First Mennonite Church
November 26, 2023
Building Block for Godliness
Text: 2Peter 1:1-11
Peter’s opening blessing can be addressed to Christians of all times. “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” is Peter’s address reaching out to you and me. We all share in the precious faith of Peter and of all the saints of the past. Although Peter is a pillar among the disciples, he does not regard himself as having a special status over other believers when it comes to faith. He acknowledges that the gift of faith his brothers and sister have received is as equally precious as the one he and all the apostles have.
In Peter’s words, this faith not only enables us to approach God with confidence in Christ but we are also granted the divine power through the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life.
God’s power given to us through Christ Jesus is key to the transformational process we need to grow in Christ. And the transformational process we should all experience by knowing Christ and having God’s power is called godliness. Godliness is the hallmark of Christian ethics—that moral standard that distinguishes the believer from the unbeliever.
Peter says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his glory and goodness . . . so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
But a life of godliness does not happen simply by claiming to be in Christ. Our life does not automatically change by simply confessing Jesus as Lord. The habits we had, in the words of Paul, “the old man or nature” which has had dominion over our life, will want to continue operating in us. Thus, we might want to keep the old ways, using the language we used, entertaining the thoughts we used to entertain, continuing with the same attitude of indifference to others, getting angry at the least inconvenience, and so on. That explains why we all might struggle to live godly lives. Because godliness does not happen by simply being in Christ, Peter urged:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and mutual affection, love. 8 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. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
We are called to build our spiritual lives by making every moral effort to achieve and grow in these virtues that set us apart as belonging exclusively to God.
Faith is the foundation of our relationship with God in Christ. It is a precious gift shared by all believers. It affords us divine power to flourish in God’s redemptive plan.
Goodness is moral excellence: that is, having impeccable behavior in all things.
Knowledge of Christ is only achieved through daily walking with him. In other words, Christian discipleship—the constancy and willingness of wanting to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.
I will skip self-control because I will focus on this particular one today.
Perseverance or endurance is the ardent desire to be grounded in Christ and to become immovable in our faith and walk with the Lord. Despite the trials and personal challenges, perseverance is the virtue that makes the saints faithful followers of Christ. Perseverance is the inner strength God gives us to believe that he is faithful and that his promises will all be fulfilled.
Godliness (Eusebeia is the Greek word for godliness. Eusebia was the name of my maternal grandmother). Godliness is the attitude and constant desire to honor God in everything in life. Godliness is the acknowledgment that God has the ultimate authority over our words, acts, thoughts, and intentions, therefore we are watchful over what we say and do.
And Peter says that to godliness we must add mutual affection or brotherly kindness—Philadelphia. Christians have mutual respect for one another regardless of social or economic background.
If these qualities abide in us, if we make every moral effort to build our Christian lives with these virtues, we will secure maturity in Christ, as we grow in the knowledge of him.
So, now let us go to the virtue of self-control.
What is self-control? In the Bible, there are two Greek words translated as “self-control” in some versions. Egkrateai as in Galatians 5: 23, describes one who has the power to control his or her passions, emotions, or natural impulses. And the other word is sophron. This is one of the attributes of a church leader and is translated either as “sound mind,” “temperate,” or “self-controlled.” Sophron describes someone who is balanced in his or her dealings. It describes someone who remains calm even under pressure.
Why is self-control so important in our Christian life? I believe Peter can respond to that question. In our passage in 2Peter, Peter is addressing believers, people of faith. To those who have received faith as precious as ours through God and our Savior Jesus Christ (v. 1). As we will see, self-control is something that besides being part of the fruit of the Spirit of God, is a character trait we must work very diligently on. Peter urges For this very reason, you must make every effort to support/supplement your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control . . . . Every day we find ourselves having to deal with planned or unplanned circumstances. Every day we are called to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. In every decision we make, we are either following Jesus or following our habitual ways of doing things. Self-control is God’s power in that helps us have a sound mind to make the right choices in our daily lives. Self-control is God’s power that helps us not lose control over our emotions or impulses especially when are under pressure. When our expectations are not met, when someone cuts you off on the road, you do not lose your temper.
It is so sad to see what is happening these days on the highways. Road rage is happening everywhere. People involved in road rage lose control of their temper. We hear of people abusing waiters and waitresses because the food did not fast enough or was not as they ordered it.
Self-control is not only good for godly living. Successful people, more often than not, are those who practice self-control. The student who gets straight “A’s” is often not a genius, but someone who has self-discipline in his or her study habits. It is the same about the athlete who wins the gold medal. Such an athlete knows that practice makes perfect. This athlete knows that consistency in training is the only way to success. And even when she does not feel like practicing, she knows that it’s the only option there is to succeed.
But for us Christians, self-control is even more important. A lack of self-control can ruin our testimony.
Self-control is not only necessary concerning morality. It is also important in everything we do. Humans are creatures of habit. We have eating habits, sleeping habits, working habits, speaking habits, and all kinds of habits. But habits do not develop overnight. We develop them through the years. And we should be reminded that habits overrun our willpower. John Ortberg, Pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, writes, “Habits eat willpower for breakfast.” When we are under pressure or when we are taken off-guard in a situation, our habits will overpower our willpower. Habits become second nature in us and we act or react without thinking twice. Self-control is left in the back seat if we have the habit of snapping back at someone and raising his or her voice.
In his book, What On Earth Am I Here For, Rick Warren writes:
Habits take time to develop. Remember that your
character is the total of your habits. You can’t
claim to be kind unless you are habitually kind—you
show kindness without even thinking about it.
You can’t claim to have integrity unless it is your
habit to always be honest. A husband who is faithful
to his wife most of the time is not faithful at all!
Your habits define your character. 
So, what can we do? Alongside resisting our bad habits, we should also be determined to create new ones. We must resolve to break away from any habit that hurts our character. Drew Dyck writes: “The key to holy life isn’t simply to out-battle temptation at every turn. It’s to build righteous patterns in your life. That’s achieved through creating holy habits. Each of us knows what our habits are. So we can start by acknowledging these habits before God and confessing to him that we struggle with them. We should pray with the psalmist:
Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not turn my heart to any evil, (Psalm 141:2-3).
Let us remember that it is not only good to get rid of any bad habits we might have, but we should strive to develop good habits. If our problem is feeling tired all day because we go late to sleep, let us not only fight to stay awake during the day but start going to sleep earlier. If we have the habit of being domineering in conversation, let us not only allow the other person to speak but to truly engage in listening. If we have the proclivity of being late at our appointments, let us start early with our day. Let us remember that our habits define our character. We are followers of Christ who said, “Let the disciple be as his master.”
Lastly, let us remember that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit of God. We have a greater advantage over those who religiously follow a pattern in life to develop good habits. Peter tells us that God has given us his power and everything we need for a godly life. We are not alone in this effort to control the old impulses and habits we had before coming to the knowledge of Christ.
And this is God’s promise to you and me because we live godly lives:
For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you. Amen!
 Rick Warren. What On Earth Am I Here For (Zondervan, Grand Rapids. 2012)
 Dyck, Drew. (Fall 2018). Self-Control: The Leader’s Make-or-Break Virtue. Christianity Today. Ministry in the #MeToo Moment, 31