Step 3: With All Diligence Add Self-Control

To become strong enough in character to overcome temptation takes a huge amount of time and learning. God will not hit you over the head with a magic wand and say, “Now you have received the gift of strength, go now and sin no more!” His grace is constantly being released to the humble believer giving them stronger and stronger desires to withstand the devil’s temptations and also more and more strength to do God’s will.

Remember, Peter plainly teaches us because of salvation and God’s promises we can supernaturally change. He says, “For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence),  6  And in [exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control, and in [exercising] self-control [develop] steadfastness (patience, endurance), and in [exercising] steadfastness [develop] godliness (piety), 7  And in [exercising] godliness [develop] brotherly affection, and in [exercising] brotherly affection [develop] Christian love.” 

And a humble disciple must study long and hard and know God’s Word inside and out (step 2). You must have true spiritual knowledge from the leading of the Holy Spirit within you, and the reading and meditating of His truth with your mind. Your training is for moral and mental toughness to be able to stand against everything Satan throws at you to discourage you from fulfilling your mission from God. You must use your knowledge to gain the next step!

Let’s look at the life of Christ to help you comprehend this important factor. When Christ was twelve, he went to Jerusalem with His family and got involved with the scholars of Judaism. His family lost track of him and were frantic until they found Him in the temple with the religious leaders. Luke describes the reaction of the leaders, “After three days they found Him [came upon Him] in the [court of the] temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished and overwhelmed with bewildered wonder at His intelligence and understanding and His replies.” [Luke 2:46-47 AMP]

He had such knowledge that He blew away the smartest and most scholarly religious leaders of the whole nation as a twelve-year-old, but He was not ready for His mission. His knowledge needed to be exercised for the next eighteen years to strengthen him for His amazing task. “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was [habitually] obedient to them; and his mother kept and closely and persistently guarded all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom (in broad and full understanding) and in stature and years, and in favor with God and man.” [Luke 2:51,52 AMP]

For eighteen years Jesus waited for his mission and obeyed His earthly parents, learned to interact with His brothers and sisters, trained and became a carpenter, and exercised His knowledge to love His Father and His earthly family. He served His family and gained wisdom and full understanding through this life experience.

Our Lord needed to have self-control, an inward strength that never caves in under pressure or temptation, to satisfy the Father and fulfill His mission of the salvation of mankind. His learning development was more than just saying, ‘He was God in the flesh.’ The flesh part still made Him a human, and therefore He had to learn strength through hard trials and experiences.

In Hebrews we find this description,”Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do.” [Hebrews 5:8 from THE MESSAGE] I hope through this verse you will understand that God’s will for you is to be a spiritual adult that is strong and obedient just like Christ.

Your training must be understood to be all-encompassing as a professional football coach would train his players. Read carefully this next portion of scripture and change your mind about discipleship and serving Christ.

We read in the Luke 4:1-2 from the Amplified Bible, “THEN JESUS, full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led in [by] the [Holy] Spirit [2] For (during) forty days in the wilderness (desert), where He was tempted ( tried, tested exceedingly) by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they were completed, He was hungry.” [Deut. 9:9; 1 Kings 19:8.]

The coach, the Holy Spirit, pushed Jesus into isolation, with no food, and he was allowed to be ruthlessly attacked by the devil until he was near starvation. This trial was overwhelming without the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit releasing His strength within the Lord as stated in Luke 4. And remember it says He was tempted and tested exceedingly! Without the inward strength of self-control, no man would have survived such an onslaught but would have given in and sinned against God.

Does this say anything to you about your attitude of sin and the cheap “I can ask for forgiveness later” mentality? God’s will for you through self-control is to stand against temptation without failing and sinning again and again. Football players get tougher and stronger through tough practices and games by playing against strong opponents who fight with all their might to defeat them. Therefore if you fail, God does not quit with a true believer, but increases the training as He directly compares you to Jesus…

“Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [Ps 110:1.]”

“[3] Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds. [4] You have not yet struggled and fought agonizingly against sin, nor have you yet resisted and withstood to the point of pouring out your [own] blood.

“[5] And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; [6] For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes.”

