Despite much of the media’s focus, there are many good people in the world. Our current culture has a strong humanistic viewpoint, with many people claiming to be “spiritual”, but not Christian. Many spiritual people have strong moral values often aligning with Christian perspectives; they are kindhearted and they do good works. These people (typically) believe in a “higher power” but not necessarily God, and they may feel like Jesus was a good man but don’t acknowledge the power he held or the magnitude of his sacrifice for everyone. People with this perspective live what I would call a good life, and yet they are missing something so critical.
Paul writes in Galatians 3:5, “…Does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.” (NLT). The Message translation writes that God lavishly provides his Holy Spirit to his people, not because of their “strenuous moral striving”, but because of their trust in Him. We, as Christians baptized in the faith, have access to the power of God, His Holy Spirit. THAT IS A BIG DEAL. That is something that no other religion or humanistic worldview has. Christians are unique in this way, and yet just like the Galatians, we all too often get caught up in following the law, or looking good to others, to remember we have access to this incredible power simply by believing in the message of Christ. Just by recognizing that the man Christ Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was raised again for our salvation is enough for us to invite the Holy Spirit into our daily lives.
There are good people in this world, but Christians should be standing out against the crowd of “good” by being AMAZING because of what we have access to! This makes it all the more important for Christians to maintain their moral good; while we know keeping the law does not make us right with God (v. 11), breaking the law is not a reflection of receiving the Holy Spirit and does not show the world why they should believe the message of Christ. If a “spiritual” person treats the widows and orphans with more kindness and love than someone who has the Holy Spirit, we have failed. In the same way, if we think our kindness and love will sustain and save, we are just as foolish as the Galatians were!
We are no longer confined or imprisoned under the law, but we are justified through our faith in Christ (v.23-24 HCSB). In our justification, we have been given the Holy Spirit… does your life reflect that amazing power?
-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson
There are some great verses in Galatians 3 that dig even deeper into the law, who we are in Christ, and overall Abrahamic faith. What stood out to me may be different than what stood out to you! What did God put on your heart while reading this Scripture?
What characteristics of God did you find from our passage today? And what can you discover about His son Jesus from your reading?
God, thank you for sharing your son with us so that we may have access to your Holy Spirit, and ultimately, eternal life. Lord I pray that our works bring you honor and glory, that we boldly call on your Spirit each day as a way to show the people in our life just how amazing you are. God, you are a good God; gracious, loving, powerful, and kind. We praise you and thank you. In your son’s name, Amen.
(Our SeekGrowLove 2023 Bible reading plan includes 7 theme weeks spread throughout the year. This week is the first and will focus on 1 God, 1 Messiah. The OT and Psalms readings will continue and the third reading will be a chapter that lends itself to the theme. At the bottom of each devotion is a link to the yearly schedule you may download and print if you would like to keep track of where we are going next. Thanks for reading along! Let’s keep Seeking God in His Word, Growing our Faith and Loving Him More and More!)
Deuteronomy 6 is seen as a foundational chapter for discussing the “oneness” of God. People sometimes divide the teachings of Christianity into orthodoxy (right teaching) and orthopraxy (right action). On that basis the idea of there being only one God generally gets put under the heading of a teaching. But I think God may see our faith as a more active part of our lives than that description brings to mind.
When Moses says, at the start of Deuteronomy 6, that he is relaying “the commandments, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you” (NASB) he is continuing a thought from Deuteronomy 5 (see v. 31). Moses had described how it made the Hebrews afraid when they heard God’s voice at Horeb (Sinai) almost 40 years earlier. They had asked God not to speak aloud to them anymore, but to speak to them through Moses. The people gathered at that mountain knew that God was their God. God had already proven His faithfulness (He brought them safely from Egypt, after all), but God had also shown His judgment. They believed that to keep hearing that voice would mean their deaths. And God didn’t object to what they said. Maybe God even agreed that they risked death from being exposed so closely to God’s holiness, if only because they wouldn’t always respond to it properly. “Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all my commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” (5:29).
Moses says he is going to tell us “the commandments, the statutes and the judgments,” and what he starts with is that the Lord is God and is singular, which feels close to the core of the matter. This chapter opposed the nations in the land the Hebrews were about to enter. But the message is deeper than a warning against the idols that would all too often distract coming generations of Hebrews. This is about commitment and devotion in living for God. To love with your whole heart, your whole soul/life, and all your might – that is not something you can just fall into, it is something you choose, and which you need to keep on choosing.
