Let’s imagine that you’ve read this far in this book and come to realize, “Yes, I’m a bit stuck in my Christian life! Boy, am I glad I bought this book!” (or words to that effect). “But where do I start?”, you might ask. That’s where the so-called “spiritual disciplines” become very important.
Much has been written about the spiritual disciplines. Richard Foster’s work Celebration of Discipline is a classic in the field. We are really talking about developing holy habits which grow us in godliness. Some put the disciplines into categories like the following:
The Inward Disciplines:
The Corporate Disciplines:
Let’s think about each of these for a few moments. Concerning the “inward disciplines,” MEDITATION involves memorizing a passage of Scripture and thinking about it as much as you can. For example, one might memorize Nehemiah 8:10 where he says to the people of Israel, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Now, you might memorize only the “do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength,” although some might focus on the first part of this verse! The point is that during the day (or during the hard night hours) you can say to yourself, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” You might consider reading up on the context of that challenge by Nehemiah to get some background, but the point is to meditate, ruminate, marinate in that verse!
A few words about FASTING. I don’t believe Scripture commands us to fast (that is to go without food for a particular period of time in order to focus upon the Lord). On the other hand, one might quote the Lord Jesus who said in Matthew 9, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” (v. 15). The bridegroom has been taken from us. So voluntary fasting makes sense. Missing a meal to concentrate on God’s Word or to prostrate oneself before the Lord in prayer for a serious situation is quite counter-cultural in our frenetic, food-obsessed world, but spiritually healthy. Practicing this discipline is to be private. Jesus criticized the Jewish religious leaders who didn’t keep their fasting private. Jesus said, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” (Mt. 6:16).
How about fasting from technology? We’ve become more and more dependent on our smart watches, iPhones, and video streaming services. Unplugging from those can do us a world of good in bringing us some quietness, solitude, and focus.
The spiritual discipline of STUDY is very close to my heart as a teacher. I was a lousy student in high school. And even worse when I went through my first year in Bible college. Then I met my wife to be — and all laziness and joy was gone. She looked at me and said, “You have a theology exam on Friday, right?” I knew it would be a mistake to lie, so I said, “Yes, Dear.” Then she said, “Listen, Buster.” (My name has never been ‘Buster.’ So I realized she was serious). “If you do not ace your theology exam on Friday, I will not date you on Saturday.” I aced the exam on Friday, got on the Dean’s list thereafter, and completed a Master’s and a Doctorate over the next few years. All because of religious blackmail.
Believers in Jesus — whether they recognize it or not — are life-long, even eternity-long students! We will forever be studying the character of our God. So let’s get started now. The unstuck believer is pursuing biblical subjects and learning what God wants them to learn.
Life can get quite complicating, can’t it? The spiritual discipline of SIMPLICITY involves the elements of creating margins in our lives, learning to say no when appropriate, and focusing our attention on the Lord instead of the things of this world. Creating some space for ourselves can be a challenge, but a healthy life needs alone time as well as interaction time with others. A great teacher of preachers once said, “Men, learning to say ‘no’ will do you more good than learning Latin!” Active, involved believers are often the first ones to be asked to get involved in a ministry or take on some additional church duties, etc. Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is say, “No. I’m quite involved right now.”
Focusing on the Lord is the third element of SIMPLICITY. We speak with Him in prayer and He speaks to us through His Word. We realize that we are responsible for our thought lives and we ask for help in applying the challenge of Philippians 4 where the Apostle Paul writes, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (v. 8).
The simple practice of SOLITUDE is a piece of cake for an introvert like me. Introverts like to be alone. But biblical solitude is much more than aloneness. It is a concerted time with the Lord, an intentional distancing from others and the distractions of this world to simply spend time with the God who wants to spend time with us.
The great theologian Bob Dylan said, “You gotta serve somebody!” SERVICE is the practice of thinking of others before ourselves, asking how we might encourage another in their Christian life. Ephesians 2 says we’ve been “appointed to good works.” And those works are to be done for the sake of others.
The so-called corporate disciplines have to do with the Body of Christ, the church. We are to engage in CONFESSION as James says: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16, KJV)
Of course we are to give ourselves to WORSHIP and that should regularly happen with God’s people. GUIDANCE is often given by the Holy Spirit through God’s people. And we should all engage in CELEBRATION as we together praise the Lord and seek to serve Him.
