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, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 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. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. (NIV)
Because of His divine power, His great and precious promises, our participation in His nature, and therefore, our ability to escape corruption in the world, God expects something from us. He wants us to exert some effort. Reflect on what He has given us and then consider whether or not some effort on our part is appropriate. Anyone who thinks that living a Christian life should be easy has been feed some misinformation. It does take effort and it isn’t always easy. However, we aren’t doing it alone. If we try to do it alone it will be impossible. We need to remember that He gives us everything we need to live a victorious Christian life. Even in this, we must depend on Him.
Notice that the verse says we need to add to our faith. Faith is the starting point. Faith doesn’t come from us; it is the gift of God. (Eph 2:8) We need to take what God has given us and work with it.
The first thing that we are told to work on is goodness. Before we came to Christ for salvation we were corrupt as described in Eph 4:19. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (NIV) The world’s proverb, “Do unto others before they do it unto you.” is a good description of what lies below the surface of every human being. This self-centeredness results in badness instead of goodness.
Becoming good requires a realistic view of what we were and what we should be. Eph 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (NIV) This “put off” and “put on” is where the effort comes in. This verse starts with, “You were taught.” Think about it. How can a Christian become good if he’s been taught all his life that his immoral behavior is normal? Yes, Jesus does clean us up by giving us His Holy Spirit, however we need to pay attention to Scripture to so that we can discern what is right and wrong. We need to be taught. Learning requires effort and we shouldn’t assume that we will suddenly have the wisdom to know what to do in every circumstance. We need to add to the goodness that we practice, more and more knowledge so that the goodness will increase and we can move on to the next step.
Self-control seems out of step with what some believe is the way the Holy Spirit works in us. They believe that once you are filled with the Holy Spirit, He will control you and you don’t have to work on it. 2 Tim 1:7 for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. (RSV) It works both ways. His Spirit gives us the willingness and ability to control our selves. Without His Spirit, we wouldn’t have a desire to be self-controlled in a godly way. That knowledge we received in the previous step points out where we need that self-control. All of these steps are circular in nature. They are like a chain where each link depends on the previous and also supplies to the next.
How is it possible to persevere without self-control? The world is clamoring for us to go the opposite way of Christ. Everyplace we go there are enticements to sin. Go to the store and there are things there that we want but can’t afford. We sin when we covet those things. Something goes wrong and we are tempted to complain or grumble. Get on the internet and it’s just you and your imagination to indulge in a host of sins from gambling to pornography. Persevering is just saying no to all these temptations. The longer you say no, the easier it gets. The temptations don’t go away so perseverance must stay.
Perseverance finally leads to godliness. This is a life significantly free from sin. Perseverance in saying no leads to a life that others will recognize as blameless. Looking back at the beginning of the Christian walk, that goodness seemed like a huge step. Now, looking from the perspective of godliness, it was just a baby step. It was a step of faith. Now, goodness is almost second nature.
All the above has been God oriented obedience and growth. He doesn’t want us to stop there. He wants us to continue to put it into practice so that it helps others. True brotherly kindness happens after getting our relationship with God right. It is treating others the way God wants. It is true friendship or brotherly love. It is the spiritual progression of being godly.
Brotherly kindness runs right into love, the kind of love that Jesus has for us. 1 Peter 1:22-23 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (NIV) We’ve been born again (came to Jesus in faith) and then purified ourselves by obeying the truth (the first steps as described above) and that should result in brotherly love. Peter then pushes to the next step which is Godly love. This is the fulfillment of our faith on earth. If we truly have Godly love for one another, we have achieved the unity that He expects us to have.
It would seem that at this point we have achieved our goal. However the next verse lets us know that we will never completely arrive, this side of heaven. These qualities are to increase. We need to start back at the top and increase every area listed. Peter knew that we would never be completely loving or godly or self-controlled or anything else. The Christian life is an ongoing progression to become more like Jesus.
When we are increasing in these qualities, whether we have taken only the first step toward goodness or whether we have advanced and then gone back to improve on any of the qualities, we will be effective and productive in our knowledge of Jesus. Do you feel that you are not effective or productive in your Christian walk? Then go back and look for the weak link in the chain. Work on it. Peter said to make every effort. Don’t give up.
Do you call yourself a Christian but can’t identify with any of these qualities? Peter says that you are nearsighted and blind. Do you know that you have been cleansed from your sins? Have you forgotten that? Is it possible that you have not been cleansed from your sins and that is the reason you don’t have these qualities. If you haven’t been cleansed then you have been calling yourself a Christian without the benefit of knowing Christ. Now is the time either to remember that you have been cleansed or to ask Jesus to forgive you and accept His cleansing. Then, move from faith to godliness and start on the progressive road of the Christian life.