In his second epistle, Peter lists several character traits that he says will ensure a fruitful, successful Christian life. In that first chapter, after the customary addressing to the recipients, “those who have obtained like precious faith with [him],” he writes this:
“…as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” 92 Peter 1:3-4).
“Exceedingly great and precious promises” by which we may become partakers of the divine nature,” that is a declaration worthy of repeating anytime! By them we escape the corruption of this world and its lusts.
Something is lacking, however, and he lists the things that we must have in abundance that our lives may be spiritually successful.
So, “giving all diligence, add to your faith”:
Virtue – a quality of character having high moral standards. The very essence of being born again is that a person repents—turns from—his old life and character and claims a new life in Christ, as Paul illuminates that transformation in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
If virtue is not added to faith when a person “accepts Christ,” it may well be evidence that there has not been a born-again transaction. Jesus told Nicodemus, without mincing words, “you must be born again.” A “babe in Christ,” however is much like a physical baby—needing growth with proper nutrition. Paul pointed toward this when he wrote, in Romans 12:2, this:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Basically, it is a matter of changing our minds by changing what we think about, as Paul, again, tells us in Philippians 4:8:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things arelovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
And Peter tells us where to find such things: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).
Knowledge – add this to virtue, Peter writes, and the wisdom of Solomon brings a quality to it that lifts its meaning, in this context, to a lofty height:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).
The prophet Hosea says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6), but the psalmist declares, “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130), and “simple” means “uncomplicated.” Some of the doctrines that have been invented by those who apparently do not understand what “rightly dividing the Word of God” means have to go to some unbelievable lengths of complicated connections to support their deviations from the simple truths of the Word.
Self-control – or discipline, must be added to knowledge lest we lose a sense of direction and purpose that is keeping in line with the will of God. A western novelist of the early 1900’s, who wrote under the name of O. Henry, once pictured one of his characters “jumping on his horse and riding off in all directions.” Self-control also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and waiting on the Lord is a major learning experience. How often it is that we want to lunge ahead of the Lord’s pace! But how to know His timing is also a major learning experience. Perhaps this wisdom from Solomon, again, in Proverbs 3:5-6 will help, because it tells us that if we “acknowledge Him,” then the next step is in His hands:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Perseverance – steadfastness, the stay-with-it principle. The Apostle Paul had his battles and was not reluctant to share them with us, notably in Romans 7 where he writes of his own struggle with his old nature from his Adam heritage, as we all have, and he cried out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25).
He went on to say, later, in the letter to the Philippians, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
He believed his forgiveness from God and fixed his eyes on his future goal.
We are not to “grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9), yet I cannot recall how many times I have thought the challenges were more than I could handle, and I went, limping, to John 6:66-69, where Peter makes an astounding response to the inquiry of Jesus:
“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’
“But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”
It is Christ in us, the hope of glory, that enables us to persevere.
Godliness – showing the characteristics of Thrist-likeness. We often quote the first part of Romans 8:28-29, but leave the latter part off. It explains a lot of we must endure even if we do not understand it:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Becoming conformed to the likeness of Christ–that is the goal God has for every believer. Most of us would think Paul had reached that goal, at least as close as any mortal could, but he did not think so. He was continuing to press toward that higher mark. One of my earliest mentors just turned 103 years old, and when I saw him again in early July, after 45 years, he was still pressing forward, too, desiring to share the gospel with as many as would listen—vibrant, alert, and looking forward!
Brotherly kindness – after one gets past his allotted threescore yeas and ten, even past a full eight decades, it begins to soak in that he is not the main feature in the drama of life. Others are also loved by God; they receive His mercy and forgiveness, too, and their obvious sinfulness is no more vivid than our own. And we begin to realize, after often reflecting on past experiences and encounters, that “except for the grace of God, there go I.”
Love – it is not surprising that this accumulating list of qualities of character would build up in intensity to this quality, love. Jesus responded to an inquiry as to what is the greatest commandment in the law, and quoted this:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And thesecond is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).
That is the law of God, and it should readily highlight a basic truth—it is impossible for mortal man, unredeemed, to keep any part of the law. Therefore, it is of great comfort to find out that the Apostle John discovered and reported to us the solution for our particular difficulty with this commandment: “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God is love, John also writes, and if we have any love in us, we must get it from God.
Peter, writing of these things in what was almost like a final dying message to leave behind, wraps it up with this:
“For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:8-9).
As the times become more and more difficult, even if it is only that things we know as normal change and pass away, or even physical and mental hardship arises from evil forces, let’s not forget that Jesus “has the words of eternal life, and He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God!
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