1. Read a book like Foster’s Celebration of Discipline or Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney and J.I. Packer. Discuss your book with another believer.
2. Find an accountability partner with whom you can work on a couple of the inward disciplines. Check up on each other’s progress and consistently pray for one another.
3. Discuss one of the corporate disciplines with some of the leaders in your local church. Ask how you can help them improve those disciplines among the people of God.
I’m an introvert. I’ve gone through the personality tests (Enneagram, Myers/Briggs, Briggs & Stratton, etc.) and I test out as an introvert. An “expressive” introvert. But an introvert nonetheless.
What that means is that people pretty much exhaust me. I force myself to go to parties and social gatherings, but only because my dear wife is an extrovert. She loves people. Me, not so much. I’m quite happy being by myself with occasional meetings with my wife and maybe a few grandkids.
I’m overstating this a bit, but introverts like me like quiet, peace, solitude. We spend a lot of time reflecting, listening to soft music (except for early Chicago), and avoiding crowds. My daughter, who is also an introvert, says she’s going to get us t-shirts that read, “INTROVERTS UNITE! BY YOURSELVES! IN YOUR OWN HOMES!”
I would be perfectly happy living in a cave (with good internet service, of course). But that’s not God’s best for me.
Just Jesus and Me!
One of the popular songs when I was a young believer was entitled “Just Jesus and Me.” It came at the height of the “Me” generation and fit in quite nicely with young adults who wanted to “do their own thing.” And we certainly didn’t need the stuffy environs of the church to pursue “our own thing.”
It seemed that the overemphasis on individuality and self-awareness quickly led to a kind of self-idolatry. And an ignorance of the Scriptures. Afterall, don’t we read in Genesis 2 that Adam, before the fall and before the creation of Eve, was declared by God as “lonely?” What?! Wait a minute! He was in the Garden, which had not yet been affected by sin, and was in perfect fellowship with His Creator. And he was lonely?! Yes. And God saw that it was not good.
We need human relationships. And, therefore, we need the church. Now by “the church” I don’t mean the universal Body of Christ. Every believer belongs to that by conversion. I mean a local church, a group of believers to which one belongs and to which one contributes.
The Church — Why Bother?
Philip Yancey, who’s written more books than C.S. Lewis and Joel Osteen combined , wrote a small book years ago with the title The Church — Why Bother? It seems to me that there are four reasons to bother with a local church.
The first reason is that I want to join Jesus in His building project. He said that on the rock of Peter’s confession of faith in Him, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Mt. 16:18). Now, one may argue that He was referring to the “universal” church, but how is the universal church seen in this world? Through imperfect, yet authentic, local churches.
The second reason I want to bother with the local church is that the overall tenor of the New Testament focuses on the community of God’s people as gathered in local places. They are certainly not without their problems, but we have the Corinthian church, the church in Ephesus, the church in Philadelphia, etc. Geographically planted local churches are encouraged, admonished, rebuked even by the New Testament writers. Much of the New Testament is useless if one remains outside Christ’s work in the local church.
I’ve heard Twenty-First Century Christians say, “Oh, that we were like the First Century Church!” But wait a minute! Do you mean like the Corinthian church (which was failing miserably in both discipleship and evangelism, see I Cor. 5)? Or the Galatian church (which had abandoned its freedom in Christ and was returning to an unbiblical Judaism)? Or the Ephesian church that had left its first love (Rev. 2:4)? Of course we should seek to emulate the very best of the early church and also recognize where it often went wrong. But we should be involved, connected, committed to what the Lord Jesus is doing in the local church.
The third reason I want to bother with the local church is that there is much work to be done in both growing believers in and winning unbelievers to the gospel. I’m not sure the local church should be a place of evangelism, although I’m convinced the gospel ought to be made clear whenever the Word is preached to God’s people. Evangelism is to happen outside the walls of the local church. And not just by paid staff! Every believer, the Apostle Peter tells us, is to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (I Pe. 3). The believer in Jesus who doesn’t give a whit about the lostness of others is in dire need of repentance!
And it is in the local church where we are to practice the ordinances (some churches call them “sacraments”) ordained by God’s Word: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptizing one’s self or taking communion at home in one’s pajamas isn’t the biblical pattern.