Moses was about to die, this speech was his farewell address, and he offered a plan that could steer the course of the history ahead of him. The generation that was being told these things was able to remember the miracles of the desert; many of them still could recall the Exodus and crossing the Red Sea. The idea was for that knowledge, that certainty about God, to be presented to each generation so it could take hold of faith for itself. But things did not go that way.
Lord, please allow me to love you with my whole heart, soul and might. I know this is not the first time I have pledged this, and that I have not maintained that focus. But you, Lord, are a great God. You are worth turning back to, I will not give up on you because I am imperfect. And you are a merciful Lord who is willing to receive those who turn back. You will not give up on me because I am imperfect. Please help me to be renewed in what is appropriate for your glory, and to do service for your name and the name of your son, Jesus. Thank you, Lord. Amen
Daniel Smead is a father of two, former pastor of the Eden Valley Church of God, former editor of the Church of God Adult Quarterly and sometime teacher at Atlanta Bible College. He lives in Minnesota with his family and attends the Pine Grove Bible Church. In his free time he is working on creating a board game centered around early Christian heresies.
The text says to bind these words on your hands and your foreheads. Some see this as a metaphor, saying to let the scripture affect what you do with your hands, and how you think. What are some ways you could do that?
Verse 24 says that we are to “fear the Lord our God for our good always”. Is it difficult to remember that God does not want anything for us that is bad for us? How do you remind yourself of that?
It sometimes seems impossible that the Hebrews were denying God’s existence, rather they failed to worship their God by choosing to describe God to themselves as something other than what God is. At Sinai they pictured God as a golden calf, wanting to see the unseeable God, making God more understandable for themselves. Perhaps at Jericho Achan – who had been present for Moses’ speech – managed to mistake God for someone who cared about human wealth and advancement more than purity. Perhaps you can think of some other applications of this principle. How clearly do you think you understand what God is like? How does that understanding help you?
Today we have three readings before us that seem very different from one another. They are different in many ways; approach, style, etc. but contain a similar message throughout.
The book of Deuteronomy details many hardships and troubles that God’s people faced. It also contains promises and hope. It reminds us that we have an active role in our faith. Our Heavenly Father did not create us with a certainty that we would listen and obey, that we would automatically choose Him. He created us with free will and allows us, each and every one of us, to make these life and death decisions on our own. He gives us all of the information we need and places the choice in our hands. To have life is to be with God. This book is about having an ongoing relationship with our loving God.
Psalm 76 is a song of victory of Israel over the enemies of God. Often times we see the rejoicing of the people and focus only upon the battle God won that led them to this point. He had delivered victory – that is evident to Israelite and Gentile both. There is more to it though, more here than a casual glance will reveal. The psalmist sings of weapons of war at rest. The Lexham English Bible says, the stouthearted sleep, both rider and horse slumber. Death is implied here but, in that death, God has brought peace. The slain, the peace of death, and for those who yet live peace through knowing Him, revering Him, “From heaven you pronounced judgement, and the land feared and was quiet.” Like with our overview of Deuteronomy, we see our need for a relationship with God, that life comes from Him.
And then we get to our final section of reading for today, as we finish 2 Corinthians with chapter 13 – which brings to mind 1 Corinthians 13 – the chapter all about love. From verse four through the beginning of verse eight, it details what real love is and what it is not. The first three verses are quite plain to say that what we do or say in this life matters little if it does not come from the type of love that God, and Jesus displayed for us.
We are merely messengers of the Gospel, the Good News. We are to ensure that others know of salvation through Jesus by our words and actions. It is not for us to judge one another or force a change. We are to faithfully bring the truth of God’s word to our family, friends, and acquaintances. It is that truth that will reveal both sin and the need for salvation, but it is still up to the individual to make that choice. If that choice is not to come to God through Jesus, then we are to still love them. We are limited to our knowledge of now, this moment, and even that is severely lacking. We do not know their future choices, so we love them. They are created in God’s image, so we love them.
Each of these sections of Scripture present the hardships that come with the choice we each face, to know and love God or deny Him. It is not just our choices though, but also those of everyone around us. We have this amazing knowledge of God, Jesus, and salvation. We, who have a relationship with Him through Jesus, have a hope beyond the troubles of this life. Loving God, and knowing His love, can comfort us in our most desperate moments.
