Christian Character Development:
"The Particulars Of Christian Character Development"
2 Peter 1:1-11
God’s people get in trouble when they fail to act like they are God’s people! That’s why Peter wrote in our passage for today about Christian character development.
Two Sundays ago, we began looking to this passage to see what Peter had to say to us about developing Christ-like character. We first considered what he had to say about the priority of Christian character development. We discovered five reason listed by Peter as to why developing Christ-like character should be a priority for the Child of God. When I make Christian character development my daily pursuit . . .
it will insure that my life is not wasted (v. 8);
it will insure my proper appreciation of salvation (v. 9);
it will present a positive witness to others (v. 10a);
it will prevent me from bringing reproach to the name of Christ (v. 10b);
and it will guarantee a rich welcome upon entering heaven (v. 11).
We next looked at the path of Christian character development. We found that Peter tells us . . .
it begins with a personal and growing knowledge of Christ (vs. 1-3);
it continues through reliance on God’s power and promises (vs. 3-4);
and it leads to real life change from the inside out (v. 4).
Now today, I want us to move on to consider the particulars of Christian Character development. Peter is very specific concerning what character qualities we should seek to develop as a Christian if we are going to progress toward Christ-likeness (vs.. 5-7).
We note that as Peter gives us this list of Christian character qualities, he seems to list them in a particular order. Faith comes first, followed by goodness, then knowledge, to which we add self-control, then perseverance, then godliness, then brotherly kindness, and finally, love.
While we are told that we are to "possess these qualities in increasing measure" (v. 8), it would seem that Peter is specific about what character qualities we are to pursue and in what order.
Upon careful consideration, we see that the first three character qualities (faith, goodness, and knowledge) have to do with my relationship with the God above me. The second three (self-control, perseverance, and godliness) have to do with my relationship with the world about me. The last two character qualities (brotherly kindness and love) have to with my relationship with the people around me.
As we consider each of the Christian character qualities Peter mentions here, we will also look at how they are linked to one another. Today, let’s look at the first three which have to do with my relationship with the God above me - faith , goodness, and knowledge.
1. Faith - v. 5
The first characteristic of the growing Christian has a uniqueness to it - because the Christian is not instructed to supply faith. Faith is a given, something upon which the Christian builds. According to Peter, the readers of this epistle are those who "have received a faith as precious as ours" (v. 1). Faith is something we have received, not something we are to supply - because faith is a gift from God.
"God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." - Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)
But I cannot be content with having received my "fire insurance." As wonderful a thing as it is to know that through having received God’s gift of eternal life through faith in Christ, I should move beyond the gift of faith to developing a growing faith, which is what Peter is talking about here. Faith in Christ is the beginning, it is the foundation. If you have not come to a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot possibly pursue the course Peter describes here.
But if you have saving faith, you must not content yourself with that alone. Salvation is not so much about God taking me to be with Him in heaven one day as it is about God bring heaven to me today. There are tremendous blessing that God wants to bestow upon His children - heavenly blessings - but the degree to which we experience the blessings of heaven on earth is determined by the degree to which we progress toward developing Christ-like character.
Through faith in Christ, we have received a new nature whereby we can live a life uncorrupted by the evil influences of the world. Through faith in Christ, we have received everything we need to live in a godly fashion.
Through the promises of God’s Word, we can learn more and more about all we have through faith in Christ and the new life we can now live. Everything I need to lived a blessed life through developing Christ-like character is available to me. "For this very reason," Peter says, I should "make every effort" to add to my faith and progress toward Christ-likeness. Peter says we should add to our faith . . .
2. Goodness - v. 5
The word "goodness" in this verse is sometimes translated "virtue" or moral excellence." Peter uses this word two other times:
"But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." - 1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)
"His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence."
- 2 Peter 1:3 (NASB)
We find that Peter uses this word to the qualities that attract us to God and for which He deserves to be praised. The translation of the New American Standard Bible makes us think of how a person of royalty is commonly given the title, "His excellency."
Previously, Peter ascribes this quality to God. Now in discussing Christian character development, Peter uses this word to describe a quality that should be found in God’s children - "goodness," or "excellence."
In light of who we now are, by virtue of faith in Christ, children of the King of Kings - we should seek through everything we think, say, and do, to "proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
"Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:16 (Amplified)
Peter says that we should live according to who we are now through faith in Christ - as children of the Lord most high! Peter is describing a life that is lived out of a commitment to behaving in a way that is consistent with the royal heritage that is now mine as a child of the king!
A good example of how not to live like a child of the King would be Prince Harry of Great Britian, who recently attended a costume party dressed as a Nazi! if this wasn’t bad enough, pictures of him were plastered all over the newspapers in England two weeks prior to the Queen participating in an event designed to remember the victims of the Holocost! That is not how you live in keeping with your station!
Rather than continuing to live in ways that are opposed to all that my heavenly king stands for, I should seek to live in a way to honor Him!
3. Knowledge - v. 5
If I am going to live a live that is consistent with the royal heritage that is mine as a child of the King, then I must seek to know the King’s will for my life. Just as children in an earthly royal family are schooled in the ways of royalty, our heavenly King desires that we be schooled in the ways of royal living.