Discipleship must happen in the local church. We need intentional, risky relationships which we develop in order to build up God’s people and help one another grow in Christlikeness. Of course that is not confined to the four walls of a physical building we call the church. True discipleship happens through connections that believers pursue with the family of God.
The fourth reason I want to bother with the local church is that God has ordained spiritual leaders (elders and deacons) who are tasked with caring for my soul! If I’m disconnected from a local church, I’m removing myself from their encouragement, influence, and correction. Formal membership may not be outlined in the New Testament, but it is quite clear that every believer is to use his or her gifts to build up others, to pray for and submit to godly leaders, and to practice the priorities modeled for us by the early church. Those priorities are set forth in Acts 2:42 where we read, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
In short, we need truth, friendships, worship, and prayer to thrive in the Christian life. And that’s to be found in the local church.
1. Read Yancey’s little book Church — Why Bother? Write out a one-page defense of the church after you’ve read his book.
2. Find a friend in your local church with whom you can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your church. Many today are staying away from the church because of what is called “church hurt.” Reach out to someone who is making that choice and seek to win them back to the local church. Pray with your friend for your church’s leaders and your church’s mission.
3. Adopt an elder or deacon in your church and covenant before the Lord to pray for him every day. Meet with that person and find out what some of their needs are.
A Personal Story
I got saved as a teenager, but I don’t remember anyone “discipling” me. The closest I got to being discipled was with an elder in our church, Mr. Smith, an old itinerant preacher originally from Ireland. I met with him a couple of times to talk about the Christian life and I think he might have prayed with me. Once. He was a great man of God with a heart for sharing the gospel with the lost.
But I don’t recall his sharing his life with me or making any effort to consistently help me advance in my walk with Jesus.
The only other memory I have of Mr. Smith was when my brand new bride and I asked the elders’ blessing to go to Germany as missionaries. Mr. Smith withheld his approval, saying that if we weren’t doing door-to-door evangelism here in the States, why would we travel overseas to do it? It was a painful experience, but eventually he gave us his blessing. I regret not pursuing deeper conversations with Mr. Smith.
I also regret growing up in a church environment that taught that simply being in the meetings, simply “being under the sound of the Word,” was good enough. It was a kind of discipleship by osmosis. Excellent church attendance would lead to Christlikeness. The truth is that most of my teenaged friends — some who had perfect attendance pins that reached the floor — abandoned their faith when they went to college.
Our Default Setting
For many of us our default setting is our own personal comfort. We naturally look after the me-myself-and-mine life that we have. Of course we should care for our own families — and for our own lives. But getting unstuck involves getting some of our vision off ourselves!
Looking outwardly, intentionally asking whose life I might impact for the kingdom, does not come naturally to us. It is a God-given passion to help others in their walk with Christ. It involves opening up our homes, clearing our calendars, limiting our hobbies so that we might influence others for the Lord.
God’s Word is clear that my love for Christ must spill over to loving His children. If I love Him, I will take Jesus’ challenge to Peter and apply it to my life: “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep.” (Jn. 21:15-18). Bringing spiritual nourishment to others is so critical that Jesus repeats Himself so that Peter gets the message.
Where in Scripture are we challenged to disciple others? If “disciple” means “learner,” then whatever knowledge I possess as a mature believer must be shared with those who are younger in the faith. We are to “teach the word” (Acts 18:11). We are challenged in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 to communicate the message: “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”
We are to train younger believers about false teachers who will not spare the flock (Acts 20). Timothy is commanded by the Apostle Paul: “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” (2 Tim. 2:14).
Discipling others will often lead us into recognizing we are not where we need to be in our own Christian walk. We read the following of the believers in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Heb. 5:12)
Playing with Praying
Can we talk? In the churches that still have mid-week prayer meetings, most of the prayers I hear prayed have to do with health conditions. One church I know has a prayer list on which most of the items are about upcoming surgeries, members’ fighting Covid, and information about hospital visits. The one who writes the prayer letter is a medical professional (a dentist) and he doesn’t hesitate to go into such medical specifics that I sometimes feel it’s as if I’m looking over the shoulder of the attending physician and reading the patient’s medical chart. (I want to cry out, “HOLY HIPPA!”)
