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?

Combat Training with God – Titus 2:11-12

Live A Godly Life By Saying No To Worldly Passions

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age

Grace of God

Salvation to all people has now been made available through the graciousness of The Lord God Almighty.  Grace is the mitigating factor in for the perfect justice of God.  He cannot look upon evil with approval.  Grace provides us with the opportunity, clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ, to come before Him in prayer for the forgiveness of sin.

Taken to the extreme, grace can be abused.  Paul warns us that we should not continue sinning so that grace can abound.  We are to accept grace as an intervening agent that is our source of salvation, and provides us with the opportunity to walk in holiness and uprightness before God.  If we rely entirely upon grace to see us through life, and live our lives the way that WE want, we are not submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit.  There are some key scriptures that bear repeating over and over.  One is the command of Jesus Christ, our Commander-in-Chief:  Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.  By relying completely on grace and ignoring the commands of the Holy Spirit of God, we place ourselves in a perilous situation where Christ may refuse to acknowledge us when He returns:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Decline Distractions

We are to be in training as soldiers of Christ, not involving ourselves in the affairs of civilians.  In this, we are to focus upon the desires of our Father in Heaven, and not the pursuit of worldly passions, which is ungodliness.  We are to rightly discern what is good and right, and what is wrong and evil.  This is a skill that every disciple should be training to do.  As we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, we can test God’s good, perfect, and pleasing will.

What is it that plagues you?  What trips you up, sucking you into its death spiral of doom, ruining your walk with God, and destroying your relationships and efforts at pursuing righteousness?  It is these things that we need to say “No” to so that we are able to say “Yes” to God, “Yes” to righteousness, and “Yes” to victory.  Without declining ungodliness and worldly passions, we are like a cup, being constantly filled with the world, with no space left to be filled with God.  Saying “No” empties us of the passions and pursuits that vie for our time, talent, and treasure in conflict with the known will of God through His word.

Get Godly

Live a life that is self-controlled, upright, and godly in this present age.  Each and every person alive on Earth, whether they choose to acknowledge it, is an image bearer of God.  Everyone, by their very existence, owe their very lives to God, for He has created us.  When we choose to live lives devoid of self-control, we deny what God has already declared is true – that we bear His image.

It is only by living upright, godly lives that we are able to properly bear the image of God.  We have been given the opportunity by God in a gracious act of love to be able to choose how we want to live our lives.  Plagued with a sin nature, and the constant goading and pressures of the world, the devil, and our own evil desires, we do not have the strength by ourselves to overcome this.  Always turn to God when you sin.  Allow His grace and mercy to overwhelm you, and take joy in Him who created You so that You will find the strength to continue when circumstances do their very best to destroy you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I find that living a godly life is a greater desire in my life than that of worldly pursuits?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You constantly pour out your grace and mercy upon me.  Help me in my weakness so that You will be my strength.  Help me to lean upon You for strength as my circumstances overwhelm me.  Give me a heart like David, that I might continually turn to You and desire Your holiness in my life, regardless of how bad I have messed up.  Help me to be humble before You, that You would lift my head up and restore me.  Grant me the desire and strength to live a holy life, far removed from the worldly passions and pursuits that bombard me with promises of fulfillment that only You can fulfill.  Shake me out of my complacency, and equip me to focus on the tasks at hand.  Remove the pull of desire that distracts me from You and fulfilling Your will in this life.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Unity with God – Ephesians 5:21

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ouch.  There’s that word – submission.  Yielding your preferences, desires, goals, way of doing things – to someone else.  Admit it – it’s HARD to submit.  We greatly desire to have our own way.  Very few things chafe us more than having to do something someone else’s way, especially if we are certain our way is better.

But we see something else at work in the Bible.  When Jesus put on flesh (became fully human and fully God), He submitted Himself to the Holy Spirit, became nothing, and took on the nature of a servant.  Jesus also said that in order to become the greatest among us, we should become a slave in serving others.  We are also to submit ourselves to the ruling authorities.

Mutual submission helps us to grow in character to become more like God.  There is a sense of submission to each other of each of the three persons in the Trinity.  Additionally, as we interact and submit, we are constantly being refined – “Iron sharpens iron.”  Mutual submission to one another in the body builds a unity within the body that cannot exist elsewhere, for it is not possible with us, but through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  As we submit to one another, we are becoming one in purpose.  People will know we are Christians when we love one another.  And love does not seek its own interests, but the interests of others first (the JOY principle – Jesus, Others, You, in that order…).  Since God IS love, do we not demonstrate this when we love one another?   Paul says that we should devote ourselves to one another.

Imagine how winsome the Church, the Body of Christ, would look if ALL Christians submitted ourselves to one another?  No more division would exist between us!  The world would see a unified front of love extended inward AND outward.  People might actually WANT to become a Christian by our example, rather than be turned off by division and rancor within our own ranks.  Families would grow in love and grace as they submit to one another in Christ as well!

So, let’s ask the question.  Are we submitting ourselves to one another?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown us in Your word that submission is a good thing, unlike what the world and culture make it out to be.  Submitting to one another In Christ draws us closer to You, and reveals Your nature to the world.  Help us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds through Your word.  Change us into what we should become, that glory would be brought to Your name.  Help us to shed those things that hinder us as we try to better reflect your glory and light in a dark and unbelieving world.  Grant us mercy and grace as we struggle with these things, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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