This blog entry is part of a series through the book of 2nd Peter.
Text: 2 Peter 1:8
“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of God.”
Are These Qualities Yours?
Your works cannot save you, nor can they add to God's love for you, but if you have come to believe in Christ you have been undeniably called to display his glory in the actions of your life. Faith in Christ supplies every believer with complete reconciliation to God and gifts us a definitive holiness—an entirely righteous standing before God based on the perfect obedience of Jesus in our place—but definitive holiness and practical holiness are two different things. Faith in Christ supplies every true believer with the free gift of God’s salvation, but it does not automatically apply all the traits of godliness to one’s soul. The old things must be worked out, and the new things must be worked in. The Bible calls this process, “sanctification,” and this is exactly what Peter means when he say that we must, "make every effort to supplement our faith...” God intends to bring about conformity to Christ in every area of our lives. How? Through the perpetual revelation of his glory, our personal growth in the knowledge of God. In the words of John the Baptist, “He must become greater, and I must become less."
The purification of the heart and corresponding growth in obedience is the evidence that our participation in the religious functions of christianity are more than perfunctory. “If these qualities are yours” you will have great assurance of your salvation. Why? Because you see the saving power of God transforming the conduct of your life. Your inner faith is being displayed by your outer behavior. But “if these qualities are” not yours, what assurance can you have? Every action of our lives is an act of worship. Obedience is the worship of God, and disobedience is the worship of self. A true believer will always begin to be changed from the inside out, and the character qualities of Christ will, even if ever so slightly at first, be displayed in their life. Indeed, the qualities of godliness must belong to the children of God because we have been brought from death to life through the blood of the cross, we have been filled with the Spirit of holiness and power, the same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead. Paul says in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is the power of God for salvation. If the power of God has been unleashed in your heart your actions will undoubtedly testify to it! Not perfectly, but perpetually, continually, and as Peter is about to show us, increasingly.
Are They Increasing?
I have a gas tank in my car that holds ten gallons. I have a gauge on my dashboard that tells me how much fuel I have at a given time. It tells me when I am running low and when I am filled to the brim. This is how I determine when I should stop at the gas station or not. I go only when I perceive that I need more gas. It is exactly this kind of thinking about our relationship with God that corrupts our understanding of eternity. Our soul is not like our gas tank, and the Bible is not the filling station. While this metaphor can be used in a beneficial way at times, it is emphatic that we understand this reality. We do not have a gas tank in our soul which can be filled by a pitstop at the Gospel of John or the Psalms, etc. No. We do not have a limited sized tank for drinking deeply of the things of God. We have been given souls that, when gazing upon him rightly, simply cannot get enough. We never reach full. We do not come and go from the gas station of God based on how our “tank" feels. By his design, we never run out of space and he never runs out of glory. We were made for a seamless, exhilarating and endless relationship with the Creator. Eternity itself is centered on this truth. The inexhaustible glory of God is the foundation for joy in heaven. We will spend unending days marveling at who our Savior truly is and what he has done for those who believe. We will not be bored. Awe will not be in short supply. Why not? Because the glory of our God is utterly boundless and we were made to worship him.
Obedience is worship. This is why Peter says that the qualities of godliness shouldn’t just be ours, but that they should be "increasing.” The increase in our obedience is connected to the increase in our worship, and our increased worship is rooted in our growth in the knowledge of God. The rhythm of eternity begins now. Our understanding of the depths of the glory of God will never end, therefore our growth in the character of Christ should be “increasing." No one who has truly been born-again can continue in unrepentant sin or be content with only “a little bit” of God. The more we come to see him for who he truly is, the more we long to worship him with a heart of “increasing” obedience.
Ineffective And Unfruitful
What does it mean to be "ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of God?” Imagine a farm land that is infertile. A farmer can spread seed there, he can water the ground, he can clear the weeds and brush, but if the soil is not full of nutrients the harvest simply will not come. Scattering more seed will not fix it, adding more water to the ground will make no difference. If the soil itself is not fertile, the harvest will not grow. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Is my heart like this soil? Are you participating in the religious functions of christianity but without a heart-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ? Peter means to say in the contents of this letter that a person lacking perpetual growth in conformity to Christ is a soul for whom he fears. The evidence of our saving-faith is displayed by our glad participation in the “divine nature” of God. Let us take sincere inventory of our lives and find out what effect "the knowledge of God" is having on our souls. Are you being changed by the glory of God? Do you possess the traits of godliness? And are they increasing in your life?
Indeed, we are great sinners, but Christ is a great Savior. His salvation saves us not only from the consequences of sin, but from the very power and presence of it altogether. Let us make every effort to grow up into him who called us to his own glory and excellence that we might display his divine nature through our redeemed lives!