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 (NIV)
For years I’ve sought to understand why it is so difficult to an effective Christian. When we read the storied of the disciples and the thousands brought to Christ in one day, I wonder what we’ve lost in this day and age. What’s different now compared to then? Why is it so difficult to be effective in our own generation? To our own families and spouses?
I don’t have the answer to that, but the verses in 2 Peter struck a cord with me recently. I’d asked this question about our influence in the world today, and there, right in verse eight, it states clearly what we need to be effective.
“For if we possess these qualities…”
Goodness. Knowledge. Self-control. Perseverance. Godliness. Brotherly kindness. Love.
In the past I’d concentrated on one of these—the one I thought I needed the most. So often I’d prayed for self-control in direct relationship to a food addiction I’ve struggled with for years. But these verses showed me something I’d missed.
If you study the wording carefully, each on these attributes is built upon the other. And they all start with faith. Our first step is to believe. In John 6: 28-29 a crowd asks Jesus what they “must do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Our first and foremost “work” we are all called to is to believe in Jesus, God’s Son—sent for our salvation. Here begins our faith.
Next we are told to add to our faith seven attributes. (There’s that number seven again.) And the wording or intent goes further. We start in faith, then add goodness. Once we have goodness, we are to add knowledge. To knowledge, self-control. And so on.
Like the links in a chain, each is interdependent upon the others to be strong. If one link is weak, the chain is weak and breaks. And there we stand, the ineffective Christian.
We can’t do this on our own. It’s impossible for us to makes ourselves good or godly. But these are attributes we must clearly desire and seek from God in order to be effective Christians. We will find our goodness in the changing power of the Holy Spirit. Knowledge in the Word of God. Self-control and perseverance in our complete reliance on God and the confession we can do nothing without Him. Godliness in our willing hearts to allow Jesus to mold us into his image. Brotherly kindness in that same changed heart that realizes we are no better than anyone else. And finally love because we’ve given ourselves completely to Christ because He first loved us.
And this is brings us back to the beginning of our faith and our very first command.
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. — 2John 1:6
We are to walk in love—the seventh ingredient in this list of the effective Christian. And also the first.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16
Praying and believing,