Thursday, August 22, 2013

2nd Peter 1 - Diligent faith

"Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love." (2 Peter 1:5-7)
The Christian walk is a life of growing up. Paul spoke of having, "put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him." (Colossians 3:10) Which begs the question, "why does the new man have to be renewed?" The "new man" can also be translated "infant man" and to "renew" to "cause to grow up." We are born as spiritual infants that are growing up to become full-grown men and women of God. However, this growth does not happen automatically, but takes diligence, effort, and time. Many people either never start on the journey of growth or give up too soon; like spiritual children of Never Land who never grow up. Peter is encouraging us to not be slothful in our Christian growth but to be diligent and apply all spiritual discipline and training, along with the power and promises of God, to become mature in our faith and our walk with God.

Our new life in Christ begins with faith. Speaking of faith, Paul says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:1-2) It is by faith that we are justified and are introduced to the grace of God that is able to save us and to help us to grow up. Faith is the starting point, but not the ending point. Peter encourages to add to our faith, like building layer upon layer, "until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at [the] full-grown man, at [the] measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ." (Ephesians 4:13 Darby)

Virtue: The Greek word for "moral excellence" can also be translated "virtue" and means anything of excellence that brings us into high esteem by those around us. We can think of this as outward faith. This is what Paul is referring to when he wrote, "He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need." (Ephesians 4:28) Virtue is the outward expression of the faith we have inside. This is what Jesus was speaking of when He said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

Knowledge: The Greek word used here for "knowledge" is different from the word Peter uses for the "knowledge of God" and it simply means knowledge or science. Having come to know God, we still need to grow in our knowledge of God. Paul, writing to the Hebrews, said, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food." (Hebrews 5:12) These, while coming to know Christ, had failed to grow in their knowledge of Christ and needed to be taught again the beginnings of their faith. We should never stop learning, especially from the Word of God.

Temperance: The Greek word for "self-control" can also be translated as "temperance". The early church considered luxury one of the great sins of their day and taught their people to live moderately, simply, and with temperance. Clement of Alexandria said that uninterrupted pleasures was one of the greatest dangers to the soul. Paul taught us that now is the time that, "those who buy, [should live] as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away." (1 Corinthians 7:30-31) The treasures of this world can add nothing to our life for we are spiritual people, born of heaven, and destined for the same. We must learn to curb our appetite for the things of this world and to grow in hunger for the things of heaven.

Patience: The Greek word for "perseverance" can also mean "patience" and means "a patient waiting for" or "a patient endurance." Sometimes the things we desire do not come immediately. God is not some great vending machine in the sky that gives everything we want when we want it. Sometimes we have to wait for the things promised. The truth is that sometimes faith alone is not enough to gain the promises of God. The writer of Hebrews says we should be, "imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:12) Sometimes faith is not enough, sometimes we need to mix it with patience. The write of Hebrews says to, "make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed." (Hebrews 12:13) Some people sit around waiting for their healing and wonder why it never comes while Jesus tells us to press on in doing what is right while we wait for the promise of His healing, that when it comes, we will be prepared for it. We must be committed to patiently doing what is right while we wait for the promises of God to become manifest in our lives.

Godliness: While virtue can be thought of as "outward faith," godliness is an inward faith. It is the conformance of the inward man to the image of Christ. It is more than just obtaining to an outward appearance of righteousness, but it is an inward reality of righteousness. This is what Jesus was talking about when he said, "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court... You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery';  but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28) It's not enough to be clean on the outside, but we must also be clean on the inside; pride, hatred, lust, envy, covetousness, and the like must all be eradicated from our sole. This is true godliness.

Brotherly love: Christianity would be a whole lot easier if it wasn't for other Christians. However, our love for our brethren is often a barometer of how much we love God. John wrote, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also." (1 John 4:20-21) We cannot separate the love of God from the love of the people of God. Having received the love of God we need to share that love one for another. If the God who is love lives in us, how can we but not love others? Those who remain isolated in their faith are stunted in their growth. We need each other, we need to love others and be loved by others. Brotherly love is the beginning of community and the beginning of the next virtue: charity.

Charity: The Greeks had several words for love, with the greatest love being "agape" which the King James Version of the Bible translates as charity. This is the kind of love that Paul says, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:10) Our Christian walk begins with faith and ends with love. In fact, this is the true definition of righteousness. In Ephesians 6:14, Paul refers to the "breastplate of righteousness" and in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, the "breastplate of faith and love" thus linking righteousness with faith and love. True righteousness can be defined as, "faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6) The goal of all the other virtues listed by Peter is love. Paul says, "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5) Let us be found diligent in our faith to add all things necessary that we might arrive at true love for God and for mankind.

David Robison

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