If one asks how the Apostle Paul prayed for his co-workers and their health, we have only a few statements like: “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” (I Tim. 5:23 KJV). In 2 Timothy 4 Paul sends greetings to various fellow workers: “19 Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. 21 Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.” (KJV). Paul obviously didn’t apply the truth of prosperity theology for he failed to command Trophimus to name and claim his healing in Jesus!
So, if I’m not to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy praying for the physical well-being of the saints, for what am I to pray?
A few years ago I was invited to speak at a men’s retreat and I chose as my topic “Several Crucial Questions for REAL Men!” I led the men through Colossians 1:9-14 which reads —
I asked them two questions, “Are you man enough to ask others to pray for you? And do you ask them to pray for the things that are really important?”
I then listed seven items in Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers:
1. that they would lead a worthy life (v. 10);
2. that they would have a desire to please the Lord (v. 10);
3. that they would be fruit-bearing (v. 10);
4. that they would be spiritually growing (v. 10);
5. that they would have the strength to endure (v. 11);
6. that they would be joyfully thankful (v. 12);
7. that they would rejoice in their rescue (vv. 13-14).
Are you praying for anyone like that? My concern for others, if it is not where it ought to be, will be increased as I spend time praying for them. And praying for their life — not just their health!
Three Levels of Disciples
I cannot say from my own life that I have followed the advice I’m going to give you now. But it is still important and worth listening to! I believe each of us needs three kinds of friends in our lives.
Each of us needs a Paul. We need an older believer (it’s getting harder for me to find older believers at my ripe old age of 72!) who can help us in our walk with Christ. Each of us also needs a Barnabas, a co-worker, a fellow-laborer, an equal. And each of us also needs a Timothy. A younger believer into whose life we can pour ours.
1. Drop to your knees (if you are able) and ask the Lord to forgive you for not discipling younger believers. And while you’re down there, ask Him to burden your heart with one specific individual you could befriend, pray for, and disciple.
2. Write out a prayer like the one we looked at in Colossians 1 for a younger believer.
3. Pray about starting an online Bible reading group like we discussed in our second chapter.
4. Suggest to your church leaders (your elders especially) the idea that they should set the example and disciple at least one young person every six months.
Perhaps one reason many Christians get stuck is that their eyes are too often on themselves, their needs, their families, their comfort. But here is where the gospel of Jesus Christ really becomes invasive. If the gospel is true, it demands us to open our eyes to those around us who are lost, separated from the love of God, outside the family of God, presently under God’s wrath.
A Vision Problem
I suspect many of us have a vision problem. We don’t look at others as desperately needing the gospel. Our vision is blurred or blinded by many other concerns. One of the blind people that Jesus healed said, “I see men as trees.” We often don’t even see the trees! How we view others is critical to getting unstuck in our Christian lives.
I’ve had a recent experience that has made me acutely aware of my vision. My right eye began showing signs of macular degeneration, a condition in which small capillaries leak blood in the eye, eventually leading to blindness. The cure? I had to have several months of injections into my right eye! The first injection was terrifying as you can imagine, but the doctor’s assistants did a great job of numbing my eye. All I felt was a slight pinch when the doctor gave me the injection. That first injection was followed by seven more spaced over a year. When I showed up for my last injection, the doctor looked at the high-res picture of that right eye and said, “You’re done. You don’t need any more injections. The medicine is working.” You can imagine my relief. Now, whenever someone tritely uses the expression “Just stab me in the eye”, I don’t hesitate to tell them of my real life experience!
Lost About the Lost?
Is that what it’s going to take for you and me to start seeing lost people? As a theologian I wonder if many followers of Jesus somehow inwardly think that those who die without Christ will somehow still be okay or that God will judge them on the basis of their good works or that they will somehow have a post-mortem (after-death) opportunity to believe the gospel. None of those options are supported biblically. One receives salvation in this life, on this side of the grave, before death. That’s why evangelism and missions are so important!
If I am thoroughly convinced that the gospel is true, that there is only one Savior and His name is Jesus, and that a person is saved only by believing in Him, then I will have to open my eyes to the lost — and really begin to care about reaching them.
Do you see? Do you see?
All the people sinking down
Don’t you care? Don’t you care?
Are you gonna’ let them drown?
