2 Peter 1:3-9 New International Version (NIV) (Biblegateway.com)
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 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 to 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.
There are a great number of Christians who face discouragement and frustration in their daily life. Sometimes, this is because they are busy looking at their circumstances and feeling overwhelmed by them. But sometimes, there is a general discontent; a malaise of lukewarm commitment and lackluster results that can cause once fruitful Christians to wander away from the faith and even disparage their former churches. “I wasn’t being ‘fed'”… “It just wasn’t working for me”…”I got tired of the persecution (not genuine persecution, but the feeling of being mocked and unpopular at parties and reunions)”…”the church just isn’t relevant anymore.” These are a few of the excuses I have heard from people who were once joyful and eager to share their faith. I don’t doubt that they experienced Salvation– but they are missing out on sanctification– they have done little to build on the solid rock. They blame the church, their pastor, other Christians, even God for their lack of spiritual growth.
Yet, in this passage, the Apostle Peter tells us that Christ has given us EVERYTHING we need to live a godly life– not the church, not other Christians, not the experience we get from a worship service– all we need has been given to us through Christ; his death and resurrection; his promises and his example of holy living.
But, like any gift, it must be used to be effective. A lamp may look good sitting on a table, but if it isn’t plugged in and turned on (or filled with oil and lit), it does little more than gather dust. Similarly, if I don’t maintain tools or appliances, I can’t expect them to continue to be useful– they will get corroded, filthy, worn, and broken.
Peter urges us to USE the gifts we have been given. This is not a call to base our salvation on works, or to make a checklist of “good things” to make us a “better” person. Rather, it is a blue print of building on the gifts we have to become more productive, more secure, more established in our Christian walk– to become the mature people God means for us to be. When we don’t follow this blueprint, Peter warns, something awful happens. We become nearsighted–we narrow our focus on our own experience and our own resources, rather than utilizing the wonderful gifts God has made available to us.
- Faith–it starts here. If we don’t trust in God’s provision, His mercy, and His power, we won’t build on the right foundation.
- Goodness–Such a deceptively simple word, but it is packed with power. Post-modernists like to sneer at the idea of goodness. It seems dull, meek, bland, and insufficient. At the same time, we want to assure ourselves (and everyone else) that we are, in our own daily life, good…good enough to earn respect, better than someone else down the street, “good” just because…we are not “bad”. It is difficult to concede that, left to our own devices, we will not achieve goodness automatically– it takes effort to deny our own desires and whims to do the right thing, the just thing, the “good” thing.
- Knowledge–Sure, I “know” what the Bible says…right? I already “know” what Jesus would do– that’s why I wear the WWJD bracelet– to remind me of what I already know…How many Christians actually make a daily effort to learn more about Christ? How many blindly stumble along, confident that what little we know is more than enough?
- Self Control– Not going around pointing out everyone else’s fault, but working to keep our own anger, bitterness, selfishness, envy, etc., in check. Actually making the effort and not adopting a false humility that says, “I know I still struggle with ________, but God’s not finished with me yet!”
- Perseverance–Staying the course, even when it doesn’t “feel” good, or effective. Trusting that God IS still at work, instead of just using that as an excuse for not making a genuine effort to improve our relationship with Him. How many of us have missed out on blessings and miracles because we simply threw in the towel one day early, or didn’t climb that last step.
- Godliness, Mutual Affection, Love–I’ve put these three together, not because they are the same, or because there is nothing to say about each one, but because I think this is where many Christians want to be, without going through the previous steps. We want to think that we are not only Godly, but God-like in our habits, words, thoughts, etc. We want to think that because we have a close-knit group of friends at church (our Holy Huddle) that we have mastered Mutual Affection. And we think that if we love at least the idea of people who are different from us, people who are oppressed or hurting, that we are not “hateful”–we deserve a crown of glory.
Unfortunately, I have fallen into the trap of wanting the results and the benefits of Christ’s gifts without the “every effort” they deserve. Saying “hello” to neighbors on the street or defending “morality” on FB is not the same as taking up my cross. And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with being friendly or standing up for what’s right– it’s a start. But like the lamp that isn’t turned on, I’m not sending out light– I’m not fulfilling my purpose. And until I make “every effort”, not just the ones that look good or feel good, or seem easiest or most important, I can’t shine in the darkness around me.