Add to Knowledge…Temperance

2 Peter 1:5-6 “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;  And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness”

When I was a teenager I had a friend that raced dirt bikes. One day he rode it over to my house and let me “attempt” to ride it. His tutorial included how to start the motor and how to make it go….and that was pretty much it. I mounted the bike, started it, and slowly release the clutch while turning the throttle. As the bike started moving forward I was so excited that I let go of the right hand grip (the location of the throttle), looked back and waved at everyone. What happened next is kind of a blur.

Apparently when I put my hand back, somehow I twisted the throttle fully and the bike went into warp speed. My friends say they started yelling at me to pull in the clutch, let go of the throttle, or at least hit the brakes. I honestly heard none of it. The telephone pole in front of me had my full attention and my hand was frozen solid on the throttle. They say I looked professional as I leaned the bike to miss the pole…until the moment that I straightened in time to impact a tree trunk. The bike came to an abrupt stop but I continued to fly forward. The only thought in my mind was “I just crashed!”

What does this have to do with temperance? Actually quite a bit! The dirt bike was equipped with all the safety features (brakes and clutch) that could have been engaged to prevent this accident. Instead of using them, I allowed the motor to remain unrestrained as it hurdled me at Mach 2.5 toward that tree trunk. Things would have turned out a lot differently if I had “tempered (neutralized)” the power of the engine!

Temperance is self control. It is the act of neutralizing the passions and desires of the flesh rather than allow them to control our thoughts and actions. It doesn’t remove their power, it just keeps them from being the driving force in our hearts. This is what Paul is speaking of in Romans 8:13. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Mortify means “to put to death”. When we engage the clutch and hit the brakes on our passions it mortifies its power in our lives. This is what exercising temperance looks like.

The lust of the flesh is a powerful motivator and seeks to control our hearts. This can take the form of food, money, sex, and much more. When these passions are allowed to control us, they will lead us to some pretty severe consequences; obesity, bankruptcy, divorce, etc. In and of themselves, these desires are not wrong – as long as they are tempered by the Spirit at work in our hearts. It is when their power remains unrestrained that we find ourselves hurdling toward destruction.

As we Refocus our hearts and minds on Christ, let us determine to practice self-control. This may seem like a daunting task, and maybe you have discovered just how hard this is. In fact, it is more than just hard, it is impossible!….unless we yield to the power of Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is only through the resurrection power of Jesus that we can put to death the deeds of the flesh and experience what it means to live in the Spirit.