Character Development – 2 Peter 1:5-11

You Will Know Them By Their Fruit

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. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Creating Character

Good character is created.  Bad character is following the path of least resistance.

Character progresses through four stages:

  1. Thoughts – our thoughts are the first step in what we will do.  We process our thoughts, and through our conclusions (right or wrong), we develop attitudes.
  2. Attitudes – We now move into beliefs.  When we have an opinion on something, we form beliefs.  We act upon our beliefs, because they form the worldview that we have.
  3. Actions – We are now putting our beliefs into action.  We project our worldview through the result of our beliefs in action.  We can say that we believe something, but if we never act on it, do we truly believe it?
  4. Character – As we act consistently, we form patterns of behavior that become character.  We may occasionally do something that is odd for us, or out-of-character, so to speak.  Character is the pattern of behavior that we instill in ourselves through repeated actions.

Powerful Properties

Peter advises us to build our character in stages.  God says things in specific ways so that we can be better prepared to follow Him.  In this case, there is a progression of character that Peter advises us to adopt.  We are to add onto the next AFTER we establish the previous.  Just as in any learning endeavor, we need to follow the steps to ensure that we get the full foundation of understanding and knowledge.  Here are the aspects of character, IN ORDER, that we should inculcate into ourselves:

  • Faith
    • Faith is the beginning foundation for our eventual goal – love.  Without faith, it is impossible to proceed in learning Godly character, which (eventually) displays itself in love.
  • Goodness
    • Without faith, it is impossible to please God.  We need faith first, and then we can begin to understand the goodness of God.  As we understand God’s goodness, and walk with Him, we are to emulate what we see.  And God IS Good…
  • Knowledge
    • As we grow in modelling goodness, we desire more knowledge of God.  We are turning away from worldly knowledge and towards Godly knowledge.  God will only provide you the knowledge that He knows you can be trusted with, for you will be held accountable according to the knowledge that you have…
  • Self-Control
    • Once we receive knowledge, we need to put it into practice.  This requires consistency.  Self-Control is the next step in our foundational building block of character.  Without it, we are merely doing what we want, when we want, and it is impossible to move forward.  How can we develop perseverance without first being able to do something consistently?
  • Perseverance
    • As we act upon our knowledge, we strive for consistency.  It does us no good to act Godly one day, and evil the next, with no rhyme or reason to our behavior.  We are to seek out perseverance in our pursuit of Almighty God.  But without the foundation of faith, goodness, knowledge, and self-control, we very well would pursue the WRONG path to perseverance…
  • Godliness
    • As we grow in our perseverance, we begin to truly experience Godliness in our actions.  We are now (fairly) consistent in how we practice what we have learned, and are growing in His character daily.
  • Mutual Affection
    • Is it not odd that mutual affection is this far down the line in the development of Godly character?  Just as in anything else, when we jump to the end, and don’t put in the time learning the basics, our ability to succeed rapidly approaches FAILURE.
  • Love
    • Once we have the basics, and are implementing them consistently, making the effort to embrace the body of Christ, we begin to show love.  God is able to help us to love one another as Christ loves the church.  He fills in the gaps where we are weak, and helps us by slowly weaning us off His overwhelming power so that we can pursue Godly character, which results eventually, in love.
    • He still helps us to love, for we cannot love as God loves apart from God, but we grow in His character by consistently CHOOSING His ways.
    • God will slowly remove the training wheels from our bicycle as we learn to ride.  If He was to constantly and consistently help us, how would we learn to make the right choices?  Do we not do the same for our children?  This is how we grow…

Each of these steps are necessary, in order, so that we can develop and grow in Godly character.  We do them out-of-order, or ignore them, to our spiritual peril.

Always Advancing

Peter next implies that in order to advance in our Christian Faith, these “qualities” need to be a part of our lives in increasing measure.  Each of these steps are to be pursued constantly, not just one after another. Each of these should CONSISTENTLY and CONCURRENTLY growing in our lives.  We just should not pursue the next step until we have a good handle on the previous step, however.

