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?

The Love of the Lord – Psalm 118:1-7

The Love Of God Is Forevermore

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

2 Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say:
“His love endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the Lord say:
“His love endures forever.”

5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
he brought me into a spacious place.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies.

God is Good

God is immutable – He cannot change.  His steadfast character is one of the many reasons that we can praise Him:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

God showers us with His goodness.  He does not withhold His goodness, but lovingly showers all of us with His mercy and grace:

44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

God is good because He can be nothing else.  Men look upon God with the imperfect lens of their experience, tainted by sin, with hearts hardened by trials, and question the goodness of God.  Yet God still is good, regardless of our circumstances.  If we look at God through the lens of pain and suffering, we are likely to see something that is not correct.  Pain blinds us to the true nature of God.  We must remember that God sees everything clearly and with the proper perspective, while we see through a glass darkly.

Love of the Lord

The author of this psalm tells us three times in row that God’s love endures forever.  We can be assured of that because God is good, God is love, God is eternal, and God never changes:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

God lavishes His love upon everyone on the earth.  He provides all of us with breath in our lungs.  He does not withhold the rain or the sun from us (although the clouds might seem to do that…).  God pours out from His very nature a level of love, provision, and care that none of us would ever be able to do in His place.  God is so other-focused, that it would be impossible for Him to do otherwise.  God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to be a sacrifice for us.  Dying for someone is the ultimate expression of love.  And God so loved us, that He died for us while we were still sinners, in full rebellion against Him.  God’s love, if we can truly see even a fraction of it, is beautiful beyond description.

Royal Refuge

God hears our cries for hope.  All who trust in Him will find refuge under His mighty arms and in His character.  God is our shield:

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

God is our refuge and our strength.  He knows our difficulties, and invites us to come in to Him and allow Him to be our protector and shield.  He is able to shelter us through our storm.  He does not always make the storm cease, but rather is with us, protecting us, as the storm batters us and tears at us, trying to cause us to lose hope.  But God is able to calm the storm, and see us through any difficulty.  Even when God is disciplining us severely, He will provide a way to shelter us:

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

God’s refuge may seem odd, and may even cause us some distress, but God protects us in a fashion that brings the maximum glory to His name.  He will use everything that He does to bring glory and honor to Himself, which He rightly deserves.

Powerful Protection

God is sovereign over all.  No one and nothing can happen to us that He does not have the final authority to approve or veto.  We can see this throughout His holy word.  One of the best illustrations of this can be seen in the life of Job.  Satan, who was required to give an accounting of himself before Almighty God, had to request the permission before he could ever touch Job, his family, or the possessions provided to him by God.  There is nothing that happens to us that God has not sovereignly pre-approved.  God provides protection from men, from nature, and from demonic forces as He sees fit.  Anything that happens to us has been sovereignly approved, and God will protect us through it.

Total Triumph

In all of our trials, God is the one who makes us victorious.  God is our helper and our friend.  He will cause our righteousness to shine forth like the sun.  God will give us victory over our enemies, and exalt Himself through us while He brings shame upon those who would oppose Him, His plans, and His people.  God will give us victory, for we have victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  No weapon formed against us shall prosper.  God will provide for our every need.  And even if we are to be martyrs – witnesses unto death – God provides for us in that in Him, when we are absent from the body, we are present from the Lord.  And once all is completed, we will live triumphantly in joy, with no more pain or tears, to always be in the presence of Almighty God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I remember the steadfast love of Lord when I am in the midst of my trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You lavish Your love upon me every second of every day.  Help me to find strength in my joy in You.  Every morning Your mercies renew, and they humble me before You.  Grant me Your protection through my trials.  Provide for me as many years of gladness as You have given me in sorrow.  Help me to humble myself before You, and I pray that You would lift my head up.  You have already given me victory over the strongest enemy of my soul – the drowning chains of sin.  Father, help me to always praise You, for Your character is steady and displays Your love constantly and consistently.  Help me to turn my eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face.  Lift my soul out of sorrow, and grant me eyes to see the wonders that You are doing even now, preparing for a day of miracles that surround me each and every moment.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Promise of God – Psalm 100

God’s Love Endures Forever

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Wonderful Worship

One of the best opportunities that God has given us is to worship Him.  Human beings were made to worship.  We will always worship something or someone, whether it is God, ourselves, someone else, or something else.  There is a deep cry within the human heart to worship, and we will worship whether we realize it or not.

God has made us, and we can worship Him in song and praise.  It is only natural that we seek to give Him praise since He is the author of all good things.  Before Adam sinned, God declared that all He had made was good.  We should be grateful for that in song and praise.

Additionally, since God has redeemed us as His people, we can rejoice that we have fellowship with the one who created us.  Jesus has won back what Adam has lost, and in that, we can as children go before His throne with our petitions and praise.  It is a wonderful thing to be able to praise the One who has released us from prison and will gather us home with Him.  We can even reach out to God as Paul and Silas did after being stripped of their clothing and being severely beaten with rods and flogged.  Let nothing interfere with your praise of Almighty God.

God is Good

Regardless of the circumstances going on in the world, God is good.  Many times we question that when terrible circumstances such as loss, injustice, pain, and suffering occur.  However painful these are, they are merely the cost and effects of sin.  Yet still, God is good.  He is unable to be anything else but good.  His character endures forever, for God does not change like we do.  And when devastating circumstances appear in our lives, we can be assured that God has not changed, but merely is allowing us to develop perseverance.  And may it have its effect, that we would be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Lasting Love

God’s love never fails, for God is love.  When we feel abandoned or afraid, we can remember that God is love.  When great and wonderful things are happening in our lives, let us remember that God is love.  For this is immutable – God loved so much He gave his only Son, and that since we have believed upon Him, we have eternal life.  We have been given this promise, and can rejoice in the one who made it for He is faithful.

Forever Faithful

In a world that is giving itself over to moral relativism and secular humanism, we can rejoice that God is faithful.  Every promise He has ever made God will fulfill.  We live such short lives that many times we don’t see the fruit of the promises that God has made.  But even in that, we can look back and see that God is faithfully keeping His promises, just as He promised, at the appointed time that He promised (when provided).  His faithfulness should bolster our faith in Him and give us reason to trust Him through all of the difficulties in life.  Let us remember God’s faithfulness as we go out into the world today and see so many people show their faithlessness in broken promises and outright evil.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Is my heart full of praise and worship for God when I am enduring crushing trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I praise and worship You for You are worthy of it and so much more.  May my heart cry out to You for You are good regardless of my circumstances.  In all things, may You be glorified and Your holy name praised.  Help me to praise You when I am downtrodden and it feels like You have forsaken me, for You have promised to never do that.  Help me to patiently wait for You and Your deliverance from my circumstances, for You are always faithful.  Strengthen me in my weakness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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