Contributed by Ajai Prakash on May 3, 2012 (message contributor)
Summary: To keep investing in character by climbing up the ladder of virtues is to come ever nearer and nearer to knowing Jesus Christ; and the further we climb, the further yet we are able to climb.
Opening illustration: “I want to help you invest wisely in your future.” That’s what the financial advisor said as he began his talk about investing in 401(k)s and retirement funds. He wanted his listeners to continue putting money in the stock market during all the ups and downs of the economy because historically a good return will eventually occur.
God wants us to invest wisely in our spiritual future as well. Through the ups and downs of life’s circumstances we should continually invest in a “spiritual account”: our character. The apostle Peter tells us to be diligent about character development (2 Peter 1: 5-11). After we trust in Christ for salvation, we are to invest these qualities into our character: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.
The future returns on our investment in character will be godliness (vs. 5-7), fruitfulness in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (v. 8), assurance of our calling (v. 9, 10a), and victory over sin (v. 10b, 11).
Investing money in retirement funds can be profitable, but investing in our spiritual lives offers the best kind of return for our future!
Let us turn to 2 Peter 1 and ponder and see how we can investment in our character.
Introduction: Here Peter strongly urges his people to keep climbing up this ladder of virtues which he has set before them, and to be continually on the way. The more we know of any subject, the more we are fit to know. It is always true that “to him that has, much will be given.” Progress is the way to more progress. To keep investing in character by climbing up the ladder of virtues is to come ever nearer and nearer to knowing Jesus Christ; and the further we climb, the further yet we are able to climb.
On the other hand if we refuse to make the effort of the upward climb, certain things happen. (i) We grow blind – we are left without the guiding light that the knowledge of Jesus Christ brings. (ii) We grow short-sighted – to see things only as they appear at the moment without considering the bigger picture. To walk without Christ is to be in danger of taking the short-sighted view of life and failing to climb the ladder of virtues is to forget that the sins of the old way of life have been cleansed away. Let us see what this investment in character can do …
What are our returns for eternal investment in character?
1. Godliness FOHS (vs. 3, 5-7) – Focus of virtues on Godliness which ends with Christian love
This word literally means, "Walking in view of His greatness." It has reference to the person who has every action and attitude yielded to the fear of the Lord. This person spends his life in a state of "God-like-ness." He spends his days serving God and serving men.
As we do this, the first thing God builds into our life is virtue. Other translations say moral excellence, or goodness. Non-Christians are characterized by immorality and a lack of virtue. The first things that changes in Christians is that we become moral. We live moral lives. We change our behavior to match that of Christ’s. We stop lying and cheating. We tell the truth and live honest lives. You will find that this is what changes first in the lives of most Christians.
It is then that we grow into this trait of godliness. Godliness is acting like God. It is behaving as God behaves. Even in this life, we can partake of the divine nature to one degree or another. When people are Godly, they are like mirrors, reflecting to the world what God Himself is like.
2. Fruitfulness in the knowledge of Christ (v. 8)
Literally means "an understanding of the truth and how to live it out." Well, what a letdown! This word is telling us that we can have all those things we discovered by having a sound knowledge of the doctrines of Christianity and by applying them to our lives and living them out. How frequently this word appears in the New Testament! Suggesting here that in the last analysis, there is a vital and necessary contribution that man himself must make in the direction of his salvation, but in the sense of doing those things without which not even God can save his soul. This is a different word from the full knowledge mentioned above, a possession the Christian already had; and it therefore refers to a faithful continuation of their studies. It is also very likely true that, "Knowledge here means spiritual discernment as to what is right and what is wrong in all things."
Once virtue begins to develop, knowledge is the next element. We attend church, and Bible studies, we gain a love for God’s Word. There are many Christians who remain so spiritually young, that they do not even progress to this point. There are many Christians who do not love the Word, and do not care to learn about God and understand Scripture. They do not want to hear Biblical sermons. But as Christians truly walk in the Spirit, they will hunger more and more for the pure milk of the Word of God. Sometimes, they will find that they cannot get enough of the Word. They read their Bibles every chance they get. They listen to sermons in the car and on the radio. They read Christians books …