We want that for others and sometimes get frustrated, angry, or hurt that they refuse to open themselves to this relationship. That is probably similar to how God felt about you and I before we made that choice. I believe that a huge part of our commission to go into the world to spread the Gospel is to love the sinner as God loves us who still sin. Be patient. Speak and live God’s word. That is what love is!
I love the book of Deuteronomy. Even though it retells many of the highlights of Exodus through Numbers, the tone of Deuteronomy is much different. Instead of just laying out the law as God had given it, and instead of just relaying historical facts, Moses was now encouraging the people to love and follow God- for their own good.
Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy just before his death. This was his last opportunity to encourage the Israelites to obey God wholeheartedly. When he wrote it, almost everyone was dead who had been an adult when the Israelites had left Egypt. As a result, Moses was trying to remind the new generation of all that God had done for them (and their parents), and was trying to encourage them to follow God – and not just obey Him, but to love Him.
Deuteronomy 10: 12-13 is an example of this, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”
The book of Deuteronomy ends with Moses climbing a mountain, and looking out over the Promised Land – which he wasn’t allowed to enter because of one act of disobedience against God. And then Moses died. Can you imagine how disappointed Moses must have been, seeing the promised land, but not being able to enter? He had longed for this his whole life, and was finally denied entry.
This should be a warning to us. It reminds me of Luke 13:28, which says, “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”
I’ll close with Deuteronomy 30: 15-20, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
What do we learn from Moses and Paul about how to speak and live God’s word? How can you speak and live God’s word better than you have previously?
We all have choices to make. What choices have you made that have brought you closer to a relationship with God and the salvation he extends through His son? What choices have you made that have taken you further from God? What will you choose today?
What do you learn about God and His character in today’s Bible reading? Who needs to hear that and how will you share?
Yesterday we mentioned that there were people that flustered Jesus. In Luke chapter 20, we get a big dose of people hating on Jesus. How bad was it? How did he handle it?
Don’t you find it strange that a man who never sinned against anyone ticked so many people off? He never did anything wrong to anybody, but so many people disliked him, especially religious people who believed in the same God we worship today. Moreover, they didn’t just ignore him; rather, they spent a lot of energy trying to take him down. In Luke 20 alone, the religious folks confronted Jesus about his authority, tried to lay hands on him (and that wasn’t to pray over him), and sent spies who pretended to be righteous in order to catch him in a statement so they could hand him over to the authority of the governor. They really didn’t like Jesus at all and wanted him silenced.
Put yourself in Jesus’ sandals for a moment. How would you feel if people were constantly attacking you even though you had never done anything bad to them? I’m a fairly patient person, but I think at some point if someone continually attacked me when I had done them no wrong, I would lose my cool and flip out at them. If someone continually tried to turn others against me, tried to physically harm me, and tried to get me arrested, my anger would most likely boil over eventually.
How did Jesus react? He used the “3 C” approach – Calm, Cool, and Collected. He didn’t raise his voice. He didn’t call them names (like the Pharifesces). He didn’t ignore them or run the other direction. He didn’t get physical with them. On the other hand, he did treat them with respect. He did take the time to speak with them. He was completely civil with them, but he also didn’t hold back the truth. He explained to them that what they were doing was wrong and that they would pay for it.
I must admit that it is entertaining to me to see how Jesus masterfully with his words put them in their place time and time again. They knew he had gotten the best of them, and they backed off so they could regroup and try again. I’m sure many of the scribes and priests became even angrier in defeat, but we do get a small glimpse of Jesus’ approach changing some minds about him. Luke 20:39-40 says, “Some of the scribes answered and said, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ For they did not have courage to question him any longer about anything.”
Today, anger rules the day. When people don’t agree, they tend to blow up at each other, call each other names, ignore each other, and just really dislike each other. They want so bad to change the minds of the people on the other side of the issue, but their strong words and actions actually entrench the other side further into their beliefs. If you want to have any chance at persuading someone, don’t attack them; try to stay calm, cool, and collected the same way Jesus dealt with his adversaries. You don’t need to like the things they say and do, but you do need to love them as your neighbor.
