Sunday, December 4, 2011

II Peter 1: making every effort to add

Many years have passed since Peter wrote his first letter. He is probably old, as evidenced by his belief he will die soon and his insistence to a skeptical audience that with his own two eyes he saw Jesus transfigured. I can hear a creaky voice ringing with conviction: “you young people, you weren’t there but I TELL you I SAW him – I saw Jesus, shining like the sun, standing next to Moses and Elijah! I heard the voice of God say ‘this is my Son, pay attention to him’!

Peter knows the journey starts with belief in the life, death and resurrection of his beloved Master. But the proud, swaggering fisherman turned humble Fisher of Men also knows the real Kingdom harvest lies waiting in the deep, hidden waters of relationship with God.  He tells me to move out from the shallows of mere belief into the deep waters of precious faith (1), grace and peace (2), divine power that has given us everything we need for life (3), his very great and precious promises through which we participate in the divine nature (1:4). And like any good teacher he doesn’t just leave me hanging with lofty abstracts (I really hate when that happens!), but tells me in seven steps how to participate in the divine nature by making every effort to add to my faith:

1.       “Goodness. I must seek daily life opportunities to be both useful – a good tool in the Carpenter’s toolbox – and morally upright. As my newly-minted Eagle Scout nephew Matias Page would say, “Be Prepared” to “Do A Good Turn Daily.” This will become easier as I acquire –

2.       Knowledge. If I listen to the Spirit, learn humbly from others, and above all inhale God’s Word, priceless wisdom will be mine. The more I see, the less I stumble, the less I am prey for that roaring lion, who really hates it when I use biblical knowledge about my identity in Christ and spiritual warfare to practice spirit-led….

3.       Self-control. As the Word cuts deep and exposes spiritual infection, I identify and repent of my ungodly appetites for (among other things) food, sex, prosperity, harmful speech and man’s acclaim. God has provided so many complementary, effective tools – my conscience, the indwelling divine nature, the overcoming word of my testimony, iron-sharpening accountability to brothers (and sisters), the written precious promises – that if progress is too slow I can only conclude that the workman (me) is not “making every effort” to use them. But I recognize it is a lifelong task, so I will need…..

4.        Perseverance. If, as our SEAL-trained friend and brother Larry Staab says, “pain is weakness leaving the body,” then perhaps the real-time discomfort of saying no to temptation and participating in the divine nature is the power of sin leaving the spirit. But beware because any success will make me want to take religious victory laps, and that’s when I REALLY need to cling like a shipwrecked swabbie to the life ring of truth that “from him and through him and to him are all things” – which is an expression of……

5.       Godliness. Peter at the Last Supper, boasting he would never abandon Jesus? Religious victory lap. Jesus, abandoned in the Garden, submitting to God’s painful will? Godliness. All of the above elements of Christian growth thrive best in the soil of ......

6.       Brotherly kindness. Religious superstars don’t want to share the spotlight, but the kind brother and sister – and I have known so many – come along side me in my weakness and sadness and loneliness and do a pretty fair imitation of the High Priest who understands and sorrows with us all. Some of them read this blog – bless you all for bathing me in…..

7.       Love. It is the compass that always points me back to the cross.

Sometimes this growth process is corporate. For example, this morning at JCC, we affirmed historic faith by saying the Apostle’s Creed and receiving the Lord’s Supper. We made every effort to add to our faith through repentance, worship, and hearing and applying God’s Word. We practiced goodness and brotherly kindness by giving financial and musical gifts (Chuck Griffin and his dulcimer!), and giving  attention to people who were needy in that way.

For me this past year, and for all saints for all time, Peter says of the teachings of God: “you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

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