Happy New Year! I must confess that the fresh page of a brand-new year is something that I look forward to each winter. It somehow feels so hopeful. All of us have many things we would like to leave behind from last year, and what a great feeling it is to start over fresh and new.
Many people really do make resolutions every new year - a list of things they intend to do or not do. I remember that the first resolution I actually kept was to stop biting my fingernails in the seventh grade - this sounds so gross now, but it was a true victory for a junior high school student. As we age, our resolutions change and become more serious. We might want to adopt some new, healthy habits and get rid of some unhealthy ones. It becomes more obvious every year that our little bad habits can lead to major problems over time, so we want to do something before it is too late. My daughter Kory works at our local gym, and she has seen that the place is packed out with new members the first week or two of January hoping to make a positive new habit. Health is just one area we wish for change, but it could be anything from time to money to relationships. It is amazing how deep this desire is within us, especially as people who have surrendered our lives to God. We are eager and hungry for change, to be better than we are, to be more like Jesus.
In reading the book of 2 Peter, there is a striking passage right at the beginning of chapter 1 that is so encouraging for this new season...
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
This catches my attention! It is interesting to note that this book of 2 Peter was written to directly combat a group of people who called themselves Christian, but who said that God’s grace was so great that our sins did not matter at all so we could live however we wanted. History calls them Antinomians, and they lived a life and preached a message that was full of sin and selfishness, and which led many astray. Peter reminds all of us that the antinomian teaching is false, and that Jesus saves us from our sinful natures and the evil desires of the world. Even more than that, God has given us everything we need to live a godly life.
We are not alone in the fight against our own selfishness and the crazy world around us. Through God’s glory and goodness, He gives us everything we need to thrive. Not only are we delivered from our own sinful nature through Christ, but we are also enabled to “participate in the divine nature.” We have a really long way to go, but here we see that there is no upper limit on how much we can grow. We are not doomed to just remain as we are, and this is why resolutions are so attractive every year. As a believer in Jesus, the Spirit of God is at work in your heart and life, calling you to stop settling for mediocrity and to be more like Him all the time. Remember that faith, by definition, is putting your confidence and trust in Jesus. As we walk with Him and know Him, our faith in Him increases and strengthens.
The passage of scripture continues...
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”
I love these lists in the New Testament. One commentator said that since books were so scarce, this was a common way to teach in the ancient world - lists like this helped the hearers remember and pass them on to others. They also communicate so effectively that there is always much more to Jesus and His Kingdom than we catch at first glance. Make every effort to add to your faith - there is so much more to life as a son or daughter of God than just believing. Your life can be so rich! There is an old saying that, “the Christian life must not be an initial spasm followed by a chronic inertia.” God is always faithful to do His part, now let us do our part to seek to grow and add to our faith all of these beautiful things: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.
Now, how do we do it - how do we start moving forward on this chain of good things? The answer is very simple and at the same time very difficult - simple to understand yet difficult to apply. Obedience is the key. Everytime I hear the Lord ask me to do something, I must do it. I cannot just hear what He says and walk away with no change, I must hear what He says and then do it. Our favorite definition for obedience, and the one we have taught our children, is that obedience is doing exactly what I am told, and doing it quickly, because I love you. When we start not just hearing God, but obeying Him, then we begin to really grow in all of these qualities.
It is so important to remember here that being a Christian is not about moral management, it is about knowing God and reflecting Him rightly to a watching world. And this leads us to the the why - why do we want to start moving forward on this chain of good things listed in this verse? Verse 8 tells us why…
“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The wonderful things that God teaches us and helps us grow in are never just for you or me alone. If I focus on increasing my own goodness or knowledge or any of the other things just so I can feel superior to others, then I am further from God, not closer to Him. Yes, God loves each of us individually and cares deeply about our well-being. But He also cares that deeply for my neighbor - every single one, all over the world. So what God does in each of us, He always wants to do through each of us so that others may know Him, too.
This new year, may each of us make every effort to add to our faith and know God better. May we not be ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, but may we all grow to be a more beautiful reflection of Him to a hurting and confused world.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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