Time to ponder:
Is there a person or group of people that you don’t like because of the viewpoints they hold? If so, their viewpoints may be completely wrong or even evil, but it is time to forgive them and not hold those wrong beliefs against them personally. You may also need to apologize to them for your words or actions.
There is a time to be angry at people. The Bible even records Jesus getting very angry and acting out…once. He took a whip into the temple and flipped over tables…once. People constantly persecuted him, and he got angry…once. Anger is not the best way to act…except maybe once. How quickly do you get angry with others? Try to separate the issue from the person. You don’t have to agree with them, but you do need to control your temper and love them. Is there anyone you need to apologize to that has been on the wrong side of your wrath?
You may have noticed there is a huge culture war going on within our country. There is no shortage of issues that are dividing people such as politics, abortion, LGBTQ issues, gun control, removing names from buildings, taking down statues, and climate change to name a few. It is very easy to demonize the “other side”, and both sides do it to each other every day. However, as Christians, we shouldn’t be demonizing anyone. God created all the people on both sides of the issues, and we are told to love everyone.
I have some pretty strong opinions about many issues. I strongly believe that your mother should not have had the right to end your life, and I believe you became you at conception. I will go to my grave standing up for unborn babies that deserve a chance to live because they are alive. However, I will still love those that disagree with me. I will actually like them, want to hang out with them, and would even call them a friend as well.
Some of you may think I shouldn’t be chummy with the other side, especially if it is an issue of Christians versus non-Christians. I can understand why you would feel that way, but it wouldn’t stop me. It also didn’t stop Jesus from going to Zacchaeus’ house. The people grumbled that Jesus had gone to be the guest of a sinner. How dare he get chummy with the other side. Was he not concerned about his reputation? Did he not understand how bad a person Zacchaeus was? He knew exactly what he was doing and stated it in Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” And it worked; Zacchaeus was saved during that visit.
Jesus knew there were people that lived immoral lives and didn’t agree with him about much of anything. They were lost. He didn’t ignore them or dislike them because of their disagreements; he made a point of getting to know them, showed sincere concern for them, and eventually died for them if they would accept him. He wanted to make a difference in their lives, and it is nearly impossible to do that if you take a side against them and demonize them. He took sides against issues, but he did not take sides against the individuals on the other side of those issues. He wanted everyone to be saved. Did some people fluster him at times? For sure, but he never stopped loving them.
Time to ponder:
Are there any individuals or groups of people on “the other side of an issue” that you look down on because of their beliefs or actions? If so, you should forgive them for whatever wrong they have done.
Is it possible to strongly disagree with someone’s beliefs, but still love them as your neighbor?
Is it ok to still support a business that has publicly fought for an issue that you vehemently oppose?
Luke 6 is an instruction manual for Christ-followers; if you desire to live for him, these scriptures lay out how to do it. However, a lot of his words of guidance completely contradict what our instincts tell us, and what the world around us accepts as the norm.
We’ve all heard it many times before: love your enemies. Three words so commonly spoken within the church, but rarely fully absorbed. By habit, we show abounding love and affection towards the people in our lives who are close, and easy to love; to our family, our friends, the people we “click” with. But when it comes to the people we face who are difficult to even be around, how do you know how to begin showing them love in the same way we show love to those with whom it comes naturally? It often goes against every fiber of our being. But that’s the world in us, not God.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
As children of God, we live in this world, but we are not of it. To step out of the patterns of the world and into the lifestyle described in the Bible is to free yourself from the enslavement of sin. Because we are in such close proximity to ideas and actions that contradict God’s will for us, it’s so easy to fall into the trap that pulls us farther away from God. But we are not of the world, we are of God, and our God is a God of love; He is the very definition of Love. To embody true, pure, godly love is to love all people, and to show it in your actions, in how you speak, and in everything you do. God’s love knows no bounds, it is limitless. It seeps into every space that allows room for it, and fights to get into every space that is full, flowing endlessly in every direction. It’s a love that isn’t “fair,” it isn’t earned. It isn’t exclusive, and it never runs out.
This is the love that we are to allow into our lives, the deepest form of love that cannot be found anywhere outside of God. And when we have that love in our lives, we are to show it to everyone around us, no matter who they are, whether friend or foe. It’s a light that doesn’t go out and never stops shining. By this love, Christ lives in us.
What does Luke 6:35 mean to you? Does it fill you with hope and enthusiasm?