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
1. Read my short book Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World. Pay particular attention to the story in Chapter Three “‘I Haven’t Got Time for the ….🎶” (a discussion of Luke 7 where Jesus says “Do you see this woman?”). How did Simon the Pharisee need his vision corrected by Jesus?
2. What specifically are you going to do to further develop your passion for lost people? Do you have a prayer hit-list which you use everyday to pray for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin to the hearts of those you love?
Some of our witnessing is a one-and-done experience. We might meet someone on a plane or have a brief conversation with our plumber. I call this “evangelism by strafing.” In other words, you might not see that person again. I believe God honors a gentle boldness when we step out in faith and share the gospel with a stranger.
A while back we were getting a lot of telemarketer phone calls. It’s easy to be rude to such people. But I made a promise to the Lord and He quickly gave me the chance to keep my promise. A telemarketer called and I said, “I’m really not interested in what you are selling, but can I tell you about a promise that I made to God a while back?” Silence. Then, “Uh, sure.” “I promised the Lord I would share the gospel with every telemarketer that called me for the next month. Do you know what the gospel is?” Some listened. A few hung up on me! But I kept my promise. Do you have an idea for a similar bold effort you can make in single conversation encounters?
In this chapter we want to deal with what is perhaps the most foundational question one can answer. The question is “What is the authority for your life?” To ask the question another way, “Where do you get your beliefs, priorities, truth?”
If my authority is my own opinion, or the beliefs of my friends, or what the majority thinks or feels, my spiritual life is in a lot of trouble. My opinions are always changing, my friends don’t seem to have a clue what they believe most of the time, and the majority is so frequently wrong! I need an unchanging, reliable, trustworthy source for my total life. And that should be the Word of God, the Bible.
And here is the problem for a lot of Christians. For many they see God’s Word as part of their Sunday go-to-meeting outfit, a necessary accessory to their ensemble. They carry a big Bible, preferably black, under their arm as they attend church. Or, for many today, it’s simple an app on their phone which they can pull up to follow the preacher (or check their email when the sermon drags).
But in our heart of hearts we know the Bible is much more than a religious rabbit’s foot. And reading the Bible should be much more than checking what amounts to some to be a daily holy horoscope. We need to see the Bible for what it truly is: God’s instruction book for the believer. It tells us how to live, what to avoid, how to think, where to spend our time, what our mission is, how to deal with temptation and sin, when to engage others with the gospel (and when to walk away), why there is suffering and why this (whatever catastrophe I’m going through at the moment) is happening to me now, etc.
We Christians must repent of our poor views of the Scriptures and wash our minds with the truths of Psalm 119 about the cruciality of the Word of God. We have been deluded into thinking that the Bible is there only to comfort us at funerals or to provide an encouraging verse when we send a birthday gift to a nephew or to crochet or decoupage or frame a biblical statement for display in our home. We read in Hebrews 4 that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (v. 12 KJV)
When we mentally shelve the Word of God, turning to it only in dire emergencies, we are doing great harm to ourselves. God’s Word is meant to be studied, meditated on, and carefully applied to every experience we face this day. We assume that a surgeon doesn’t need to run to his anatomy textbook so he can find and do surgery on one’s appendix. That knowledge should be innate with him, second nature.
But that’s not the case with the believer and his Bible. It needs to be our constant reference, our daily sourcebook for wisdom and insight, our road map for how we are to navigate our today.
Of course, there are some strong reasons why the believer might want to avoid God’s Word. We don’t naturally want our lives to be cut up by truth, to be pierced by the One who knows our hearts, to have our thoughts and intentions read by God Himself (Heb. 4:12). But we know that that is exactly what we need if we want to follow the Lord with a whole heart.
God’s Word convicts us of sin. It will cause us to face our temptations and either plead with the Lord for strength to resist them or cowardly give in to the promptings of our own evil desires or the enticements of our supernatural enemy.
The Bible will require of us our most diligent mental, emotional, and volitional engagement. Far from being an easy-to-read book, the Bible will insist that we work hard to quarry its meaning. Do you think that you are no longer a student simply because you’ve earned a high school or college or graduate degree? Think again. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have become a life-long pupil in God’s school — and there is a world of homework to get done!
1. Read Chapter Two “The Believer’s Authority” in m book DocWALK. Take notes on both wrong views of the Bible and correct ones.