Becoming Blind

When we ignore these steps, we become nearsighted (unable to see what God is doing, and where we SHOULD be going) and (spiritually) blind.  We become like the person who proudly says, “I am a babe in Christ!  I’ve been walking with Him for 30 odd years or so!  I’m goin’ to Heaven.  Woo Hoo!”.  Imagine a 30-year-old man walking in diapers, throwing temper tantrums, drinking formula from a baby’s bottle, and acting like a baby.  What would you think?  That is what we look like to mature, Spirit-filled Christians when we do not grow in Godly character over time (let alone those who don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior)…

Confirm your Calling

Peter then urges us to be diligent in this.  The verb that translates here as “make every effort” in the Greek is spoudasate.  It means “endeavor with great diligence!”.  It is an imperative command.  This is not a suggestion, but an exhortation!  When we pursue Godly character in this manner, it “confirms” our calling and election.  It is VISIBLE FRUIT that shows that we are saved.  We have the responsibility to learn Godly character as part of our sanctification.

Anyone who does not embrace sanctification is not willing to die to self.  This should be a “red-flag” to us that there is something not right in our heart.  Whatever the issue may be, get it resolved (seek Christian counseling if this sounds impossible), and begin your spiritual development and training in Godliness.

Rich Reward

Peter then says if we do these things, we will not stumble.  Are you tired of stumbling in your walk?  Are you tired of being tripped up?  Here are the steps to fill in the gaps in your spiritual training.  Did you miss a step?  Is the foundation a little shallow at one end?  Go back to the beginning, and lay the foundation deep and wide, with Christ as the cornerstone (of your faith).  Once the foundation is solid and secure, the building that is built upon it will withstand the attacks of the enemy.

And be assured that if you follow these steps, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you as you pray for deliverance, strength, and wisdom to complete each of them, you will receive a rich welcome into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  And certainly, you will hear these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Have I laid down the right foundation in my pursuit of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the wisdom and revelation of Yourself in Your word.  Help me to review my foundation, and see if there is anything that I am lacking.  If I have missed a step, I pray, Father, that You will help me to see it.  Take me back to my earlier training, if necessary, and help me to learn each lesson again as You know that I need to.  Help me to shore up the weak points in my walk.  Father, strengthen me as I humble myself before You.  I know I don’t always do things right.  I stumble and I don’t know why.  Thank you for reminding me that to truly learn, I must put in the time and effort in the right way and in the right order for the results to bear great fruit.  Forgive me for my sins, and help me to honor you in every action, word, and deed.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Calling of God – John 9:4

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

Jesus indicated that we are to work while it is day.  Just as we can see the light fading into dusk, so it is becoming in the world today.  In the Middle East, there is almost no light at all.  It is reported that Jesus is revealing Himself to people in visions and dreams because the people there have effectively put out the light.  It truly is night there – no one can work.

In very rapid succession, countries that were once brightly lit with the light of Christ have become dim.  In England, the cathedrals are being turned into mosques.  There are fewer and fewer people who would darken the doorsteps of a church.  Faith is failing.  And nature abhors a vacuum.  A most egregious evil is now afflicting those people.  When the light is placed under a bowl, it does no one any good.

Here in the United States of America, we are experiencing the same kind of withdraw by people.  Once our young people reach adulthood, they go off on their own, and reject the teachings of their youth (if they were brought up in the church).  Seeking to validate the claims of Faith by looking at the practical effectiveness of Christian living, they wrongly conclude that because Christians aren’t living out their faith correctly, that faith doesn’t work.

Abandoning their faith, they are drawn by the pleasures and values of the world, the devil, and their own evil desires.  Those that do come back only come to their senses after 15-20 years, and only after great consequences have befallen them.  The Millennials also flock to the preachers that tickle their ears with what they want to hear.  Downplaying sin and righteousness, they receive a weekly dose of psychology that tells them God is Love and Grace (and He is!), but there isn’t mention of transformation and sanctification into the image of Christ.  Believing then only that God loves them just the way they are (very true!), they fail to grasp their need to repent, and go on to live their lives just as the rest of the world does, indistinguishable from those who are perishing.  And others, failing to look in the Bible to see how faith is truly vibrant, real, and effective, even if the outcome here on Earth is unpleasant, conclude that faith is foolishness.

