We have visitors over as I prepare this post, so I hope you don't mind if I throw an older post I wrote back in...October, I believe. =) I wrote this after my family met for our home church gathering. We read 2 Peter 1 together as a family, and I created this post to summarize it and organize my thoughts...as a writer, it helps me think clearer. I hope you find it convicting in your own life. =)
A few months ago, we were having some guests over to our house. Mom had prepared a lovely meal, but there was still one item missing: bread. My 9-year-old sister began to gather the ingredients. After throwing them together, the dough was ready to bake. Later, as we took the bread out, we were astonished to see that the bread was flat. Something was most definitely missing. The bread was coarse and dense, unlike the normal fluffy goodness that we normally get to enjoy. It turned out that a little teaspoon of salt really did make a huge difference. Thankfully, our guests are more like family, and they didn't mind at all. =) However, it did teach us an important lesson; every ingredient is needed and necessary for a perfect recipe.
In 2 Peter 1:5-9, Peter lists the "ingredients" that are vital for living the Christian life. He writes,
"But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:5-9
So often it seems as if we are living the Christian life in our own strength. We fail, fall short, run out of breath, and overall feel discouraged. Perhaps those "dry" seasons come from a lack of an important ingredient in our life. If this is even a possibility, shouldn't we be diligent to examine our lives and seeking out any weak spots? Any possible vulnerabilities?
Let's jump into this list a bit more in depth.
Ingredient #1: FAITH
Faith is the most basic aspect of salvation. Without it, we wouldn't even think of calling ourselves a Christian. The Noah Webster 1828 dictionary (which I will reference to throughout this post) has several different explanations of what faith is. "The assent of the mind or understanding to the truth of what God has revealed...In other words, that firm belief of God's testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation."
Faith = belief. It is believing that God is Who He says He is. It is believing that He has total control over the world and your own life. This is step one towards having a fruitful life.
But as James says, "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble!" Faith is not the only aspect needed to live a God-honoring life.
Ingredient #2: VIRTUE
After someone has a simple belief in Christ, she needs to take the next step – to live their life based off that belief. Faith without actions is useless. The book of James gives an example of this...
"If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:15-17
Virtue is making the right choices. It is "the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice." Virtue is living the way we know we are supposed to live and following God's Word even when it's hard.
Ingredient #3: KNOWLEDGE
Knowledge and wisdom are two very separate terms, which made me curious to examine this word deeper. Wisdom basically means "the right use or exercise of knowledge." It is the ability to consider the circumstances and understand what the right thing to do is. On the other hand, knowledge is more like book learning. For instance, we take classes and read book to learn – knowledge. How does this relate to the Christian life?
When we have faith and virtue, we need to strengthen ourselves with knowledge from the Bible. In this verse, knowledge is referring to reading, memorizing, and learning what the Bible says. How can we have a fruitful life without knowing what the purpose of our life is? And how can we know what the purpose of our life is without reading the Book that we are basing out life off of?
Ingredient #4: SELF-CONTROL
When we got to this quality, the first suggestion of the meaning was obviously "controlling self." ;) But what does "controlling self" really mean?
While I don't have an exact definition, I think the basic meaning is to be disciplined. Like virtue, having self-control is the ability to keep yourself from doing wrong and doing what you know to be right. It is taking your convictions a step forward to act upon them. Remember, "faith without works is dead."
Ingredient #5: PERSEVERANCE
Perseverance is to "not to give over or abandon what is undertaken." If we were devoted believers but lacked perseverance, where would we be? Perhaps we would obey for a little while...but soon we would give up and turn back to our old ways.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus taught about different people and their reactions to the Gospel, comparing them to seeds thrown on the soil. One example tells how the seeds sprang up quickly but lacked a good foundation to keep themselves secure. Because of this they soon fell away, scorched in the sun.
Let us not be that person. We need to remain faithful and true. Perseverance is trusting God even when we don't see Him. It is running after Him in the dark, knowing that one day the light will come, and we will see Him clearly. It is being willing to die for our faith, looking forward to the day when we will live forever in harmony in our heavenly home.
Ingredient #6: GODLINESS
If we truly understand Who God is, then we should strive to live lives that reflect His glory. Godliness is living as God would want us to live. (we understand how He wants us to live by studying the Bible – knowledge) It is loving what God loves and hating what God hates. It is having a holy conduct. Godliness is a simple, yet profound concept. To explain it in a few words, godliness is "Christian obedience."
Ingredient #7: BROTHERLY KINDNESS
This term can be hard to relate to because the term "brothers" is not what it should be. When you speak of your siblings, it is most often done in contempt and disgust. This is so far away from what family relationships should be like. Family should be the closest, tightest, most loving form of relationship imaginable. This is what the Bible is referring to when it mentions brotherly kindness.
I have a friend who embodies this quality perfectly. She treats every single person she meets and corresponds with as a priceless, unique individual who deserves her time, love, and attention. If someone goes through a hard time, she feels it almost as painfully as the person who is going through the trial. She is overwhelmed with school and busyness, but she always has a spare minute to love on others.
Brotherly kindness is just that. It is loving others in a selfless way. It is treating them as a special person that God created in His image. It is showing hospitality, generosity, and compassion. We should be willing to give up everything for others – showing brotherly kindness like Christ did for us.
Ingredient #8: LOVE
Love. Most everyone knows what this term refers to. 1 Corinthians 13 explains the different aspects of love quite nicely, thus I'll not attempt to put this endless definition into words at the moment. =) But definitely do not leave out this ingredient; it is an essential aspect of the Christian life.
When you look at this ingredient list, what do you see? Do you see it as just that – a list? A "do this" and "don't do that" job that you must accomplish in order to live a fruitful life?
Perhaps you could see it as such, however I think it should be so much more. We should desire these qualities because we want to honor and please God. If you truly desire to live as a fruitful believer, you should have all these qualities.
But do you? Do I? Do we? Are these ingredients qualities that we exhibit in our everyday lives? Or are we lacking something essential?
As you and I go back over the list and prayerfully consider if we are living this out as Christ would have us do, let us pray and ask God to grant us what we are lacking. Let us come before Him and humbly ask that He would build us up in His image. But let us not stop there – we need to take action! If we find a weakness in our lives, we need to fortify ourselves – strengthen ourselves – so that we are ready to live in His power.
"His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness..." –2 Peter 1:3
He has equipped us with all things that pertain to life and godliness. Why wouldn't we claim that power and live as His children in every occasion?
How are you going to take steps to develop a fruitful life? Do any of these ingredients stand out to you specifically? Comment below!