Summary: What character qualities have to do with my relationship with the world about me?
Today we are going to continue our consideration of the particulars of Christian character development. We note that Peter is very specific concerning what character qualities we should seek to develop as a Christian if we are going to progress toward Christ-likeness (vs. 5-7). He seems to list them in a particular order. Faith comes first, followed by goodness, then knowledge, to which we add self-control, then perseverance, then godliness, then brotherly kindness, and finally, love.
The first three character qualities (faith, goodness, and knowledge) have to do with my relationship with the God above me. The second three (self-control, perseverance, and godliness) have to do with my relationship with the world about me. The last two character qualities (brotherly kindness and love) have to with my relationship with the people around me.
Last time, we considered the first three of the Christian character qualities Peter mentions here, and noted they are linked to one another. Now let’s look at the second three which have to do with my relationship with the world about me - self-control, perseverance, and godliness.
1. Self-Control - v. 6
Self-Control has to do with my purpose while in this world.
William Barclay informs us that the term rendered "self-control" means literally "to take a grip of oneself." We are to take grip of ourselves in order to fulfill God’s purposes for our lives. Self-control is the opposite of self-indulgence. Rather than being driven by a desire to please self, Peter says we need to be driven to please God.
This is what he was referring to earlier in the passage in verse 4, where he mentions participating in the divine nature ("participation in the life of God" - The Message) as opposed to being corrupted by the world through evil desires.
God’s purposes for the church, and consequently, His people, are worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry and evangelism. Worship, discipleship, and fellowship relate to knowing Christ better while ministry and evangelism relate to making Christ known to others.
Since discipleship is about my becoming more like Jesus, that is my ultimate purpose. As I progress toward Christ-likeness, I will also fulfill the other four purposes. Worship, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry are eternal in nature. In eternity, we will worship the Lord, reflect His likeness, fellowship with fellow believers, and serve our eternal king. Evangelism is our urgent purpose - the only one of the five that we will not be able to do in heaven.
The degree to which we fulfill the first four purposes determines the degree to which we experience heaven on earth. The degree to which we fulfill the fifth purpose determines the number of people we take from earth to heaven. Now, when I understand that these are God’s purposes for me as I live in this world, and surrender myself to fulfilling these purposes, I will be led to live a life of self-control.
"Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified."
- 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NLT)
Friends, if I am going to relate as I should to the world about me, I must keep my eye on the prize - seeking to fulfill God’s purposes for me - living my life committed to worshipping God, to growing in Christ, to fellowship with fellow believers, to serving others, and sharing Christ. As I maintain my focus on pleasing God by living a purpose-driven life, I will be enabled to develop the self-control necessary to resist the desires of self and instead, partner with God.
2. Perseverance - v. 6
Perseverance has to do with my problems while in this world.
Without the self-control necessary to fulfill God’s purposes, I will not persevere when problems come.
"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." - 1 Peter 5:8-10 (NIV)
Notice what Peter tells us here about problems:
A. As long as we are in this world, we will have problems.