Monday, November 24, 2008

II Peter 1:5-7 The Goal of the Christian Life-Completeness in Christ Part II

I love watching football. My favorite team is the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. The team has some good players this year (John Parker Wilson, Tim Castille, Rolando McClain) and will, hopefully, contend for the National Title this year. However, what makes the team good is not these individual players but rather the fact that these players play together as a team. On both sides of the ball they are an 11 man monster. Their strength is in numbers—working together collectively they are able to achieve much more than they would if they were working as 11 individuals. The Christian, likewise, should seek to develop spiritually and use the virtues Peter lists in these verses in tandem to become all that God has called them to be.

Peter says, in verse 6, that a Christian should develop “self control”. It translates a Greek word “egkratia” (1466). The word literally means to have a grip on one’s passions. This virtue is important in the Christian life because, as Paul notes in Romans 7, we still live with our fallen flesh. In Galatians 5, he further describes our fleshly desires as being at war with our spiritual desires. Clearly, a Christian who is not able to “get a grip” on themselves runs the risk of doing something sinful. In fact, the book of Proverbs 25:28 describes someone who doesn’t exercise control over themselves as being like a city which has its walls broken down. If we are going to live lives pleasing to God, we must have self control in order to be able to choose God’s way over our way.

Further, we must be able to bear up under the pressures of having to live in this fallen world, enduring persecution, and standing firm. Peter describes this quality as having “perserverance” (hupomone-5281). The word literally means “to remain under”—under some sort of burden or circumstance. However, for the Christian, this endurance is not an Eyore-like resignation of muttering to oneself “Oh well, nothin’ I can do about it. Might as well get comfortable.” Rather, it is the resolute, determined mindset of one who is more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus. Our Lord Himself used this word in the parable of the sower in Luke 8 when He said "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance “ The Christian life is not a sprint and in order to run with endurance (Heb 12:1) the race set before us, we must have the spiritual staying power to stay with it, no matter how hard or how long. Without this quality, we might succumb to the temptation to give up.

As we persevere to live for God in this world, we should live godly lives. Peter exhorts these believers to live godly and therefore in a manner consistent with their faith. God is a holy, righteous God and if we are truly worshipping Him with our lives we will want to live holy lives as well. By calling these Christians to “godliness”, Peter called them to live a life that outwardly reflected their true spiritual character. Make no mistake, godliness can be faked—there are tons of people in churches every Sunday that put on a good show and impress a lot of people but their godliness is only surface level. This outward character of godliness Peter calls for from these believers and from us as well is the result of a true inward spiritual transformation. This is not a Sunday go-to-meeting thing but rather should affect how we live our lives Monday through Saturday. It is godliness that permeates our lives when people are looking and when we’re alone. This true godliness is only possible with the power of the Holy Spirit.

When our lives are spiritually transformed by God’s indwelling presence, our affections and attitudes will be different toward people. First of all, within the church we will exhibit “brotherly kindness”. Jesus said that people would recognize us as His disciples by our love for one another. This love is described by the Greek word “philadelphia” (5360). This is the kind of love that a family would have for one another. Let me ask you something: is this kind of love something we see unconditionally practiced in churches today? Sadly, I think it’s not something that’s as common as the Bible says it should be. People in churches don’t even treat each other as friends sometimes much less as family. This kind of love should be the outgrowth of our relationship with God and through this love we should be able to be patient with one another because we love one another (Eph 4:2). However, not only should our treatment of those of our spiritual family be different, our treatment of all people should be different. Peter lists the final attribute in his list as “love”. This, as I’m sure you could guess, is agape love. This is he highest, most sacrificial form of love. This love seeks the good of the one loved with no regard for self. We should be willing and able to serve our fellow man, our neighbors, our community as a way to demonstrate God’s love. People should know we’re Christians because of how loving we are toward people. When we proclaim the truth, it should be proclaimed in love. When we confront sin, we should be confronting sin in love. When we serve, we should serve out of love. In fact, I submit to you that Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, listed this quality last because it binds all the others together. In fact, if we don’t have love, our lives really do not reflect the character of God because we do not love as we should.  Without that love, our witness is certainly incomplete.  With that love, we demonstrate clearly the character of God.

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