Aha! Process, Inc. is an organization devoted to helping people learn how to advance from one social niche to another. Not long ago, a representative gave a presentation to our local school district, in the effort to help teachers understand how to better help students better themselves in life. The organization has done extensive study relating to three social classes: the poor, the middle class, and the wealthy. What they have discovered is that each class in our society has a different set of "hidden rules" of acceptable behavior. The key to moving from one social niche to the next is learning and living according to these "hidden rules." The two primary factors which help a person move from one level to the next are education and relationships. It is fascinating research.
Below are three quizes designed to indicate how well you might grasp the "hidden rules" associated with surviving in each of the three social classes.
Could you survive in poverty?
COMPLETE THE QUIZ: Put a check by each item you know how to do.
___ 1. I know which churches and sections of town have the best rummage sales.
___ 2. I know which rummage sales have "bag sales" and when.
___ 3. I know which grocery stores’ garbage bins can be accessed for thrown-away food.
___ 4. I know how to get someone out of jail.
___ 5. I know how to physically fight and defend myself physically.
___ 6. I know how to get a gun, even if I have a police record.
___ 7. I know how to keep my clothes from being stolen at the Laundromat.
___ 8. I know what problems to look for in a used car.
___ 9. I know how to live without a checking account.
___10. I know how to live without electricity and a phone.
___11. I know how to use a knife as scissors.
___12. I can entertain a group of friends with my personality and my stories.
___13. I know what to do when I don’t have money to pay the bills.
___14. I know how to move in half a day.
___15. I know how to get and use food stamps or an electronic card for benefits.
___16. I know where the free medical clinics are.
___17. I am very good at trading and bartering.
___18. I can get by without a car.
Could you survive in middle class?
COMPLETE THE QUIZ: Put a check by each item you know how to do.
___ 1. I know how to get my children into Little League, piano lessons, soccer, etc.
___ 2. I know how to set a table properly.
___ 3. I know which stores are most likely to carry the clothing brands my family wears.
___ 4. My children know the best name brands in clothing.
___ 5. I know how to order in a nice restaurant.
___ 6. I know how to use a credit card, checking account, and savings account - and I understand an annuity.
___ 7. I understand term life insurance, disability insurance, and 20/80 medical insurance policy, as well as house insurance, flood insurance, and replacement insurance.
___ 8. I talk to my children about going to college.
___ 9. I know how to get one of the best interest rates on my new-car loan.
___10. I understand the difference among the principal, interest, and escrow statements on my house payment.
___11. I know how to help my children with their homework and do not hesitate to call the school if I need additional information.
___12. I know how to decorate the house for the different holidays.
___13. I know how to get a library card.
___14. I know how to use most of the tools in the garage.
___15. I repair items in my house almost immediately when they break - or know a repair service and call it.
Could you survive in wealth?
COMPLETE THE QUIZ: Put a check by each item you know how to do.
___ 1. I can read a menu in French, English, and another language.
___ 2. I have several favorite restaurants in different countries of the world.
___ 3. During the holidays, I know how to hire a decorator to identify the appropriate themes and items with which to decorate the house.
___ 4. I know who my preferred financial advisor, legal service, designer, domestic-employment service, and hairdresser are.
___ 5. I have at least two residences that are staffed and maintained.
___ 6. I know how to ensure confidentiality and loyalty from my domestic staff.
___ 7. I have at least two or three "screens" that keep people whom I do not wish to see away from me.
___ 8. I fly in my own plane, the company plane, or first class.
___ 9. I know how to enroll my children in the preferred private schools.
___10. I know how to host the parties that "key" people attend.
___11. I am on the boards of at least two charities.
___12. I know the hidden rules of the Junior League.
___13. I support or buy the work of a particular artist.
___14. I know how to read a corporate financial statement and analyze my own financial statements.
Now, through faith in Christ, we have been born into the royal family of God. By virtue of our RELATIONSHIP with God, we are now part of a different class of people - we are part of the royal family of God.
"Once you were not a people [at all], but now you are God’s people."
- 1 Peter 2:10 (Amplified)
You went . . . "from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted."
- 1 Peter 2:10 (The Message)
Because of whose we now are and who we now are, we should live differently than we once did. But relationship isn’t enough if we are to life differently, if we are to live royally. We must be EDUCATED concerning the "hidden rules." This is where knowledge comes in. This knowledge comes from the Word of God.
"We speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’- but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ."
- 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; 12-16
Conclusion: Through the combination of our relationship and the instruction of God’s Word, we can live as children of the King of Kings!
A King is seated in the den of his mansion. A person enters, carrying a tray with a beverage on it. He walks over to the king and serves him the beverage and then leaves. Who is this man? A servant. Another man enters the room. He is announced by the servant and introduces himself to the king. They visit for a bit, then the man leaves. Who is this man? A guest. A little girl enters the room with a book in her hand. She is not announced by anyone, nor does she bother to introduce herself. She simply bounds into the room and leaps into the lap of the king. He responds by setting aside what had occupied him and he hugs the little girl. Then together, they look at the book as he explains it to her. Who is she? A child of the king!
Such is our position and privilege. Because of our relationship through faith, we can live lives that reflect the excellencies of our royal heritage, by growing in our knowledge of the rules associated with being a child of the King!