“[7] You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline?” [Heb 12:2-7 AMP]

You might not want this kind of training, but believe me, it does not matter what you like. The Father unleashes the Holy Spirit, your coach also, to drag you into obedience through trials and tribulation, so submit to His mighty hand because His will is for you to get tough and stand strong against the devil, just like Jesus did!

The apostle Paul agrees and states, “In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides]. [11] Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.” 

“[12] For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. [13] Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].” [Eph 6:10-13 AMP]

The Lord’s final exam, ending the Lord’s training, was the terrible temptations for 40 days in the wilderness. He finished those 40 days to be given three more choices that demanded every bit of self-control He had.

As he was starving and He had no sign of the wilderness experience being over, Jesus was tempted to use the supernatural power He possessed to turn stones into food without specific permission from the Father. He needed the knowledge He had at twelve and quoted the scripture, but he also needed the strength and power of character He learned through the things that He suffered to say no and wait for the Father’s time.

The other two temptations were just as important, and He passed His final exam. He entered the battle controlled by the Spirit but… “Then Jesus went back full of and under the power of the [Holy] Spirit into Galilee, and the fame of Him spread through the whole region round about.” [Luke 4:14 AMP]

Now He had power from the Holy Spirit covering Him like a blanket, He was now strong in the Spirit as all Christians are offered! If He had used His own power He would not be our example, because we do not have such power. He then entered into His Father’s business and fulfilled His mission.

But He overcame the devil in the exact way all believers can, through the combined “armor of God”:

1/ knowledge [the belt of truth];

2/ virtue/character [the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude and right standing with God (AMP)];

3/ faith [shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one]. (AMP)];

4/ preparation [His 18 years of waiting are what we see in Eph 6:15 “And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace.” [Isa 52:7.] (AMP)];

5/ grace [helmet of salvation which is the mighty power of grace pouring out of His spirit]

6/ and God’s Word [the sword that the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God. (AMP)]

In school, you spend a lot of time learning before you are given your final exams and graduate. This is why Paul taught it so clearly in the book of Ephesians. What do you think God wants you to strongly stand up against?

He wants you to “resist and stand your ground.” He wants you to stand and not fall from “the strategies and the deceits of the devil.” The plain sense is this, just like the devil tried everything in His power to trick and con Jesus into sinning, He wants to convince you that “you are not perfect,” and “everyone has a weakness, so sin some, Jesus is merciful and forgives you constantly.” You must know His lies and resist temptation with the power of self-control, a fruit of the Spirit! Until you do, you will not be mature [Hebrews 12:2].

Remember you will only be considered mature “because you are strong and vigorous, and the Word of God is [always] abiding in you (in your hearts), and you have been victorious over the wicked one.” [1 John 2:14b AMP]

You must focus on your preparation and training, to gain the strong and vigorous ability of self-control, which is an inward strength that gives you the power to say no to sin and the devil. And remember, only by being surrounded by and pressed by unkind people, angry family members, temptations and struggles over an extended period of training and preparation will you find the ever increasing strength of self-control.

It takes everything you have learned from the Bible, and the strong righteous desires from grace, along with diligence, to successfully withstand temptation and sin and be considered by God, a mature Christian of self-control. Give God time to change you by the power of His Holy Spirit.

And of course, you will never be able to say you are perfect. First, Jesus only saves sinners. Newsflash, you are already are on the imperfect list. But, that does not take away the power of self-control given to every Christian from the Holy Spirit. After all, it is a GIFT! Instead, remember John’s words from 1 John 2 because everyone quotes from chapter 1 but most forget to keep reading into chapter 2.

1 John 2:1-6 (NLT) 
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.  He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.  And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.  If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.  But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him.  Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

Olympic athletes never focus on their inability to be perfect but aim at perfection anyway. Many Christians focus on imperfection and accept frustration, apathy, and defeat. Please, please, please reread the words of John again and then focus your attention from this day forward on victory and the freedom of the mighty gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Let God hold you up He promises us victory! “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) 

Throw yourself into the arms of God. He promises what He says in His Word is true and He will fulfill it in your life and mine.

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