How can you show God’s love to those you don’t normally feel obligated to show love to?
What are some differences in how “even sinners” love (Luke 32-34), versus how we (as sinners, but also followers of Christ), are to love?
One more song this week – 1 John 5:4-5 “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Those two verses are the song, but verse 4 picks up in the middle of a sentence & thought, so backing up a couple verses:
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
When we have faith, we can overcome this world. Our faith that Jesus is the son of God gives us victory and makes God’s commands not burdensome thereby helping us to keep His commands. And by keeping His commands, we can love one another – the children of God.
Verse five is also a reminder that the victory is exclusionary. Who overcomes the world? Only those that believe that Jesus is the Son of God. We have to strike a balance in our love for others. Because if we love based on the world’s terms, we accept anything. But to do that would not be love. Because onlythose who believe that Jesus is God’s son overcome this world. So if we in our “love” just leave our friends alone because we don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable, or we don’t want to feel uncomfortable, we put them in a position of not having that victory. That isn’t real love.
We give a lot of reasons not to share the love of God with other people and I think fear forms the basis of a lot of it – fear of rejection, fear of being ostracized, fear of losing money/power, etc…
But when we read verses like this, we should be reminded that we have to push through that fear. To show our love in actions (chapter 3), we need to share with others that while we have been separated from God, God provided an atoning sacrifice for our sins (chapter 4), and with this sacrifice, if we believe, we can overcome and have the victory (chapter 5).
And what is that victory? As he wraps up his letter, John tells his audience – 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
We need to believe in Jesus as the Son of God to be a part of that eternal life, and if we are loving others, we should be telling them so they can have that victory too.
1.”Who is it that overcomes the world?” (1 John 5:5a – see 5b for the correct answer). Who thinks they are overcoming the world? What are they missing? Do you fall into the overcoming category?
2. Who do you know who does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God? How can you truly love them?
3. What is the victory that you have to share? How would you explain it? How will you share it?
Kid play songs of the day are from 1 John 4: 9 & 10 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin.” (Aaron Winner has a great song with these verses too).
Having grown up in the Christian church, I think this wonderful news is something that I can often gloss over. God loved us, so he sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins that we might be saved. Yeah, I know.
But when you stop and read it, it is really amazing, especially from our human perspective. It is pretty easy to do something nice for other people when they love you, when they are nice to you. But God did this for a people who had turned away from Him, and for future people that would continue to turn from Him.
Thankfully, God’s love does not have a prerequisite. Based on literally nothing we or anyone else has done, He loves us. And loved us enough to put His son through excruciating pain to the point of death so that we might be reconciled to him.
How do we show our love? Do we have requirements for who we show our love to?
The concept of loving someone no matter what they have or have not done goes against our human nature. It is something we probably need to ask for God’s help for. It’s ok if we can’t do it on our own. Because of God’s great love for us, we can be reconciled to Him, and we can ask Him for help in loving others.
I don’t know about you, but I forget to ask for help sometimes. It is not even always conscious, but my pride gets in the way. I think I should be able to do what I’m supposed to do on my own. But as humans, we are flawed. And I do believe that it is ok to ask God for help in loving people the way we are supposed to.
Take time to consider Stephanie’s questions: “How do we show our love? Do we have requirements for who we show our love to?”
If you have never heard of G.T. and the Halo Express, 1) you are missing out on quality kids music/plays and 2) sorry, you won’t be able to sing along with my devotions for the next few days.
I encourage you to read the whole chapter of 1 John 3, but I am just going to focus on one verse, my favorite – 18, (thanks to memorizing it in this kids play growing up). The translation I learned was “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
I have been listening to this one with my daughter, and it has sparked some discussion. The song breaks it up a little bit, and the line that is sung together is “let us not love with words or tongue.” When we look at the whole verse, it is easy to know that we shouldn’t stop there. But for a 4 year old who doesn’t quite understand all the subtleties of language yet, that was confusing. Why should we not love with words?
This isn’t saying we shouldn’t use our words to be loving, but rather that it shouldn’t stop at that. If all we do is say that we love someone, it really means nothing. We need to show people that we love them in how we act, and by being truthful.
