Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Ineffective Life - Part 2

See Part 1 here.

For this 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, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. Ah, here we seem to be reading about something that we are responsible for. We are supposed to develop these qualities: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Let’s take them in order, because I suspect they are in that order on purpose. Faith is what God gave us to allow us to believe in Him. Once I believe in Him I work on being good – goodness. OK, that makes sense. Once I desire to be good, I begin to do good things. Next I begin to acquire knowledge. How do I do that? By reading and studying scripture, by going to church and participating in Bible studies. And studying His Word teaches me how to be good and do good things, as well as increasing my faith in Him. Next is a difficult one: self-control. I must choose to do the right things. I must control my thoughts and my emotions and my body. I don’t believe this could happen if it wasn’t building on faith, goodness, and knowledge. Self-control takes practice and training, and it also takes the next thing on the list, perseverance. You cannot give up, you must persevere. As you practice self-control, you learn perseverance. Each of these areas in your life leads into the next area, at the same time strengthening the previous ones. Godliness has now begun to grow in your life; your life is showing signs of God’s influence and character. You are beginning to look like Him. Now we see brotherly kindness. As you have walked through this list, you will have begun to care about and think about other people. You must do this more and more. Ultimately you will begin to see others as God sees them, and you will love them as He loves them. You will understand more and more what God has done for you, and your love for God will grow exponentially. As will your faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and again, love. Do you see how each area leads into the next area and continues to reinforce the previous ones?

I think it is important to go back to the beginning here and point out that while we do deliberately put these qualities in our lives, we must rely on God’s power and strength to give them to us. Pray for God to give you each of the things on this list, to develop these character traits in you. Use His power, that’s what He is there for! He is not sitting there watching us live our lives on our own, He is intimately involved in living them through us!

The next sentence tells us why this was important. 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. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. You see, it’s not enough to have knowledge of Jesus; there is such a thing as ineffective and unproductive knowledge. The whole list of qualities is important in leading a godly life. And if you don’t have this list in your life, either God’s not there at all or you have forgotten what God did for you. Go back to the beginning, to faith in Christ.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No, this is not referring to losing your salvation. Making your calling and election sure means to prove it to yourself and to others. How do I know I am saved? By seeing the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. How do others know I am saved? By looking at the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life. I do not “know” I am saved because I walked down an aisle when I was a kid and “accepted Jesus in my heart.” Maybe I did and maybe I have been saved since then, but what did Jesus mean when He said that some will say at the judgement that they followed Christ but He knew them not? Can you think you are a believer when you are not? I think so. But if I see God’s divine power working these qualities in my life, I am sure the Holy Spirit is in me. And if I am working on these qualities in my life, I will not stumble or fall, and my spiritual life will be effective and productive; my knowledge will continue to grow not just in my head, but in my heart and in my hands as well.

Rebecca A Givens, 11/2008
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