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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Effective, Fruitful Christian

In the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:5-8) Jesus tells us that the "good soil" "grew and yielded a hundredfold." (Luke 8:8) In John 15 Jesus spoke of being "the true vine" and told how the Father prunes the branches "that it may bear more fruit." (John 15:1-2) Clearly, "bearing fruit" is a necessary function of all true believers. With that concept in mind, then, it's interesting to read this from Peter.
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:8)
Now, if you are a Bible-believing, conscientious Christian, that ought to pique your interest. "Yes, I need to bear fruit and I want to bear fruit. What will keep me from being ineffective or unfruitful?" The answer, of course, comes from the preceding verses.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
Now that's quite a list. And there are some interesting features. For instance, Peter writes that we should "make every effort to supplement your faith". Now, wait a minute! I thought the Christian life was supposed to be "rest". What's with this "work" thing? And, as it turns out, the "rest" aspect is only part of the Christian life. As it turns out, work is essential (Phil 2:12-13).

The list itself is interesting. Good pieces, most of which we should already be aware. We ought to be virtuous. We ought to be godly. That "steadfastness" there refers to patience, of which James writes, "And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:4) Love, of course, is the pinnacle. The list is also interesting because it is given as a "supplement" to your faith. Faith is good, but it's a starting point, not an end point. Genuine faith is supposed to produce a genuine change in character.

And notice that Peter says that these qualities should be yours and increasing. So we don't ever arrive. It is a constant work ("every effort") to build more faith, more virtue, more knowledge, etc.

If you think about it, the task seems daunting. That's a lot of work. This is where the initial phrase comes in: "For this very reason ..." You have to ask yourself, "For what reason?" Back another sentence.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
What an astounding claim! It is not that He will provide what is needed for life and godliness. It says He "has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness." How? "Through the knowledge of Him who Called us." Knowing Christ. In this knowledge -- this genuine personal relationship with Christ -- we are provided with "His precious and very great promises." (Go ahead. Take a minute to list them ... all. Oh, not enough time? Right! Precious and very great promises.) It says in that text that He makes us "partakers of the divine nature", in the sense that we are escaping "from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire." That is, we don't become "little gods", but we do indeed take on the shape of Christ. We are adopted (John 1:12) and being "conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom 8:29). God is forming us into Christ's brothers. That form is the escape from the corruption caused by sinful desire.

So, His divine power has granted us all we need -- a done deal -- and our aim is to be like Christ. As such, we need to make every effort to add to faith in an ever increasing climb of godly character. In this work we avoid being ineffective and unfruitful.

There is, of course, an alternative.
For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:9)
Don't be that person.

It is God's call on every follower of Christ to become like Christ. Fortunately, while this occurs because we work at it, it occurs primarily because "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil 2:13) It occurs because His divine power has already supplied what we need. It occurs because knowing Christ gives us His "precious and very great promises". It is in this work -- this lifelong supplementing of our faith -- that we become effective and fruitful Christians -- by our character.

Does your character reflect a personal relationship with Christ? Note that if it does not, your knowledge of Christ is classified as ineffective and unfruitful.


Bob said...

I was thinking about, what does it mean to be transformed by the renewing of your mind?
for some reason i believed that it had to do with a self-help process. there are so many christian self-help books on the market that it boogles the mind. then it occurred to me that the transformation by renewing of the mind has nothing to do with the self in the classical sense. it is not so much about fixing what is broken. but rather filling a mind that is rejuvenated, with useful information. that translates to a working knowledge of who God is, and what pleases the Lord. with that renewed understanding, fruit of the Spirit will follow.

Stan said...

In Ephesians Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. In that, he says, Christ "might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word." (Eph 5:26) I see that as our primary transforming influence, the thing that sanctifies (sets us apart). It is the Word. In one sense there is some "self-help" here, but mostly it is just the willingness to "bathe" in the Word while the Spirit "washes" us.