Life Formula for the Growing Christian
2 Peter 1:2-11 (MSG) I write this to you whose experience with God is as life-changing as ours, all due to our God’s straight dealing and the intervention of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you many times over as you deepen in your experience with God and Jesus, our Master.
3-4 Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.
5-9 So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.
10-11 So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Wherever you are in the world, wherever you happen to be, I have a message for you: You are the church. If you don’t build it, if you don’t gather them, no one will. Africa, Asia, Europe, countries like Rhwanda, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, China, India, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Japan, and so many others.. if you’re out there.. and I know you are: You are the church. You may be the only gospel someone ever hears, sees, or reads. Tell it, build it, humbly, generously. That is your mission, today. Others will not, you must.
But why? Because of what Peter tells us! The Good news of Jesus Christ. And the incredible transformation equally offered under God. Remember, in the end, at the end of the day, what is cohesive about the gospel, about Jesus, about the Bible, about the world Christian movement is this: Knowing God through relating to him.
Of myself, I am nothing. In searching for myself, I lost myself. In receiving Christ, I found myself. By giving of myself to others, I find all joy. No man is an island, and no person can exist as a “happy hermit.” So be in close fellowship, the often messy fellowship, and painful fellowship, of believers in the body.
Within the gospel, the body of Christ, the church on Earth, described in the pages of the Bible is the picture of a sane life. There is a lot of insane living going on around us, but we turned our backs on that when we came to Christ.
Remember we are living for something that is real, not imaginary, traditional, or even a better formula for living, no. This is much more than that. This is the living gospel, presented and described by eyewitnesses of Immanuel, Jesus Christ, Yeshua, God on Earth in human form. This is not a game, this is not play time, this is real, real, entirely real. This is it, when you look out your window, into the star filled sky, into your wife or husband’s eyes… you’re looking at the handy work of God himself. Nothing more, nothing less.
1 John 1 (MSG) 1-2 From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.
3-4 We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
Be filled with the unspeakable, indescribable joy of Christ as you help others, teach others, and lift up others. Humbly, your neighbors, love them audaciously with incredible love that leaves you defenseless to harm and pain. And they will hurt you, but love them anyway. Again and again, forgive them, and love them again anyway. Of course that one takes some teaching, some growing and a malleable spirit willing to be shaped by the loving hands of God. Be as patient and gentle with yourself as you would be a bruised five year old weeping at your feet. No man or woman ought to endure abuse from his own lips.
Living is difficult, but we have reason for great joy! Jesus Christ, our wonderful savior, the Holy Spirit and the given transformation.
1 Peter 1:6-16 (MSG) says:
6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.
10-12 The prophets who told us this was coming asked a lot of questions about this gift of life God was preparing. The Messiah’s Spirit let them in on some of it—that the Messiah would experience suffering, followed by glory. They clamored to know who and when. All they were told was that they were serving you, you who by orders from heaven have now heard for yourselves—through the Holy Spirit—the Message of those prophecies fulfilled. Do you realize how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this!
We are the heirs of an unspeakable wonder: Fellowship with the architect of Life. God the Father gives Jesus Christ to us, and we receive his righteousness as a warm blanket in this storm of life. And through Jesus Christ we receive the Holy Spirit, who begins the process of transforming us into the likeness of Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-9 (MSG) outlined a fascinating formula to help us in living the cohesive, coherent, healthy lifestyle of faith in transformation. Recall Peter wrote: “complement your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus.”
The English Standard Version puts it this way: “5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[e] and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities[f] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Beginning with our base faith in Jesus Christ, flowing from there, develop good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love.
Of course God helps us build these things in ourselves. But it doesn’t come about from inaction. We need to participate and search out these things. Let’s see how these things can be applied.
Character comes from living as God teaches us to live. It develops over time, as we sin less and less. Through love, good deeds, and patience. Notice a sin? Pray. Read a book. Find support. Partner with God in conquering that sin, then experience the joy of Christ. And repeat. Very simple formula for building of character. Don’t worry, perfection is not required!
Spiritual understanding comes by studying the word, reading it, listening to it, pondering it in the middle of the night, or discussing it at studies with groups. Amazing how spending time in the word is transformational. I find it fascinating how some larger churches hardly even spend a moment in the word. They have all these high tech, pricy presentation videos they get from their church network affiliates, pushing books by powerful evangelicals, and I’ve sat in on entire series, video lectures, discussions, where the word of God from the Bible is not discussed. Very strange indeed.