It reminds me of James 2:17“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
My dad taught a memorable object lesson to our class when I was growing up. He took us for a car ride in one of the many winter months (it’s Minnesota – they all blend together) with the windows rolled down. As he drove, he asked us, “Are you cold?” When we of course said yes, his response was, “I’m really sorry you’re cold! I wish you were warm.” And he kept on driving. His point was that even if you say the right things, when you can make a difference in the situation (such as putting the windows up) but do nothing, what you say doesn’t matter.
Jesus truly showed his love in action by his sacrifice for us. We ought to show others that we love them, not just tell them.
It is a good reminder for a 4-year-old to be loving in her actions toward her little brother and a good reminder for everyone to be loving in their actions towards anyone they interact with.
When have you found yourself saying the loving thing – but not showing love with your actions? What problem is created here? How can you fix this?
According to the rest of the chapter what else do our actions show?
“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. 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. 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. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities, you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:3–11 ESV)
We have great and precious promises that have been made that will enable us to become partakers of the divine nature! As Jesus put on a new nature in his resurrection from the dead, so shall we when through faith, we endure through life’s many challenges and inherit the promise of the coming Kingdom of God.
Hebrews 11:1 says that “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” As we have faith that God will restore all things (Acts 3:21), upon our faith we must add virtue: meaning good quality of life or uprightness – not simply believing but living out our lives as something that reflects the nature of God’s goodness, justness, and righteousness. After believing and living a changed life, we are to add knowledge to that; we should always be striving to learn from God’s inspired word and learn from his spirit as it is active in us… And more than that, seek after his spirit that we might become more in line with his will and come to a greater understanding of its importance and how beneficial it is to us to walk in his ways.
Following the call to add knowledge, we encounter again the call to be self-controlled! It really does seem that much of what we read in scripture hinges on self-control and that circles back to our need to not stifle the spirit in our lives. If one of the elements that the fruit of the spirit brings forth in our lives is self-control, then we ought to do whatever it takes to drive away any behaviors that might cause God’s spirit to depart from us (Judges 16, 1 Samuel 16). Self-control allows us to endure – to stay on the course – as Paul might say, “to run the race”. We have to endure through all of the challenges and temptations that life throws at us, and we must allow the motivation of our hope, our uprightness, and the self-control that we are enabled to have through God’s spirit carry us through.
As we endure, we ought to have a reverential feeling or devotion to God, that’s what the Greek work translated godliness indicates. As we experience God’s goodness and see how His spirit works in us, we should feel more and more awe and reverence to our creator… After all, He put the plan into place that leads us into a life that transcends the brokenness that sin imparts on our lives – even though we sin and are affected by sin, God’s directives lead us onto a path that (through Jesus) casts that sin aside and draws us into community with him.
And as all these things are ingrained into our life, the part that affects others the most is the cherry on top… We are to have brotherly affection (love) as a defining characteristic in our lives! Love and care for one another as believers will lead us to speak into one another’s lives and help us when we hit rough patches. Even the most spiritually minded people hit dark periods in their lives (google the dark night of the soul). If we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we will take the time to come alongside them, to care for them, to call them out, to admonish and encourage – brotherly affection means being intimately involved in the lives of our faith family – not being apathetic or half-hearted. We need to invest in each other as Christ has invested in us through his sacrifice (sometimes we must be self-sacrificial).
These qualities keep us from being ineffective witnesses and fruitless workers. We must be bearing the fruit of the word implanted in us (James 1) and strive to be effective ministers to the lives of those who are hurting and struggling. Peter says that whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind! Yikes… lacking these qualities as I read this means that we cannot see beyond ourselves, and that it a tremendous problem when one of our chief goals is to preach the gospel to all creation.
If we take these qualities to head and practice them diligently it says we confirm our election (or being chosen out) into beneficiaries of the grace of God. Also, it says if we practice these things we will never fall. So, practice these things so that you may have entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (v11).
1. Think about how Jesus exemplified all these characteristics listed in verses 5-7. If he had not exemplified all these things, would he have had the wherewithal to endure through his father’s plan of salvation through him? How can we expect to live exemplary lives if we do not take these characteristics to heart.
2. Think about the first 6 items listed (faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, and godliness) and the final one: brotherly affection/love. What do the first 6 produce without the 7th? We’re designed (as individuals and as a church body) to be in community, how might we be rendered fruitless and ineffective if we excel at the 6, but lack the 7th?