As a lifelong rule-follower and list maker, this passage from the book of 2 Peter has always intrigued me.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 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. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
The qualities Peter gives us are pretty impressive. They are praiseworthy, and they are also overwhelming. There was a time that I thought I was a behavior modification advocate. Just change your behavior, you know, straighten up and fly right. You cannot live out this passage in your strength. It is impossible! If you attempt to live up to these standards in your strength you will discover it is futile. You cannot attain these by willpower and trying harder! Transformation comes from the inside, not from our resolve and determination. The attributes listed above: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love flow from the presence of Christ within us.
The Apostle Peter is an example of when I try to live a godly life on my own, I will fail, but through Christ, I can overcome. Don’t believe me? Look to the New Testament record:
- Peter calls himself “a witness of Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 5:1) Yet he was not there when Jesus was on the cross; he and the other disciples were hiding in great fear.
- Peter calls us to be “eager to serve: (1 Peter 5:2) Yet he stayed in his seat when Jesus washed the disciple’s feet (John 13:1-10)
- Peter tells us to “be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray (1 Peter 4:7). Peter fell asleep while Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.
These are just a few examples not made to make Peter look bad. Rather than making Simon Peter look bad, I share them to encourage us in our walk. There is hope for me, and there is hope for you! Peter, impulsive, rash, and immature, became a great leader. What made the difference? The transforming power of Christ The same Holy Spirit who did a transforming work in the Apostle Peter’s life can do the same in our lives as well. The contrast between his words and actions reminds me of how often the same has been true of me! Jesus saw that though Peter was shaky, he would someday become a rock. There are several lessons I draw from this:
- Give others grace; God is not finished with them.
- Give yourself grace. God is still working on you.
- My past does not define me!
- There is hope!
- Transformation is ongoing work! Yes, change can be instantaneous, but it must also be lived and learned in discipleship and spiritual formation.
- Abiding in Him is not me trying harder! It is allowing His Holy Spirit to refine and fashion me.
- From glory to glory, He is changing me!
As we marinate in His word and stay open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we, too, can see the difference God is making in our lives. All of us can look back over past events and statements and shake our heads in embarassment, yet He is still changing us and growing us as we follow Him. As I told a pastor yesterday: You are doing better than you think! The reason? God is working in your life! Give God all the praise and glory.