Alert discipline, to me seems like watching our hungers. What am I letting through? What is affecting me in my daily life? What am I missing? Remain disciplined. There are so many temptations out there looking to enslave you. Instead, remain free, sturdy in the knowledge and present love of Jesus Christ. Alert discipline is the maintenance of character. Believe it, there are many temptations out there looking to hook you in. Sex sells, so we see a lot of it in our society. So does pride. Guard and be alert.
Passionate patience is a simple reminder: Walking with Jesus is a daily journey. It doesn’t all happen in a day, or a week or a month. It doesn’t even all happen in a year, or five years or even ten. This is life, there are many years ahead. Allow yourself careful patience, yet remain passionate for the fellowship in Jesus Christ, the knowledge and relationship to God the Father.
Reverent wonder is powerful. The word “sacred” comes to mind when considering reverent wonder. Reverent wonder is something I feel when I’m staring up into a star filled sky and realize deep down that God made stars thousands of times larger than the entire planet Earth, and he made them by the millions effortlessly. Then I realize how small I am, 6 feet tall standing on the surface of a rock floating through a giant sea of darkness. Then I realize how treasured I am by God. And I revere God, and wonder at his attributes and his power and his glory.
Warm friendliness is simple, but not easy. A lot of the time I walk around in a funk, avoiding people, and I’m just trying to get through the day. Warm friendliness happens when I slow down, and start to think about how I can be kind to others. Once again, I don’t have to be perfect at it. I don’t have to run up to every stranger and gush all over them. I don’t have to save Africa, or start an organization. But I can smile at someone who seems to be having a tough day. I can offer a kind listening ear to a friend. I can say hello to an acquaintance and smile warmly as we walk by each other at the store. I’m an introvert (and there’s nothing wrong with that). I like being an introvert. But sometimes it’s tough. Sometimes all I want to do is hide in the canned goods aisle until they walk by. Sometimes I do hide. But if I’ve got a little social energy I can make an effort to be friendly.
Generous love seems to me to be a very practical and daily part of life that Christians miss. I’ve been rebuked by leaders, friends, once, twice, or more who have never once encouraged me in any way. That’s not ok. But when I’m rebuked, corrected, and so on by a friend or leader who has constantly encouraged me in the past, I know the rebuke is done in love. This is something the church has to work on. This is something I have to work on. But it can be done. Generously loving people is not easy. Sometimes it feels awkward, especially for me, an introvert. But I can do it. And I try to remind myself to generously give encouragement to those around me. People spend so much time just trudging, trudging, trudging through life. They do well for months, even years, but then when they make a mistake should I come out of the woodwork and rebuke? No. But if I’ve been a constant encouragement over those years, letting them know, on any given day, hey, keep it up. I’m proud of you. You’re doing great. Then when they need a correction I’ve done the loving, so now I can do the correcting as well. Generous love is spending time, showing interest, caring when no one else does. Generous love is giving of self, even when it’s awkward. Generous love is giving approval, encouraging, caring, and pointing out value.
All of these various practices when plugged into each other make up a formula for a high quality existence as a growing Christian!
2 Peter 1:8 (ESV) For if these qualities[f] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When I give a homeless woman a ride to the emergency room, or when I sit down and talk to a drunk homeless man without a hint of judgement, that is bearing fruit for Jesus Christ. That is what is meant by bearing fruit. Our deeds are shown as evidence for our faith in Christ, and as a result the world becomes a better place. By practicing the principles of 2 Peter 1 we progressively become more like we’re suppose to be: selfless servants of Christ.
It’s OK if you don’t feel it right away. Our actions come first, and eventually our feelings follow. When I’m sitting with a drunk homeless person that almost took a swing at me 4 months earlier, I may not particularly want to sit there and listen without judgement. I may feel my mind urging me to call him an idiot and walk away. But I don’t do that. Then I see on his face that he is experiencing a bit of healing since I’m talking to him and treating him as the valuable child of God that he is. I see that he is now just beginning to feel that he’s worth it to try and work on his situation. Despite all the big talk of atheists and worldly people about helping others, very little action is there. Most people just ignore this guy or give him a dirty look. Somebody has to love him. That somebody is us, Christians.
And then I give him some money. I get up to head to where I was going. Then I realize, even though I didn’t necessarily want to do what I did, and even though my feelings were quite different than my actions, I know deep down I’ve done the right thing. I experience the peace and joy of Christ. And the next time I show mercy to a homeless person, or a friend, or a family member, it becomes easier. My feelings and thoughts become more and more in sync with the new behavior I’m trying to practice. Eventually my feelings and thoughts are fitting more and more with the actions I’m practicing to become a better Christian. And it’s just that simple: Do the actions, even if your heart, thoughts, emotions aren’t in it, and eventually it will become the new normal. It’s not always easy, but it does work.
2 Peter 1:10-11 (MSG) So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.