2. Carefully go through all of Psalm 119 this month. It’s the longest chapter in the Bible, but gives us amazing statements about the Word of God.
3. Begin an email Bible reading program with several friends. I’ve been doing this for years and it has been a great encouragement in my life. Choose a book (for example, Ephesians) and read chapter one this week each day. On Sunday send a brief thought to the group of something the Lord gave you from that chapter. Then on Monday begin reading chapter two. And so on.
Whew! That was a lot of questions to read — and think about — in our last post. In this first chapter we want to emphasize the issue of personal responsibility. Who’s in charge of your life? Now, the spiritual answer is “Jesus.” But we both know that that’s only sometimes true.
There may be splotches of spirituality in your life once in a while, but the bottom line is that you control your daily activities. You decide what to think about. You choose what words to use and when to use them. You have the power to live your life 24/7 without recognizing that it is the Lord who gives you your very next lungful of air to breathe.
The “Let Go and Let God” Myth
In the 19th and 20th centuries there was a movement sometimes referred to as the “Victorious Christian Life” movement. Also called “the Keswick Movement,” its basic message was a kind of passive Christian living which stressed God’s work in making us like Christ. That’s all well and good, but what about personal responsibility?
The “Get Up! And Get Going!” Truth
What impression do we get from the Scriptures about growing in the Christian life? As I read my Bible I’m challenged to roll up my spiritual sleeves and get to work! We read in 2 Peter 1 that we are to “make every effort to add to your faith . . .” (v. 5). We then have the list of those seven hard-to-achieve godly qualities (goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, love) which we are to add. These qualities won’t be given to us as Christmas presents, awarded to us for faithful church attendance, or bequeathed us when a spiritual family member dies! WE are to ADD these qualities to our lives! The question is: Are you making “every effort” in adding these necessary components of the Christian life?
Please notice several hard-hitting conclusions to which Peter comes in this passage. The first conclusion concerns the one who is following Peter’s command and is adding to his faith: (1) Adding these virtues will keep one from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of Jesus Christ (v. 8). Please don’t miss the point that one is to possess these qualities “in increasing measure.” We don’t get a one-and-done dose of self-control or perseverance or love when we roll up our sleeves and take responsibility. No. These qualities are to increase.
The second conclusion Peter makes relates to the one who doesn’t have these qualities and, presumably, shows no interest in working toward them. (2) The one who doesn’t have these qualities has become blind and forgetful. Peter states that he “is nearsighted and blind” (v. 9). One who is near-sighted sees only what is in front of them. They have no vision of that which is distant or far off. He or she can’t see what lies ahead. They see only what’s close to them. It’s bad to be near-sighted. It’s worse to be “blind.” That’s quite a charge Peter makes here in verse 9. The one not working on these virtues is not just near-sighted, but blind. Blind to what God wants to do in and through his life, blind to the sins that need to be shed, the temptations that need to be avoided, the opportunities which need to be taken advantage of.
I’m 72 and I sometimes forget things. Forgetfulness comes with old age. This person who is not actively seeking to add these virtues to his faith is like an old man who is constantly forgetting. What is this one who’s not making the effort forgetting? They are forgetting that they have been forgiven! Can there be a worst thing to forget? Not working at adding these virtues to one’s faith means the atoning work of Christ was worthless, ineffective, of no lasting value, and suitable for forgetting.
There are many other passages that challenge the believer to take responsibility for his spiritual life, to get going, to refuse spiritual stagnation. For example, we read in Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus saith the Lord, ‘Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk therein.’” (KJV). Enoch walked with God, we read in Genesis 5:24. He didn’t just stand around. And one day God essentially said to Enoch, “Enoch, we’re closer to my house than to yours. Why don’t you just come home with me?”
We are talking about the issue of sanctification, of course. If we find ourselves “stuck,” God provides steps that we can take to move on in the Christian, to really begin to walk with the Lord, to advance in godliness. But to do so involves answering the most foundational question in our study and we will do so in our next chapter.
Our latest book, The Forgotten Third: Developing a Biblical Relationship with God the Holy Spirit, challenges the believer to genuinely “walk in the Spirit”! You can order this right now through Amazon or directly from me (send $10 [which includes shipping] to my address).
Dr. Larry Dixon
117 Norse Way
Columbia, SC 29229 Cell: 803-201-9745