Here’s a brief thought based on the first chapter of 2 Peter. In this chapter the apostle Peter expresses a desire for grace and peace to be abundant in the lives of the believers. After making reference to the tremendous promises God has given, us Peter tells us how we should respond to these things.
There is no doubt, we receive the promises by faith, not by good works. The list he gives us here is NOT a how-to-receive-the-promises checklist. Instead it’s a description of the way we should respond to the lavish gifts God has showered on us.
It’s very much like the beginning of Romans 12 in this regard.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
After an extended consideration of the mercy of God, we’re shown how we should respond. But the mercy isn’t received by our response. (That would be a catch-22. That’s like insisting someone send a ‘thank you for the invitation’ card before you’ll send the invitation.) No, first we receive by faith, out of the sheer generosity of God. Then as we stand awestruck by his mercy, the character of our lives begins to change.
This change is a natural response to God’s mercy, but it’s also a deliberate response. That is to say, we have to do it on purpose. It should be something that we deeply feel is the right thing to do in light of God’s grace and mercy, then we make up our minds to do it.
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.
2 Peter 1:5-8 (ESV)
So here’s a list from the apostle Peter of the qualities we should deliberately add to our faith:
- virtue (goodness or moral excellence)
- steadfastness (perseverance, sticking with it)
- brotherly affection
A Christian should be increasing in all these qualities. Do any stand out to you? We are to deliberately seek to grow in each of them. We should not say “I’m not that big on knowledge, that’s for someone else.” Neither should we say “I’m just not that affectionate by nature.” We should be growing, again deliberately growing in each one.
Now we come to the reason for this post. Having considered the list, the apostle makes a statement that gives us insight into the inner working of a believer’s heart.
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 (ESV)
Pursuing the qualities listed above is a such a natural, reasonable response that if we aren’t doing it we must have forgotten something. It’s compared to being blind or nearsighted. It’s not simple laziness, or selfishness. It isn’t just that I have other priorities now. I’ve actually forgotten that I was cleansed from sin. Ouch!
We want to be confident in the gift of righteousness that we have received. We want that reality, that we have been made righteous, to settle into our souls so that we are unashamed in the presence of God. But let’s remember the costliness of that gift, and how far we are from deserving it. What a shame it would be to let a familiarity with the gift of righteousness morph into conceit and self-righteousness! We are righteous, but we are not righteous in ourselves, we are righteous in Christ.
My humble suggestion, if you’d like one, for dealing with this phenomenon is to consider the wrath and judgment of God. More than utterly forgetting our sins or the blood of Christ, I think we tend allow the sinfulness of sin to become downplayed in our minds.
I think of the lyrics:
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
Oh, the mighty gulf… If we cease to feel the mightiness of that gulf, we can not be touched by the vastness of the grace that crossed it.
Even after years of ministry, the apostle Paul called himself the chief of sinners. He did this without bravado or false humility.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
1 Timothy 1:15
He was also able to call readily to mind the fierceness of the wrath of almighty God. He could describe the the righteousness of the destruction that God will pour out. He could identify it as justice, as righteous, as part of the holy character of God. He did all this in Romans 1:18-3:20 as he laid out the support for his premise that the just must live by faith. If we do not live by faith, we will perish in righteous judgment.
Do you know something? God is not going to feel bad when he condemns millions of souls to the lake of fire.
When Peter thought of the judgment of God he had this to say:
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
1 Peter 4:17-18
I shudder to think, and then I turn and worship God.