The world is filled with lists. Collections of words to remind us what we need to pick up on our next shopping trip. Bullet points of an agenda or presentation. Bucket lists of things we want to do before we die. The Bible has its share of lists as well. The Beatitudes are a kind of list. So is Paul’s description of the nine fruit of the Spirit. Lists help us break down the complex into easier to remember bite-sized chunks or remind us of the details contained in a whole. Our next step in our walk through 2nd Peter also presents a list.
Peter encouraged, “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, NASB95)
Peter’s list is unique in comparison to Paul’s many lists in that it is closer to a recipe. Take the ingredients, put them together in this way, and something wonderful happens. We begin with faith, to faith we add moral excellence or goodness, to that we add knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness (literally brotherly love), and God’s kind of love (agape). The order of Peter’s list is vital.
We begin with faith but blind faith devoid of goodness leads to some very damaging places. Consider the faith that gang members put into their leaders. So, goodness is required to bind our faith to everything that follows. Faith and goodness need knowledge to give them direction and purpose. The amalgam of faith, goodness, and knowledge, driven as it is, is tempered with self-control to improve its aim. Perseverance, the element of time, is added as a preservative to see these things through. Godliness puts these all into practice through the compassion of human kindness and self-sacrificial love that unmistakably flavors the whole.
Peter continues, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8, NASB95) We want that. We want our walk, our life with Jesus, to be useful and fruitful. Peter offered two qualifiers. That we have all the qualities he listed operating at some level in our lives. But also notice that the other qualifier is that the qualities are also increasing. It’s that increasing part that often gets us into trouble.
The first fallacy is the idea that we’ve made it. That the plateau we’re standing on now is the pinnacle of growth in Christ. Few will admit it this and those that do are even greater fools. But there is one truth. If we assume or practice that we have no further need for growth we will grow no further. The second fallacy is judging the growth of others with condemnation. Disqualifying them because they haven’t achieved our lofty heights. I’ll put it very bluntly, having either the attitude of “I’m there” or “I’m better” makes us useless and unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord. Or has Peter concludes, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” (2 Peter 1:9, NASB95)
Practice, practice, practice
We marvel at the musician that plays movingly and brilliantly. We celebrate the athlete that wins the race or makes a game-changing play. We lift up the leader who says just the right thing at just the right time. What we see are the final results. What we don’t see are the hours upon hours of practicing scales, lifting weights, or speaking into a mirror. We don’t see the practice, we only see the fruit of those labors.
Peter wrote, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” (2 Peter 1:10-11, NASB95) Faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly love, and agape love all require diligent practice. We may fail, miss the mark in some way. We may miss an opportunity or not take it as far as possible. If we’re growing in Jesus, the way we address a situation today will be different than five years ago. Simply because we’ve grown through practice.
So, what does Peter mean by “for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” Other scriptures are clear that salvation is by grace through faith. Doing these things don’t buy salvation. But they do open up the doors to the kingdom. As I understand the Bible, God’s kingdom is already but not yet. We enter into aspects of it now, but there will come a day when God’s reign and rule are fully realized. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. What’s the will of God? To grow faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly compassion and agape love. As we grow in these the kingdom of God is more fully realized in our lives and in our world.
So where do you need to grow? Which ones challenge you the most? I think the hardest for me is self-control and brotherly compassion. But what about you?