Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Growing

This morning I was reading a piece of scripture that I've actually read quite a bit. It's one of my favorites, but today it hit me in such a profound way that I want to write about it. It's 2 Peter 1:3-11.

I feel so much hope as I type this because I really feel a lot of clarity right now. It feels a lot like I "get it" now and things are on the total correct course in my soul.

Peter starts out in verses 3-4 telling us that God's divine power has given us everything we need in life. It's like that U2 line, "What you don't have you don't need it now." The reality is that I have everything I need. What blows my mind is that it says we are actual participants in the divine nature. Thus, we have total power, divine power to overcome our selfish desires. This is great hope for someone like me because so-called "self-control" has never resulted in much for me. It's time I move past "self-control" and into being controlled by the same divine power that raised Christ from the dead. Where self-control fails, the Christ-controlled are led to victory.

Verses 5-7 make me realize that I actually have to make an effort to have progress in my spiritual walk. I know that sounds silly to say, "I actually have to make an effort" and your response might be "duh!" However, I think there have been many times in my life where I say I want to be more "Christ-like" but I'm actually not doing anything about it. There's a word for that: stagnation. Fortunately, I am not in a stagnating period as I type this.

It makes total sense to me that Peter seems to say it all stems from faith and then there seems to be a natural flow of character traits that can be produced if we put in the effort. The word "effort" is there. The dictionary defines effort as "the use of physical or mental energy to achieve something." I think this stuff needs to be practiced in the same way that playing the guitar needs to be practiced. It would be laughable to think that I would be a better guitar player without practice. I'm not going to just wish to play guitar and then wake up one day a guitar player. Likewise, I'm not going to just magically be more loving. I need to use my physical and mental energy to become so. Here is what needs to be practiced and, as Peter says, added to my faith:

faith-->goodness-->
goodness-->knowledge-->
knowledge-->self-control-->
self-control-->perseverance-->
perseverance-->godliness-->
godliness-->brotherly kindness-->
brotherly kindness-->love-->

I don't have the words to go into just how much this flow makes sense to me. But, it does. For example, I add self-control (refraining from a specific sin for example) to my knowledge (for instance Bible reading). However, at that point, I'd better add perseverance or I'm going to become very impatient and I'm likely to go back to my old destructive patterns. If I stay steadfast in these difficult choices I have made, I begin to see godliness develop. I also understand that we do not work on these one at a time in isolation; instead, we work on them all together.

Without those qualities, Peter says in verses 8-9, we are totally ineffective Christians. It makes me think that these traits are like dashboard indicator lights that signal to us a major problem: you have forgotten what Christ did for you on the cross! Thus, am I lacking in brotherly kindness? If so, I can trace it back to forgetting the very root of my faith. Of course, as it always does, it comes down to love. After all, Jesus himself said that the one way people will know if we're disciples is our love for one another (John 13:35).

Peter wraps-up this chunk of his writing in verses 10-11 and encourages us to be all the more certain of our calling. He says if we do these things we will never fail. How simple really. Today I cannot be content with faith as my "faith" is not just a belief in some "religious facts" as much as it is actual partisipation in the divine. Real faith must result in action. A good question on any given day would be: What am I doing today to practice these qualities that Peter writes about? A good prayer on any given day would be: God help me to grow and give me the wisdom to be utterly unwilling to stagnate.

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