We pick up the study in 2 Peter 1:5.
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue;”
We have our foundation of faith, and now we begin to build upon it with virtue.
WARNING: Rough Road Ahead! If you are already perfect, stop reading here!
This word “virtue” in the Greek is “arête.” It is commonly translated “goodness,” but the literal meaning is “excellence.” No pressure here.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “But, he’s such a good person.” This is usually what is said in defense of someone who has chosen not to make Christ Lord of his life. It always surprises me when I hear this from a professed Christian. They just can’t imagine that God would reject someone on a technicality.
It may surprise some people that this notion that we can get to Heaven by our own goodness didn’t originate from a human. In fact, straight from Satan’s lips, it was the very lie that caused the fall of mankind in the garden. It was the same lie used to tempt Christ in the wilderness. But, still it is the most popular belief today; just ask Oprah.
None-the-less, it is a lie. Worse than that, it makes a mockery of Jesus’ death and resurrection, because if we were basically good, as Anne Frank wrote in her diary, and so many believe today, what was Jesus tortured to death for?
This is what Isaiah had to say on the matter, in Chapter 64, Verse 6:
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Pretty harsh, I know, but the truth is, we were all dragged through the mud by Adam’s disobedience, and the only thing that can make us clean is the blood of Christ.
If there is any doubt of our evil nature, you need look no further than our forms of entertainment, some every bit as gory as the Roman Coliseum. And books, movies, and TV shows that glorify deceit, cruelty, and sexual immorality.
Right now, some of you are getting uncomfortable, thinking, “That’s just entertainment. That’s not how I am.”
I, like many other Christians, have fallen prey to what could be called sin by degrees. We say, I’ve never murdered anyone, but have we ever looked down our nose at anyone? Maybe someone in your own church? Or gossiped about them?
We say, I’ve never cheated on my spouse, but have we ever grumbled about or mocked him or her? Or looked at another?
Have we ever secretly rejoiced when someone fell from their pedestal or got “what they had coming?”
You know, as deserving as some are, not even God is looking forward to the final judgment of His children. It breaks His heart. It is not The Holy Spirit who makes these things so appealing. It is our old evil nature.
But I thought our old nature died! Ah, the great contradiction of the Gospel! In one breath, Paul, in Romans 6:6-7, says our old sinful self was crucified with Christ and we are no longer slaves to sin. Then, he goes on in his letters to give us lists of what we must do, and what we must not do. Not the least of which are:
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”—Romans 12:2
“. . . we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”—2 Corinthians 10:5.
Isn’t that works? No. As I mentioned in the previous study, God requires something in return for His presence. Just as faith requires a choice and action on our part, so too does excellence.
1 Peter 1:13-21:
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’
Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
The “action” we are to prepare our minds for is making choices. Each day we are faced with choices in everything we do, and no matter what the circumstance, we have but 2—my way, or God’s way? Do I live for me, or do I live for Him? My pride, or His glory?
Submission may not come easily to us, but once you begin reaping the blessings of peace and increasing faith, you begin to re-evaluate your definition of “easy.”
The world does what it does in ignorance. But our eyes are wide open, and we have been called to excellence. Not that of our ideas or works, but as we read in 2 Peter 1:3:
“His own glory and excellence.”
We have been called to His holiness. As children of God, we have been blessed with so great a gift, should we not be happy to submit to our Father?
I have been so convicted by this study. I have come such a long way in my journey with God, and yet I see that I still have such a long way to go. God does not want my half-hearted efforts and my lame excuses. He has said so in Revelation 3:16:
“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Moment by moment, I should be asking myself:
- “Is what I’m thinking glorifying God?
- Is what I’m watching or listening to glorifying Him?
- Will what I’m about to say glorify Him?
- Is what I am doing glorifying Him?”
In homeschool, we studied the process of smelting, and how firing the metal causes the impurities (slag) to come to the surface where it can be skimmed and eliminated. The slag in this lesson was likened to the sin in our lives, and the process of firing, to the trials God puts us through to bring that sin to the surface. It is The Holy Spirit that makes us see the slag remaining in us and, if we surrender it to our Father, He is faithful to remove it. “As far as the east is from the west.”—Psalm 103:12.
I know this to be true. Many idols have fallen in my life. Things and people that were more important than obedience to God. There are many things that used to be a part of my everyday life that I am now repulsed by. Habits, addictions, and fears I no longer have.
But His work is not finished. I have asked much of God. I want much of Him. But I now know I must be willing to see my slag for what it is, and give it up if I am to have what I want most. That is what drives me to repentance each day. I want to be holy, as He is holy. He has given me so much. It is the least I can do.
Now we know what (or who’s) excellence we are to add to our faith, and how to go about it. Next time, we’ll continue our building with knowledge.
God’s grace and peace be yours,