Saturday, January 29, 2011

Add to Your Faith! A Message from 2nd Peter 1

Tucked away in 2 Peter chapter 1 is a great passage that deals mainly with two things: what God has done for his people, and what he expects his people to do in response.

Peter begins the letter by reminding his Christian readers of what God has done for us. By exerting his "divine power," the Lord has given us "everything we need for life and godliness." By sending Christ, who was crucified for our sins and raised by the power of the Spirit for our justification, the Father has provided the way through which we can receive everything that we really need. Christians have joy and confidence because we know the one who has "called us by his own glory and goodness" (1:3).

Also, by calling us and allowing us to know him, God has extended to his people "very great and precious promises." Such gifts are not an end in themselves. They are meant to enable us to “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world" (1:4). To put it another way, the promises of God draw us closer to him and encourage us to live lives in which we become holy, even as God is holy (Leviticus 20:7-8; 1 Peter 1:15-16). By living this way, we are set free from the destructive power of a sinful lifestyle so that we can fulfill our one great purpose of bringing glory and honor to God. This leads directly into a discussion of the human response to divine grace.

Beginning with verse 5, Peter turns from his description of God’s grace to the responsibilities of God’s people. We are to give “all diligence” (KJV) or “make every effort” (NIV) to “add” certain qualities to the foundation of our faith. There’s hardly a good way to translate the Greek word for “add,” which actually means “to provide at one's own expense.” The term highlights the idea of effort and sacrifice. The language suggests that although adding to your faith is worthwhile, it is not always easy. Consider each item that Christians are to have or to add:

Faith refers to our loyalty to God as well as our trust in him. It is mentioned first in the list because without faith we cannot even begin to please God (Hebrews 11:6). But on the basis of faith, we can obey and live for God. It is in this sense that we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1). Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).

Goodness carries the idea of "moral excellence" in the broadest sense of that expression. Because the Greek term here is so very general, the King James translators chose the word "virtue." Like their Lord, the followers of Jesus Christ should be known as people who do go about doing good things (Acts 10:37-38).

Knowledge supplies a Christian what he or she must have in order to make moral choices and doctrinal decisions. It is only upon the basis of knowledge that Christians can “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21) or “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1-3).

Self-control is the virtue that enables a Christian to resist temptation and closely follow the footsteps of Jesus. Developing this trait requires a person to rise above our environment. To be self-controlled runs against the grain of a society that practically worships unsuppressed action and the breaking down of inhibitions. But people who want to please God will work at strengthening the muscles of restraint so that they can act as they should.

Perseverance is translated from a word whose verb form means "to remain under." From this we gather that to persevere is to willingly remain under a heavy load you'd rather not carry. In this sense, the call for patience is similar to our expression, "Stick to it" or "Stay with it." Far too many families and churches are plagued by a lack of loyalty, an unwilling attitude in the face of those inevitable conflicts. The gospel has something to say to people who are prone to give up. It says, “Stick to it, and learn to patiently endure whatever you must for the sake of the kingdom of God!” (compare Hebrews 12:1-3).

Godliness refers to a right attitude towards God which leads to the right actions towards God's creation. Whenever we gratefully acknowledge the Almighty as the maker and sustainer of everything, we develop a sense of how we should treat other people, who bear the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26-27, James 3:7-10, and 1 John 4:20).

Brotherly kindness initially speaks of the warmth and affection that should be found in every family, but especially in the church, the family of God. According to Peter's first letter, sincere love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord is a by-product of our obedience to the truth (1 Peter 1:22).

Love is mentioned last. Why? Because love is the single quality that encompasses and supports all the others. Love is the capstone quality of the Christian life. It is what makes our abilities and sacrifices worth something in the eyes of God (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

So what do you need to add?

No comments: