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When It Comes to Our Christian Walk, Failure Is an Option
Have you ever considered Saul’s failure as God’s chosen king, God’s Anointed? Saul had everything going for him. Despite the advantage of being God’s anointed king, Saul made mistake after mistake. He was arrogant, prideful, and even reckless. God turned his back on Saul, and it was all downhill from there.
What did Saul do that was so bad? The first sin described in 1 Samuel 13:8-9, involved his prideful, impatient, and reckless decision to act as a priest and offer a sacrifice at Gilgal. He was supposed to wait for Samuel, but he decided to disobey. As an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin, he knew all too well that he had no right to offer a sacrifice. Only priests from the tribe of Levy could perform such religious rites.
Saul was not done there. He again sinned as described by 1 Samuel 15:3, when battling the Amalekites. Samuel told Saul that God commanded him to kill everyone and everything. Saul allowed Agag, king of the Amalekites, to live, and allowed his soldiers to keep the best animals. When Samuel questioned Saul, he lied.
God gave Saul everything he needed to succeed as king of Israel. You might be thinking at this point that if you had the gifts God gave Saul, you could really do a good work. However, God has given you the power you need. Look at verse one of 2 Peter. Peter is telling the believers of the time that they had a faith of equal standing to his. Peter goes on to say in verse three that God has provided them with all things necessary for life and godliness, and in verse 4, has allowed them to be partakers of the divine nature.
You might respond by saying that you could not be king of Israel like Saul, or heal people, or raise them from the dead, like the Apostles. Well, God is not asking you to. We can’t all be Christian leaders, but we can be the Christians God intends. He will provide you with the strength to walk your Christian walk. Read verses 1-4, and I’ll meet you on the other side.
2Pe 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2Pe 1:2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
2Pe 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
2Pe 1:4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
2Pe 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,
2Pe 1:6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,
2Pe 1:7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
The Keyword Commentary makes the following statement:
“God’s power has given Christians all they need (verse 3) – but this has to be worked out in practical ways.”
There is always a catch, and here it comes. There is stuff for us to do. That is what the Keyword Commentary is telling us. Do you wish God would just use his divine power to work out everything for you? I do, but he does not.
God wants us to play a part in our Christian walk. Take a look at verse five. Peter wants us to “supplement” our faith. The word used here by the ESV is supplement. Other versions use the word “add” or “supply.” The word has the meaning of adding to something, and in this case it is our faith. God wants us to grow in our faith so that we can “become partakers of the divine nature.” We have a responsibility here. We don’t just stand around soaking in the power of the Holy Spirit. We have to live and act in a certain way, and God determines the way.
2Pe 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,
Now comes the hard part. We are going to have to walk the Christian walk while fulfilling the following requirements. As a matter of fact, I will state that we can’t walk the Christian walk without following these requirements. And what are the requirements you might ask? It’s not good from a sinner’s perspective. Here’s the list: Virtue, knowledge, self control, steadfastness, Godliness, brotherly affection, and love.
That is quite a list. As usual, when God gives us a list, and we dig into the meanings, we find the list is comprehensive. We don’t get a break. It is going to be hard work, and will include lots of failure on our part. What does each mean? It would be a lot easier to not know, but since the second one is knowledge, that does not seem to be an option.
We should dig in to each one and find out what God wants from us. After all, there is a lot riding on this. Also, before we get started, notice how each requirement is linked to the next. We must add virtue, and to virtue, knowledge.
The word translated as virtue in the ESV, is translated in other versions as; goodness, moral excellence, excellence, and worthiness. I think the NASB has best translated the word as moral excellence. Moral excellence gives us the idea that it is tied to an excellence determined by God. Since verse three links the word with God’s glory, it seems only appropriate to define the word from God’s perspective. What you or I believe is excellent is irrelevant unless tied to the revelation of God. The Complete Word Study Dictionary adds to this meaning a level of superiority. In other words, the moral excellence must be pleasing to God. It is superior to any excellence determined by our standards.
When I think about the meaning of virtue described here I immediately think of the sermon-on-the-mount. Jesus set high standards, standards unreachable without God. The standards are so high, in fact, that some Christians believe the sermon is meant for another age.
Look at the verses below. We see that God is light. Additionally, if we are going to walk with him, we cannot walk in the darkness. We must walk in the light in order to have fellowship with Christ, and if we do, he will cleanse us from sin.
1Jn 1:5 And this is the message that we have heard from Him, and announce to you, that God is light, and darkness in Him is not at all;
1Jn 1:6 if we may say–`we have fellowship with Him,’ and in the darkness may walk–we lie, and do not the truth;
1Jn 1:7 and if in the light we may walk, as He is in the light–we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son doth cleanse us from every sin;
Virtue is not perfection. However, those that practice habitual and unrepentant sin are walking in the darkness.
The word used here is simply to know. However, it is not that simple. We are warned in the bible that the knowledge of man is corrupting. Look at the verse in Colossians below. Paul is warning us that the philosophy of man can take us captive and is deceitful. This is contrasted with the knowledge and understanding and teachings of Christ.
Col 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Jesus announces woe to the Jewish lawyers in Luke below. The lawyers perverted the law of God, and led others astray. Knowledge is not about being smart and knowing the bible. It encompasses a knowing that is balanced with an understanding and adherence to the truth. All truth is from God, and is revealed to us in scripture.
Luk 11:52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
Paul explains in Romans below that unrighteousness leads to a suppression of the truth. The unrighteous are fools and unwise. They are such because they do not recognize and accept the truth. They believe they are wise, but they are wrong.
Remember Jesus’ prayer to the Father in Matthew. He is thanking the Father for revealing the truth to little children, and not the wise and understanding. Jesus is speaking tongue in cheek here. He does not believe the unrighteous are wise and understanding, because they do not believe the truth. They may be wise according to the world’s standards, but fools according to God.
Mat_11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;
Notice too, that Jesus’ parable will often contrast the wise and the foolish. The wise are the righteous, and the foolish are the unrighteous. It is not about head knowledge. It is about the knowledge, understanding, and obedience to the truth of God.
Paul lays it out nicely for us in Romans chapter two. In his example, we have a Jew who is knowledgeable in the law to the point that he is teaching others. However, he does not follow the law.
Rom 2:17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God
Rom 2:18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law;
Rom 2:19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,
Rom 2:20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth–
Rom 2:21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?
Rom 2:22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
Rom 2:23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.
We have to be careful with our knowledge. I see some possible problems with our execution of knowledge. We can turn from God and possess a knowledge that is worldly and therefore foolish. We can possess a Knowledge of God that may have its roots in the bible, but is not understood and therefore misdirected and ultimately foolish. We can have a right knowledge of God, but become arrogant and prideful. And finally, we can have a right knowledge of God, but not an understanding that leads to obedience.
Practicing self control is harder than it sounds. In fact, and for me, it is the hardest so far. We all know what self control is, but it is not easy to exercise self control when our passions take over.
I think of Paul’s warning in Ephesians about being angry, but not allowing the anger to drive us to sin. I also think of the book of Hebrews where we are encouraged by the fact that Christ was tempted as we are, but was sinless. We are to exercise control of our daily walk.
Eph_4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
Heb_4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Take a look at the verse in Acts below. How important is self control? According to verse 22, Felix was familiar with the Way. This is what they called the Christian life at that time. Paul was imprisoned at the time. In verse 24, Paul goes before Felix to talk to him about faith in Christ. Paul speaks to Felix about righteousness, self control and the coming judgment. I think it is reasonable to assume that Paul’s argument included a description of our sinful nature, and how faith in Christ results in a desire to conform to the examples set by Christ.
Act 24:22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.”
Act 24:23 Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.
Act 24:24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.
Act 24:25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.”
For reasons not explained, Felix became alarmed at what Paul said. Maybe his worldly life was too important to him, and the thought of repentance scary. We don’t know. The Christian walk is not an easy task, and we do people a disservice when we focus too much on a prayer or a decision. Our salvation will produce fruit. If it does not, there is no salvation.
This word can also mean perseverance. You know what I think of when I consider steadfastness? I think of Philippians 4:1-7. In verse one, we are told to stand firm in the Lord. But Paul does not just give us a command and walk away hoping we can figure out how. He tells us in verses 6 and 7 how to do it. Thankfully, God is there to help. Paul tells us not to be anxious about anything. He tells us to pray and ask God. And here is the best part. God promises to give us a peace that will surpass our understanding. We don’t have to worry about how to be steadfast. We just have to remember to pray and ask God for the strength. He promises to provide it.
Php 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
Php 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Php 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Godliness means piety, but in this sense it is a piety towards God. It can also be translated as devoutness. We get a better understanding in a sense with devoutness, and we can see the link between devoutness and steadfastness. It is used in the New Testament to refer to believers and unbelievers. In these verses Peter is speaking to believers, and Godliness refers to a piety that is connected to both knowledge and action. We can be described as godly, but have a wrong focus. This links Godliness with knowledge. Look at Titus 1:1 below.
Remember, each one of these requirements is connected to all the others. We can’t view them as distinct, and their meaning is deeper because of it.
Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness,
In 1st Timothy, Paul tells Timothy to “train yourself for godliness.”
1Ti 4:7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;
1Ti 4:8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
Again in 1st Timothy, Paul tells Timothy to “pursue godliness.” As with the other requirements, we don’t automatically become a Godly person.
1Ti 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
Godliness is our responsibility. It requires us to not only believe in a certain way, but act in a certain way. We should behave properly since our Godliness is directed at God. How do we act out our Godliness? Well, according to the verses below, “with good works.”
1Ti 2:9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,
1Ti 2:10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works.
I think the following verse in Matthew sums Godliness up very nicely for us, even though the word is not in the verse.
Mat 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the great and first commandment.
Mat 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Godliness is the act of loving God. It is the directing our beliefs, our service, our worship, our life towards him. And notice too, that verse 39 directs us to our next requirement.
Brotherly affection means simply brotherly love. In the New Testament, especially the letters, we see brotherly love focused more on a love for our fellow Christians. This is a narrow focus of course, and we should expand our love to all persons. But that type of love is covered in the following section.
Here, brotherly love is focused on our Christian brothers and sisters. It seems to be a love similar to the love we have for our most immediate family. An intense love that manifests itself in a way that is without conditions, and can result in a sacrificial act. This is the love that Christ has for the church.
Rom 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
1Pe 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
Here is a good question that we have all probably asked ourselves? Where do we find the strength to love those people? Well, like everything else, it is from God. The Holy Spirit has actually “poured it into our hearts.” If we can’t find the strength to love our fellow Christians, then it is on us.
Rom 5:5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Okay, but what if I don’t love my fellow Christians? Well, that is going to be a problem. Ignoring brotherly love carries the same penalties as every other requirement. And remember, all of these are linked. Look at the verses below. If we love our fellow Christians, we abide in God, and he abides in us. If we don’t love our fellow Christians, but claim to love God, then we are liars, and in fact don’t love God.
1Jn 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1Jn 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
As with all of the requirements, there are stiff penalties for not exercising Brotherly love. Think about some of the battles within the church. We fight over problems to the point that we create divisions, and then wonder why our individual Christian walk suffers, our ministry efforts suffer, and our church does not grow.
The word used here is a love for all mankind. It is the love that results in charitable works for others. And these “others” include people we don’t even know. It is one thing to love someone you know. You can see and experience the good in the person. However, it is tough to love all persons. But think about this. If we did not love all persons, how would charity survive? How would the gospel spread? How would we guarantee and respect the rights of others? If you don’t love people, then you must hate them. There is no middle ground. We are to be like Christ. He is light. Anything other than Christ is darkness. There is no room for a dimly lit love.
We really don’t need much of a lesson on love. We all know what Christ said. We just don’t listen. We are to love others just like we love ourselves. Jesus adds, and this is important, that loving God and others are the rock that supports all else. If you stop loving others, then you can expect your entire Christian walk to collapse.
Mat 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Luk 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
I would like to hear more from successful Christians about their personal Christian walk and how it has affected their ministry. I remember listening to Pastor Rick Warren speak about his walk, and being impressed with the simple, but effective, way he led his Christian life. From that adherence to God’s principles, a mighty work sprang forth.
If we don’t follow these requirements, then we can expect our Christian walk to suffer. The verses below are quite clear. Further, we need to quit being worldly in our thinking. Verse 9 is very clear that if we don’t possess these “qualities” we are blind. We need to stop thinking like Americans, or Republicans, or Democrats, or liberals, or conservatives, or libertarians. We need to first think like Christians. Thinking like Christians first will guide us through the other areas in our lives.
2Pe 1:8 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.
2Pe 1:9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
I’ll leave you with the following quote by Dostoevesky, who was a writer in Russia during the 19th century. Dostoevesky was probably a Christian, but appeared to struggle with unbelief.
“It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them – the character; the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas.”
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