they act in self-control. It is easy for me to notice when my children do not have self-control, when they throw fits or talk back or hit each other. But it is hard to notice when they sit still in church and cheerfully eat the dinner they don’t like and walk away when their sibling annoys them. I need to make sure that I take note and richly praise them when they are controlled. I need to be in the habit of giving high-fives and winks and hugs when they wait cheerfully for their dinner, instead of just noticing when they are whining and grabbing my legs like they have never had a meal before. My hope is that they will understand the reward of self-control is a rich welcome, a rich welcome here in our family, and a rich welcome into Eternity.