Light for October
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” ~ 2 Peter 1:5-7
We know that the Christian life is built on faith and that this faith should produce fruits of what we have experienced along the way. That’s why we should always be in the Word…learning, growing and changing. When you think of Christian characteristics you probably think of Galatians 5 and the “Fruits of the Spirit” but this passage has some other “fruits” to add to the basket of faith. I like that this passage in 2 Peter doesn’t just rattle off a list of “goals” to attain but rather Peter explains it as a process. I’ve known some Christians that have gotten real frustrated because they weren’t automatically perfect once they were saved. It irked them that they continued to struggle put if you look at the times sanctification is discussed in the Bible, it’s discussed in the present tense. It’s an action verb. We are being sanctified and because we’re sinners that’s not a process that will be completed this side of Heaven. So, let’s take a look at Peter’s thoughts…
Goodness seems like the easier of the characteristics to undertake but that’s only when we compare ourselves to each other and not God. I think Peter starts with goodness though because it creates a foundation of the other attributes. The Lord is so good and His goodness to us should extend beyond our lives.
The Christian life is not one built on knowledge but on a relationship, however, we all know that the best relationships thrive when you know and understand the person. The more time you spend with someone the better you can recognize their voice, motives, desires and steps. When I lived at my parents’ house, I could always tell which family member was coming up the stairs based on their walk. I recognize their voice on the phone without them identifying themselves and I can recognize a lie spoken about them because I know their hearts. Part of a relationship is truly knowing someone, so how do you expect to have a relationship with the Father without knowing Him?
I think you have to truly understand the Father and His goodness to even consider the idea of true self-control. If you are trying to control your sin by working harder, not disappointing people or competing against someone else, you might as well be slamming your head against a brick wall for all the good it will do you. It’s only through a true understanding of our inability and the Father’s ability that we can even attempt to run from temptation through His power.
Often the Christian life is described as a race to be run. I personally hate running but I also know that when you’re doing a marathon you can’t stop halfway through because then you’re going to be stuck in who knows where. If you want to get home to a shower and A/C, my ultimate race goals, you’ve got to keep going. That’s the Christian life. You can’t stop when things get tiring or overwhelming or rough. You’ve got to keep going, even if you’re only dragging your feet because the race hasn’t been won yet and we know that a glorious prize awaits us at the end.
I had a devotional recently that asked me to describe Jesus…Like, what? How many pages can I write? That’s how I feel about godliness sometimes. We are just barely able to glimpse the concept of godliness because our hearts and minds are so sinful that we can never truly understand it. However, we are told to strive for holiness and to be like God. Not an achievable task but a process that creates other fruits in our lives.
Christianity is relational which is why the Bible is so big on fellowship. The Lord knows our soul needs others to function after all He is a God of fellowship and we are created in His image but the word affection draws more than just sitting in a Sunday School room together. Affection is defined as a fondness for someone and I think that fondness is an outpouring of the other fruits of the Christian walk. To many, the confusion with Christianity is that we can love people so different from us. That we can have brothers and sisters all over the globe from different walks of life and find mutual affection with them but that is the beauty of the relationship between believers and the love we share.
Love…one of the most complex and challenging things we face as people. Love for those we are drawn to is easy but love for those who hurt us is far more difficult. Love is a choice and one that emotions don’t always back up. Love is also a person, Jesus Christ, who was and is the ultimate example of how to love effectively and how to love those that don’t deserve it…me! The word “love” appears over 550 times in the NIV so I take that to mean we should pay attention. Read through all the characteristics of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13 and it creates a beautiful portrait.
Each of these qualities reflect a facet of the Lord and as His reflections to the world they are important for us to understand. Ask the Father to help you better grasp what each of these mean in tangible ways. Ask Him to help you love someone who has done you wrong (Matthew 5:44). Ask Him to renew your strength so you can persevere through a difficult season (Isaiah 40:31). Ask for self-control when faced with temptations and sin (2 Timothy 1:7). The Lord is generous with His gifts and wisdom (James 1:5). Don’t be afraid to ask Him to direct your path and to grow your spirit.