Summary: How does one go about developing Christian character?
In my office, I have a poem by Edgar A. Guest, about the roads we take in life.
The easy roads are crowded and the level roads are jammed; The pleasant little rivers with the drifting folks are crammed. But off yonder, where it’s rocky, where you get a better view, You will find the ranks are thinning and the travelers are few. Where the going’s smooth and pleasant you will always find the throng, For the many - more’s the pity - seem to like to drift along. But the steeps that call for courage, and the task that’s hard to do In the end results in glory for the never - wavering few.
The point of the poem is simply this: where you end up one day will be determined by the path you choose today.
Peter speaks to us here in this passage about the importance of Christian character development. Last time, we considered why Christian character development should be our priority in life. Peter says it should be priority for us because 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).
But if this is going to be true of my life, where do I start? How do I proceed? What path must I take to know the benefits associated with developing Christ-like character? Let’s notice what Peter tells us.
1. It begins with a personal and growing knowledge of Christ - vs. 1-3
I develop Christ-like character by virtue of knowing Christ. This knowledge of Christ is first of all, a personal knowledge. It is one thing to know about someone, but it is another thing altogether to know them.
This personal knowledge of our God and Savior Jesus Christ is possible because . . .
A. The Grace of God.
As Peter tells us in verse 1, this is made possible "through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ." Through His sinless life, He was uniquely qualified to suffer for our sins in our place, so that through faith in Him, we might be made right with God.
"Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God." - 2 Corinthians (CEV)
The Father treated His perfect Son as though he were sinful so that we who were sinful might be treated like perfect sons and daughters of God.
B. The Goodness of God.
A personal knowledge of Christ is made possible as well because of God’s pursuit of us. In verse 3, Peter tells us that God calls us "by His own glory and goodness." God lovingly pursues us and calls us to enter into a personal relationship with Himself.
C. The Gift of God.
In verse one, Peter tells us that this faith that is ours is something we have "received." In other words, it is not something we earn or deserve, but something which God sovereignly allows us to appropriate by faith.
It is interesting to note that the word Peter uses here that is translated "received," refers to winning something by lot. The idea is that something has won something, like the lottery. A person who wins the lottery has nothing to brag about. Their winning isn’t due to their intelligence or worth. In fact, the odds against anyone actually winning the lottery are so great that when it does happen, it is truly amazing!
In the same way, we cannot boast or brag about having come to know Christ as our personal Savior. It is something that our participation in is due solely to God’s grace and goodness. That’s why the Bible describes it as being a "gift."
"Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!" - Ephesians 2:8-9 (the Message)
But like any gift, if one is to possess it, they must choose to receive it. The gift of eternal life is the gift of personal relationship with our God and Savior Jesus Christ, as John explains in 1 John 5:11-12:
"This is the testimony in essence: God gave us eternal life; the life is in his Son. So, whoever has the Son, has life; whoever rejects the Son, rejects life." - 1 John 5:11-12 (The Message)