Friday, February 20, 2009

check the box

"For this very 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. 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

I've been spending the last week in 2 Peter. It is a short read, but packed with a message for already-converted believer. There is so much to say, but I'll stay focused, or at least attempt to do so for this post.

Checking the box
For whatever reason, we seem to have a bent towards checking the box as we go through life. Graduate high school - check. Go to college - check. try half a dozen majors - check. get married, have 2.5 kids, buy a nice car, live in a nice house, get our kids in the right schools - check, check, check, etc. Once we conquer the list, we think that we will have contentment in our lives. Unfortunately, our memories fail us in regard to this lie, just as this lie fails to fulfill us.

Probably the biggest lie we as Christians swallow is that our faith in Christ is limited to a single point in time where we said a magic prayer and gave our life to God, and then we can go on about our life, living any way we please. Ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins and give me eternal life - check. go to church (sometimes or even all the time) - check. Get baptized - check. Say a quick prayer every now and then, especially before dinner - check. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn't offer a check-the-box gospel. it offers a gospel that is a journey, a process, a means that couldn't be farther from checkboxianity.

Event vs. Process
In the verse above, it can be seen that God has a much different idea about what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. You see, asking Christ to be Lord of our lives doesn't end with a prayer asking God to save us; it begins there. Once we confess our sins to God and put our faith in Him to forgive us, we thereby take the first step of the most wonderful journey in all of life. But we will never experience the abundant life that the Lord Jesus promised if we allow ourselves to become ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Building upon foundations
Peter is showing us that there is a progression from one virtue to the next. But these things are not like a badge that we earn like a boy scout; no, they build upon each other. He doesn't say have goodness, knowledge, self-control, etc.; Peter says ADD goodness to faith, ADD knowledge to goodness, ADD self-control to knowledge, etc. Each of these things are correctly exemplified when they are built upon the right preceding foundations. Sure, each of us as followers of Christ can exhibit all of these qualities in our lives, but when built upon each of the preceding foundations, we begin to understand what these virtues truly are.

The greatest of these...
The beauty of it all is that these virtues all build towards the greatest gift, the greatest quality, the greatest virtue of them all: love. Paul echoes these teachings in his own writings, reminding us that of faith, hope, and love, the greatest of these is love. Elsewhere he teaches that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up - point being that love is the greater virtue. Above all this, Paul brings it home, reminding us that our maturity in Christ has absolutely nothing to do with checking the box. In Romans, he writes:

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." - Romans 13:8

Kinda hard to check the box on love. If you must check the box, though, make sure that your pen is always out of ink. That way you can check it again, and again, and again, and....


Bert said...

I never saw before, in this passage, the words "in increasing measure". That phrase takes the box right off the sheet. There is no way to ever finish something that is ever increasing.

Great post

graynation said...

Great observation Bert - we can never have too much of these virtures, always room to add more to our faith in increasing measure, as you have pointed out. thanks for sharing your comment.