From eight to eighteen years old, I became accustomed to hearing some of the top Christian speakers around the United States. From seminars to conventions and guest speakers at church, I was blessed to hear the best. One thing that always stuck with me was how those orators were introduced. One intro that always made me sit up and take notice was, “He is a true man of God”.
I recall the teenage hope deep inside me that one day someone would introduce me like that. However, I soon learned that it’s not all about what other people think of us, even though that too is important. It’s the Lord’s approval that is most essential.
As followers of Jesus we need to be tried and true. We are growing to be Christ-like. God will allow trials to test us. And I’ve learned the best way for me to pass muster with the Lord is to be constantly saturated with the word of God. And obey the Holy Spirit, heeding His still small voice inside.
It was around 66 AD when the Spirit directed Apostle Peter to write his compelling second epistle. It was addressed to all people who place their faith in Christ Jesus. In it, he assures that Christ-likeness and effective service are the result of constant, steady growth. It’s a process and not an overnight kind of thing.
2nd Peter 1:5-7 reveals eight major areas in which we need to grow, if we are to remain faithful to Christ, and be effective, fruitful children of God. This is some real power packed truth! Once we understand the areas we need to mature in, we can then delineate the methods to achieve that growth and really jump-start our spiritual development.
- Brotherly Kindness
In verse 8 Peter discloses,
“If you possess these qualities in increasing measure, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
He’s saying in essence that our faith will be more productive. We’ll be able to make it count for something more than just getting into heaven’s gates. In short, we’ll be much more successful in every endeavor for Christ. And we’ll have the effective kind of faith that moves mountainous obstacles out of the way.
Faith: A constant trust in the Lord births within us the virtues of Christ. And as we practice that faith, those superior traits grow and mature.
Knowledge: We increase in the knowledge of God’s word as we study the bible, and then apply each truth we learn to our lives, putting it into action. We will witness how truth proves itself when we act upon it. That truth, or that knowledge is then driven home into our memories— through experience.
Life events must transpire to corroborate what we believe. And also to try our faith. It is then that we can say for certain that we know each specific truth. We can add it to the other treasures accumulating in our hearts. In other words, the more we live the truths of God’s word, the more knowledge we will have of it. Obviously we must first familiarize ourselves with the bible. Then we obediently act upon what we read, applying it to our choices.
Virtue: The Holy Spirit gives us the ability—the power to obey God by providing everything we lack: Strength, direction and purpose, peace and joy and anything else we may happen to need. The more we practice godly character traits the easier they become. Soon, they are so much a part of us that they become our natural actions and responses. Instead of naturally leaning towards sin we begin to naturally lean towards doing the right thing. That is virtue in a nut-shell.
Self-control: This is perhaps the most difficult trait to develop. Yet self-control automatically begins to be cultivated by practicing all the other Christ-like virtues.
Back when I had difficulty controlling my actions, the Lord taught me a vital truth from the book of James. I learned that if I could conquer my motor mouth, and keep from blurting out everything that came into my head, then I could control the rest of me too.
“Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” James 3:2b NIV
I practiced being silent for extended periods of time. Surprisingly, I came to enjoy and benefit from not saying anything at all. It taught me how to discipline myself. Besides, I learned a lot more by simply observing and taking in everything that went on around me. I began noticing things I’d previously been missing. I became wiser. Check out this little rhyme.
“A wise old owl sat on an oak, the more he saw the less he spoke, the less he spoke the more he heard, now wasn’t that a wise old bird?” (Author unknown)
Perseverance: I like the old definition of perseverance as: Stick-to-it-iveness, or remaining faithful through hardship. Tough times are going to come. Difficulties, and persecution have been prophesied for all who would live godly lives in Christ Jesus. (See 2nd Tim. 2:12)
Yet, the assurances we gain from our past diligent growth will sustain that faith. We have those positive experiences of all the times we’ve been obedient, and of the good results that came because of our obedience. We have those times to look back on. Hence we gain even more determination because we’ve learned the power of doing the right thing. Combine that awareness with God’s constant provision, comforting, enabling and empowering us, and we can persevere through it all! The Lord places His peace within you as a potent strengthening agent.
Godliness: Being obedient to practice all these things together is godliness, or being like God in character, developing a holy lifestyle. (Of course there are additional traits and habits we need to develop, but we’re focusing on just these 8 for now.) We are to imitate what we see in the Lord. This is godliness.
Brotherly kindness and love flows freely from a soul who is fully convinced of their need for God’s grace on a continuing basis. I don’t need grace for just one day, a month or a year of my past life. I need God’s grace to constantly cover me, because I’m not yet perfected. I will make mistakes in the future. And though we now despise sin just as God does, we probably will still have to confess a sin every so often. I’m already forgiven for the sins I’ve not yet committed. Confession is for the benefit of my conscience and to keep me ever aware of my total dependence on Christ for the righteousness which is required. Confession is also necessary for maintaining that close and open relationship with our Lord.
Our perpetual dependence on Christ should put the kibosh on pride, which is the primary blockade to loving others God’s way. If we want God’s grace we must offer that same grace to everyone else. Do to others as we would have them do to us, treat them the way we’d like to be treated. Nothing new here—it’s the same message Jesus gave to the early church and it hasn’t changed an iota.
We could fill volumes here discussing how we need to treat everyone with love. And many of my former articles as well as many in the future will continue to expound upon that most important character trait of every follower of Christ. Love sums up the whole requirement of all God’s spiritual laws.
Though my teenaged proclivities have now been harnessed, I still get a warm sensation when someone describes me as a godly man. It’s the greatest compliment one can receive.
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