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Apr 30, 2017

True North | Self-Control

True North | Self-Control

Passage: 2 Peter 1:1-8

Speaker: Jon Graybeal

Series: True North

Category: Weekend Message

We are in our series True North which we started back in the fall of last year. We looked at what we believe, about things like God, Jesus, the Bible. We then looked at how those beliefs affect us, how they shape us, the church, this community and so we looked at things like bible study and worship and prayer. And that takes us to this last chunk of the True North series where we’re looking at how these beliefs, these beliefs about God, Jesus, the Bible and this community, how these beliefs should shape who we are, shape how we are, what are our beliefs shaping us into. Sometimes these characteristics, like the ones we’ve talked about so far: humility, hope and faithfulness, sometimes these are referred to as fruit of the spirit or maybe spiritual disciplines. Any time I hear that word, discipline, I’m reminded of theologian Richard Foster, who wrote a book called The Celebration of Discipline, and in that book Foster says this about spiritual disciplines, “By themselves, spiritual disciplines can do nothing. They can only get us to the place where something can be done.” The place where something can be done. The place where the truth that we are loved is so much greater than the lie that we are unlovable. The place where we love, not in hopes of being loved in return but because we are loved. Which brings us to this morning. This morning we’re going to have a chat about self-control. I can see some of you squirming already. No need to squirm or be uncomfortable because as much as we like to hide it and keep it to ourselves, we’re all in the same boat when it comes to self-control or lack thereof, I guarantee it. Our boats might look a little different from one another’s boats (and we’ll get to that in a bit) but we’re all in the boat to be sure. To kick this off this morning we’re going to look at 2 Peter 1:1-8, so if you have your Bible or your phone grab that or you can follow along on the screens as well. 2 Peter 1:1-8:

2 Peter 1:1-8

“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ

To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ

May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

These are golden Oreos, I love golden Oreos, I love dunking them in a glass of cold milk. Golden Oreos are my guilty pleasure; I have a weakness for golden Oreos. I have a problem really. When I first open a pack of golden Oreos and smell their amazing goodness it’s all I can do to not eat an entire row in one sitting. Now, I’m no nutritionist but I can say with complete certainty that golden Oreos are not good for you, they’re not good for me, they’re not good for any of us. There is nothing natural about the golden Oreo. Knowing that I can’t live on golden Oreos alone, I have to restrain myself when it comes to golden Oreos. Soooo, when I open a pack of golden Oreos, I take three golden Oreos out of the pack and I seal it back up. I pour my glass of milk and I enjoy the gloriousness that is the golden Oreo. 

Now I know that we all have our own golden Oreo and so I emailed some of our ZPC’ers last week and asked them if they would be willing to share their own guilty pleasure and some of the responses were what you might expect and some…..well…..some were just fantastic. Here is just a sampling of the responses I got back and if you identify with any of these feel free to make the person who shared their guilty pleasure feel a little bit better about themselves and give a cheer or give a yes or an amen or some kind of acknowledgement that they are not alone. Here we go:

This first one came up multiple times

Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Taco Bell – normally there is shame in admitting that you eat here, but not here, not this church, this is a judgment free zone

There were quite a few food related responses. This one was great:

Anything Little Debbie whips up in her glorious kitchen and then they went on to talk about oatmeal crème pies

Somebody said

Skinny Pop – to that response I replied, you need to reevaluate what you consider a ‘guilty pleasure’

The Doobie Brothers


I love to root for anyone playing the Patriots

The TV show Survivor – the person that sent this response also disclosed that they had watched all 34 seasons, that’s impressive 

Keeping with the TV show theme, this is a fun one:

Saved by the Bell – Screech and Zach and Kelly and Slater

Men with British accents – seriously?

Now, we laugh but sometimes the things that we come back to, the things we have a hard time with when it comes to self-control aren’t as innocent as golden Oreos and a favorite TV show. Sometimes the things that tempt us have more lasting consequences.

When I was a kid, my grandpa would take my brother and me fishing. We’d get set and ready to go and we’d load the boat in the water, we’d head off to the best spots on the lake and then we’d get out the fishing poles and then we had a decision to make. What were we going to try and catch? Bass, catfish, bluegill? Because in order to catch what we wanted to catch we had to use the right lure. Each of us has that lure that we have a hard time saying no to. Remember what I said earlier, we’re all in the same boat when it comes to temptation. We all struggle with different temptations but what we have in common is that all of us struggle with temptation. Maybe for you it’s this little guy, this little green and yellow guy with the amazing fringe and shiny metal spinner. But if you look a little closer…..yeah, this thing has some big ol’ hooks on it, just hiding underneath. Maybe you say, “Jon, that one doesn’t do it for me”, well then maybe you might like this little guy, this fish with the big fat lip and he’s just swimming along and you say, “Yeah, I like that, look at that!” and you go for it and wham…..check it out, this guy has 9 hooks on it, 9 big ol’ barbed hooks. 

The point I’m getting at is this, the serpent as he’s referred to in the beginning, Genesis chapter 3, the serpent has a very large tackle box and he’ll throw every one of them he’s got out there. We all struggle with different temptations but what we have in common is that all of us struggle with temptation. Why?

