Summary: Let us make every effort to add to our faith moral excellence.
Have we ever said these words? “I know my life doesn’t look like a Christian’s life should look, but I do believe in God.”
People who say those words are what Pastor Craig Groeschel called Christian atheists or “people [who] believe in God but live as if he doesn’t exist.” Are we honest enough to admit that our lives don’t look like the way it should look like? Basically, being a Christian atheist is saying one thing and doing another. I believe we all struggle with that. Even Groeschel candidly confessed to this struggle: “Several years ago, I increasingly recognized inconsistencies between what I claimed to believe and the way I actually lived. I preached that people without Christ go to hell, but my life showed I wasn’t equally passionate to reach those people. Though I believed God wanted my life to be different, I found comparing myself to others easier than measuring my life against Christ’s. I preached that prayer is critical. But my prayer life was virtually nonexistent… If I truly belonged to Christ, I should surrender my whole life to him. I just gave him parts instead, and took them back whenever he didn’t do what I wanted. I called myself a Christian, but I lived like an atheist.” Can we be as honest as Groeschel?
The bad news is the Bible calls that hypocrisy. Believe me when I say that there are topics that I myself am not comfortable to discuss because I could feel my own finger pointing back at me. I admit I also struggle with hypocrisy time and again. But I would not shy away from such topics just because it could boomerang on me. I won’t soften the Word just because it comes down hard on me, too. I would still let the Bible speak. The good news is that we don’t have to live that way. There is really a better way to live. God empowered us so that our words and works would match. To put it in a popular cliché, God made it possible for us to walk the talk and talk the walk.
Last Sunday we studied the first part of 2 Peter 1:5. “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith…” We saw that our pursuit for our spiritual growth calls for cooperation with God, commitment to grow and constancy in the process of growth. This morning we will look at the second part of verse 5: “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue”. That’s our main point. Add to your faith virtue. Let us pray first…
Let us look at the big picture first. It’s like a map. I just came from a youth camp in La Trinidad, Benguet as part of my summer internship in seminary. Last Friday, we had free time so I decided to give my team a tour of Baguio City, which is just 30 minutes away from where we were. It’s their first time in Baguio. I’ve been there many times but I’m not really familiar with the ins and outs of the city. I just know that there are great tourist spots there. But, since I don’t have a map, I would make a wrong turn here and a wrong turn there. Every time I commit a blooper, I just told them, “Here’s another view of the city.” Whenever I would make a wrong turn, I was tempted to tell them, “We are not lost. We just don’t know where we are.” It’s just a good thing that the main city proper is just small. That’s why it’s important to have a map to have a big picture or perspective. So, let us read 2 Peter 1:5-7. “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.”
First, note that making every effort to supplement our faith is a command for believers only. Faith is the foundation. It does not say “make every effort to add faith.” It says “make every effort to add to your faith”. We build upon our faith. If you haven’t put your trust in the Lord Jesus alone as your Savior, you cannot really fulfill this command because “these qualities grow out of life and out of a vital relationship with Jesus Christ.” Even if you would want to, you could not if you are not yet a believer. Growth is building upon faith. One commentary tells us, “Our faith, if its genuine, sets up a chain of deep, internal, and experiential changes that will meet our hunger for God’s reality.” Real faith leads to real changes. Peter has pointed out that our faith is in no way inferior to the faith of the early Christians. He wrote that we “have obtained a faith of equal standing with [them]”. In a sense, Peter assured us, “If we can grow, you can grow, too. Your faith and my faith are just one and the same.”