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.
Good character is created. Bad character is following the path of least resistance.
Character progresses through four stages:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
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 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.
- 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…
- 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…
- 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?
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.