As God slowly withdraws his protection and stabilizing influence from all of us as the world continues to reject Him, night falls and lawlessness increases.  The darkness HATES the light, and will do anything it can to flee it, or extinguish it, so that its wickedness will not be exposed, and permit the continuation of its evil practices.

But fear not!  Jesus has overcome the darknessWalk in the light, let your light shine before men, complete the works that God has given you to do, and let God deal with the consequences of obedience.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us a Light that cannot be extinguished, and shines brightly for all to see.  For Your Son Jesus Christ said that if He was lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself.  Father, I have been drawn, and grow weary today, not of doing what is right, but of wading through the thick molasses of evil and wickedness in the world.  Help me to overcome.  Grant me strength to keep on walking.  And as the path to righteousness grows more narrow every day, help me to not be swept away or held in place.  You have declared that I am an oak of righteousness,  and that no one can snatch me out of Your hand.  Guard me, guide me, try me, prove me.  Help me to be a bright light on a hill.  And whatever you allow to happen, even to the point of death, keep me strong that You may be glorified.  This I ask and pray in the precious and faithful character of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Calling of God – Matthew 5:13

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Salt, during the time of Jesus’ ministry, was of far greater value than it is today.  Communities were often formed around areas where salt was found, or could be traded.  It was literally worth its weight in gold.  Because Roman legions were paid in it, we get our word “salary”.  We also get the phrase, “worth his salt,” from it.  It was so valuable, wars were fought over it.

Besides being valuable as currency, salt served two very important functions at that time:

  • Salt brought out flavor
  • Salt preserved
    • Prior to modern refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food.  Meats would often go bad in hot, humid environments, but salt helped to extend the time that food would still be edible.
    • Our words and actions should have a preservative effect on culture, to retard the spread and decay of sin and unrighteousness, keeping life palatable for a much longer period of time.

Jesus gives us a caveat, however.  If salt loses its saltiness, or no longer has its intended effect, what good it is anymore?   He warns that it would be thrown out, to be trampled.  Inedible salt was practically worthless.  This is what the Christian Church in the United States of America has become.  No one seems to care anymore for the flavor of Christ, and we have certainly failed in preventing the rapid spread of spiritual decay here.

Who really wants to eat mashed potatoes without a little salt on it?  Would you really want to eat meat with mold on it?  That is what our culture is eating today, because we have failed one of our most important callings – displaying Jesus for all to see.  But God can change that.  Let us live our lives for Jesus, that our words and actions would have the same effect that Jesus had on the culture 2000 years ago when He walked the Earth with His disciples.

So, let’s ask the question:  Am I the salt of the Earth?  Or am I salt thrown out on top of the Earth?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us a very high calling, to preserve, display, and enhance righteousness in this world.  We are grateful that You desire to bring glory to Your name through us.  Father, help me today to be salt in this wicked generation.  Remember me – act divinely upon my half – that in everything that I say and do, Jesus would be reflected.  Strengthen me through the trials of today, and may my words and actions have the intended effect that You desire of me.  Guard me against all unrighteousness, and I pray for the opportunity to bring You to a people who are feeding on the rotting trash of culture.  This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Calling of God – 1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

What a high calling!  To carry the requests of the people to Almighty God!  A great privilege indeed.  Oh, the needs are great in this wicked generation. What deep and soul-piercing burden has God placed on your heart to deliver to Him in His Throne Room?

Whatever your burden, bring it to God, who has the power to move Heaven and Earth to bring glory to His name.  Have you ever considered that the rainbow, God’s everlasting covenant with the Earth (Genesis 9:13), required Him to utterly change the very fabric of nature, to alter the laws of physics, to make the sign of His covenant (Genesis 9:12-16)?  What will He then do for you, His royal priesthood, out of love, mercy, and grace, to bring Glory to His name?

A short prayer of preparation:

Gracious Father in Heaven, forgive me my many faults.  Cleanse me of all unrighteousness, that with clean hands and a pure heart, I may bring my petitions and praises to you in full confidence of your ability and willingness to answer.  I an grateful that Your Holy Word tells us that you have already prepared an answer.  Grant your servant favor this day, as I bring these requests to You, for there is no request too small that You are unwilling to answer.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?