I really loved the discussion from Francis Chan's sermon on the character issues listed in verses 5-8. There was just so much to think about with each one, and I thought I would share some of the thoughts with you. Warning though before you get started, this is a long post.
2 Peter 1:5-8
"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
So, all the character qualities that should be increasing in our lives begin with faith. It is the first one listed because first and foremost I have to have faith in God by accepting the Son, Jesus, as my Lord and Savior, and then I have to believe that all of these character traits can be mine and can be increasing in my life because I have a new nature, a new master, the Holy Spirit.
To my faith, I should strive to add virtue. This is moral excellence or purity in my actions, in my thoughts, in my words, and in my decisions. It is that idea that people should be able to look at my life and know that I am a Christian. My belief in God effects the words that come out of my mouth, the movies I watch, the music I listen to, the places I go, what I do with my free time, how I spend my money, etc. It touches everything. My relationship with God isn't just limited to Sundays and Wednesdays. Unfortunately, many people go to church on Sunday only and they don't really think about God again until the next Sunday. That is not what God intended for our lives. We should be completely in love with Him and it should change everything about us.
To my virtue, I should strive to add knowledge. Am I really making every effort and working hard to understand the Word of God? Do I study it? Do I dig and study truths about God so I can know Him better? I can spend a lot of time on a lot of things, things that aren't necessarily bad, but if they leave no time for my relationship with God, then they become bad things. If I have time to get on Facebook, watch TV, write this blog, or read a magazine, then I have time to study God's Word. Many people say they have no time to read the Bible, but usually that is not the case. It is a heart issue and one that we have to ask God to change. Francis Chan said if you have been a Christian for years you should be able to quote scripture...maybe a verse for each week, a verse for each month, or at the very least a verse for each year that you have been saved, but yet most Christians can only quote John 3:16. I want to do a better job of knowing the Bible, the book that I say I base my life on. I want it to be more than just head knowledge though. I have to truly internalize what I learn and let it change me from the inside out.
To my knowledge, I should strive to add self-control. This is the idea of mastering natural desires rather than letting any desire master me. Francis Chan gave all these examples of natural desires that God has given us like our desire for sleep, our desire for food, our desire for relationships, our desire for sex (within marriage), our desire for material items, etc. These desires are good and natural if we stay in control of them. For example, food is a great thing. I need it to live and to have energy throughout my day, but if I start going to food for comfort or out of boredom, then I start to lose my control of that particular desire. Before I realize my weight is escalating and food because something in my life that it was never meant to be. You get the idea. I should make every effort to monitor all the natural desires in my life and make sure that I am in submission to my Heavenly Father. I don't know about you, but I don't always connect how much I eat or how much I sleep to my relationship with God. Do you?
To my self-control, I should strive to add steadfastness. I loved the discussion on steadfastness. It is the idea of developing patience and endurance in my life, and I can tell you I definitely need to work on that area. When trials come my way, I don't always respond how I should. With Gracen's last medical emergency, I was thinking, "Why me? Why can't Gracen just be healthy? Why did this happen on Easter Sunday of all days?" I certainly wasn't praising God for the trial, which is what God tells me to do in His Word.
James 1:2-4 says, "Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces STEADFASTNESS. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
I am not told to count it all joy for the trial itself, but rather for what it produces in my life. Each trial produces an additional measure of steadfastness in my life. I love Francis Chan's explanation. He said that developing steadfastness is like holding up a heavy weight and you have to struggle to hold it up, hold it up, hold it up.... You want to cry out to God to remove the weight because it is difficult and you just want to relax, but you don't learn anything when you are relaxing or when life is easy. You learn when you are under some kind of pressure. He asked, "Have you ever prayed for God to bring some trials in your life so you can become stronger in your walk with Him?" "Have you ever told God, you know, I fall apart with every trial that comes my way, so keep them coming until I learn to hold fast to You?" My answers to those two questions were No and No. I have never prayed anything even remotely similar to that. So according to Francis Chan, I care more about my comfort than my character. Ouch!
Hardship frustrates me as if something is going wrong, but I am told in the Bible to expect hardship because it really develops my character. God allows the hardships because He cares more about my holiness than my happiness.
To my steadfastness, I should strive to add godliness. This is the idea of becoming more and more like God. My deep reverence and respect for God should affect everything that I do. This is very similar to virtue so I won't go through all that again.
To my godliness, I should strive to add brotherly affection and love. These two kind of go hand in hand. Brotherly affection is the love I feel toward the family of God. All Christians are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Do I truly love and have tender feelings for all the members of my church family or any other Christian that I come into contact with? Do I care about what is going on in their lives? Do I learn from them? Do I have fellowship with as many different people at church that I can or do I have cliques? Is my church characterized by true friendliness? Am I friendly or am I moody? Do I truly love all people...all kinds of people, all races, all ethnic backgrounds, etc. Scripture says that if I am truly saved, I cannot hate mankind. It also says that I will love despite how people treat me. Jesus is our model and he loved despite being spit on, whipped, and hung on a cross. Can I forgive and continue to love no matter what the offense? That is a hard truth to live out, but that is what I signed up when I accepted Jesus as my Savior.
2 Peter 1:8 was even more convicting because it says that these qualities should be increasing in my life. If they are NOT increasing then I will be unfruitful and ineffective in my Christian walk. Even worse than that verse 9 says that if I lack these qualities I am not saved! That will have to be another blog entry because this one is already too long, but I pray that you read through 2 Peter chapter 1 and really think about the words. They have really spoken to me and the kind of life that I am living and what I am modeling for my daughters.
With each passing year that I am a Christian...
Am I more virtuous?
Am I more knowledgeable of God and His Word?
Am I more self-controlled?
Am I more steadfast?
Am I more godly?
Do I truly love people and have a brotherly affection for the family of God?
I hope so. I am praying that God puts His finger on the areas that He needs to and that He will start to do a work in me. I want to make every effort toward these things.
Sorry this one was so long.
Until next time...
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