Well, remember that story in Genesis 3? The serpent, more crafty than any other wild animal that God had made said to Eve, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” And Eve says, “We can eat of the fruit of the trees… but God said, ‘Don’t eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, in fact, don’t even touch it or you’ll die.’ And the serpent says, ‘You won’t die.’” Why do we struggle? We struggle because we begin to doubt that God has our best interest in mind, we begin to question that we are fully and truly loved by our Creator. The serpent attacks the truth, “Did God really say you shall not eat from any tree in the garden?” As a matter of fact, no, he didn’t say that, God said we could eat the fruit of that tree and that tree and that tree and that tree. We just can’t eat from that tree or we’ll die….the serpent undermines God’s word and says, “No you won’t, you won’t die.” We struggle because we begin to doubt that God has us in mind, we begin to question that we are fully and truly loved by him. 

Remember the life of Jesus. Jesus went into the desert for 40 days and then was tempted by that same serpent that came to Eve. That same serpent came to a thirsty, hungry, exhausted Jesus and offered him food, wealth and power. And the question I’m always left with is, “How’d he do it?” How did Jesus demonstrate self-control when he was at his weakest? Because honestly, that’s when I’m at my worst. I’m at my worst when I’m hungry, or hangry as I’ve been told.

 AA – Acronym - HALT

Hungry / Angry / Lonely / Tired

None of us make good decisions when we’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Have you ever been to the grocery store when you’re hungry? It’s a terrible decision. You come home with multiple packs of golden Oreos. 

And the more I think about it, I think the short answer is that in the face of temptation, Jesus had all that he wanted and needed in life. What Jesus wanted and needed at the end of the day is what we all want and what we all need and that’s to be unconditionally loved by the Father. We are accepted and we are significant. When Jesus was tempted, yes, he quoted scripture, yes, that was the weapon he used to fight temptation, but you know what, I’ve quoted scripture when I’m tempted, when I feel myself losing control and I’ve still caved in. Caved in to all kinds of things, like greed and pride and lust and you name it. So, it had to be something more. I’m often times empty, emotionally, physically, spiritually in the face of temptation whereas Jesus was full. Full of……the love of the Father, full of acceptance and significance. Jesus trusted His Father. 

We have an appetite to be loved and to be accepted and to know that we are significant and we search all over to be loved and we search all over to be accepted. The serpent will offer anything to satiate those appetites. The offers and the voices are loud aren’t they? If we jump into this relationship then maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel loved. If I just lose those last ten pounds and I can fit into that outfit, then maybe, just maybe I’ll be accepted. If I just buy that boat or buy that house or buy that car, then maybe, just maybe I’ll feel worth something.

Jesus went into the desert to prepare himself for the upcoming 3 years that he would spend teaching and healing and loving. What are we doing to prepare ourselves? What are we doing to move ourselves to that place where something can be done?

In the 1960s a psychologist at Stanford University named Walter Mischel conducted a study utilizing little kids where you put them in a room, put a marshmallow on a plate in front of them and say, if you can go 15 minutes without eating this marshmallow, I’ll give you a second one. It’s an unbelievable study in self-control and if it sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve talked about it with you before. And I’m talking about it with you again. If you truly think that Scott or Jerry or myself come up with new material week in and week out, you’re sorely mistaken. Case in point. This study has been done many times since it was originally conducted in 1960 and I want us to check out this video….I thought for a minute about whether or not to show you this video because as I said, I have indeed shown it to you before but then I thought, “I don’t care”:

// MARSHMALLOW VIDEO ----------------------------

One of them licks the whole thing and then sits it back down, but my favorite, there was a little boy that carved out the inside of the marshmallow, ate it, then left the shell and I’m like, “Yeah, he’s a bank robber today.”

So, the results:

2/3 of the kids ate the marshmallow, the first one and the researchers call them Instant Gratifiers

1/3 of the kids restrained themselves, exercised some self-control and they called them High Delayers

Dr. Mischel the psychologist who originally conducted the experiment in the 60’s conducted a similar experiment in 2012, nearly 50 years later. He added a new layer to the experiment. The children were divided into two groups, one group was given a broken promise by the tester prior to the experiment and the other group was given a fulfilled promise by the tester. The children that were given a fulfilled promise waited an average of 4 times longer than the children that were given a broken promise. The child’s belief that the promise of a 2nd marshmallow would be fulfilled directly affected their choice to delay. In other words, if the kid believes that the person making the promise to them about the second marshmallow is trustworthy they’ll wait and if they don’t believe the adult is trustworthy, they often eat the first one.

Trust… changes the way we live. Jesus trusted in the love of his Father, he lived out of trust and love rather than doubt. If we are to get to this place that Foster describes as the place where something can be done, then we are to live out of the reality that we have a Father who can be trusted, to live out of the reality that we are loved rather than the lie that we are unlovable, if we are to get to this place where something can be done, out of all this talk about who we should be and how we should be comes the reality that we strive to be who we’re not, we strive to be something more, something we were created for, not because our Father won’t love us if we never arrive, but because we are already loved in spite of who we are, with all of our golden Oreos and reality tv and men with British accents.

Author Brennan Manning asked it this way, “Do you believe that the God of Jesus loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity, that he loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain, that he loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it and your whole being rejects it? Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you at this very moment as you are and not as you ‘should’ be?”

When we trust in the love of the Father, we’re like those kids waiting for another marshmallow, we will wait, we will trust, we will quiet the voice in our head that says, “Do it”; we quiet the voice that says, “It’ll be fine, just one more”; we quiet the voice that says, “Buy that boat, buy that house, buy that car”; we quiet that voice that says, “If you could just lose 10 lbs, then they’d like you”. We quiet that voice that tries to feed us the lie that we aren’t lovable. We are loved. You are loved, just as you are. May we trust in the love of our Creator. And may that trust change us, change this community and move us to a place where we do something about it.