Nearsighted and Blind…

But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins (2 Peter 1:9)

I’ve been writing on some verses in 2 Peter for a few days.  In particular, these verses:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8)

But what happens if we DON’T possess these qualities?  How does that make us nearsighted and blind???

First of all – we cannot obtain these qualities without seeking the Lord.  So if we don’t possess them, we simply have been seeking our own way.  We’ve forgotten that we are saved.  I am going to list for you some areas where that applies to my life – you can probably come up with your own list….

  • Sexual sin.  I was divorced before I was saved.  I lived my life much like others, and in a way that is considered “normal” in America today.  Divorced.  Sleeping around (I wasn’t, I was with one woman.  But I was sleeping with her while being unmarried).  Lusting after other women.  Looking at porn.  On and on.  When I was saved, this was a struggle to avoid – much of it still is.  Granted, now I’m married, so I’m not “sleeping around”.  But I struggle with sexual purity, just as most men do.  How do I handle it?  Historically, not well.  I would allow temptation to overcome me.  I would sin.  I would feel guilt or shame.  I would “repent”.  I would be forgiven.  I would repeat the cycle……
  • Greed.  I spent money as if it were going out of style, before I was saved.  That behavior continued for a while even after.  And by the time the Lord changed my habits, I was in a hole so deep I could barely see daylight.  Thankfully, I can see daylight now.  🙂  But I’m still digging out.
  • Laziness.  Man, it’s more fun to sit around and do nothing than do those things called work!  Work was designed by God, and it is GOOD.  But I bought into the whole “workin’ for the weekend” mentality, and everything named work was (and is) a burden to me.  This is still a struggle, and my attitude sometimes reveals this to others I work with….  Sorry, wonderful co-workers…..  And sorry wonderful wife….  By the way, this is a struggle for me, in teaching my kids the value of hard work, when I myself struggle with this…..
  • Gossip.  I love a good gossip!  Really, I don’t like it.  But I get sucked in.  There have even been recent events that have happened in my personal and professional lives – none of which involves me, but all of which intrigues me.  Why???  Why do I care???  I mean – I CARE about those people in my life.  But I think I care about these events because there is drama.  Gossip.  Blech.  Yet, like a car accident we don’t want to see – we turn to look anyway….
  • Self-righteouness.  I’ve been guilty of this, if even in my heart.  Still am from time to time.  I know the truth, that I’m no better than you.  But if you don’t do this right, or if you don’t believe this or that, I can sometimes feel like “why don’t they get it???”
  • Slander.  I don’t do this one.  Oh wait – ever been in a disagreement with someone, and had to share with another about it?  Did you give all the facts, or did you maybe spin it even just a little, to try and sway them to your way of thinking?  I’ve done that….

Every time I do one of these things, or don’t do what I’m called to do, I’m rendering myself ineffective.  Sure, God can use me for his kingdom.  But as long as I’m focused on me, he won’t use me like he wants to.  It has to be about him, and not me.  And every one of the things I listed above show that it’s still about me.  It’s all about me!

He must become greater; I must become less (John 3:30)

John the baptist said it right there.  I must become less.  I must stop putting myself before others, and before God.  I must put Jesus before all.  If I’m not, I’m really putting myself before all.  Sexual sin?  Pleasing self.  Greed?  Self gratification.  Laziness?  Selfishness (“A little sleep, a little slumber”….)  Gossip?  Self-righteousness?  Self-elevation.  Slander?  Self-justification.  All about self.  HE must become more, I must become less…..

So – how does this make me nearsighted and blind, or render me ineffective?  Well – my prayer life can suck from time to time.  “I’ll pray for you”.  But if I’m not pressing in to God, instead turning to my own desires, I’m probably not praying for you very much.  Sure, God doesn’t need me to pray.  Sure he’ll take care of you.  But “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”.  Probably because a righteous man, being rigtheous only because of Christ, is PRAYING.  Those who live unrighteous lives – Christians included – most likely aren’t praying (I’m not counting the prayer to “get out of this bind”.  I’m talking real prayer).  I’ve been in this camp, more than once….

When my prayer life sucks – I’m not walking in the Spirit.  If I’m not walking in the Spirit, that leaves me walking in my flesh.  I’m bound to fail, when I do that.  Those things listed above?  If I’m not abiding in Christ, I will abide in myself.  Plain and simple.  When Jesus says “You can’t server two masters”, talking about God and money, you could certainly replace “money” with “self”.  I have, more than once….

And when I’m not praying for others, I’m letting them down.  I’m missing out on opportunites for God to use me in their lives.  I’m missing out on opportunites to put them before me and my desires, and to serve them and their needs.  I’ve probably let anyone reading this down at one point or another, by neglecting to pray for you first….

With regards to “I’ll pray for you” – I’m not suggesting that is the answer, and certainly not one many in dire need would want to hear.  Especially those who don’t believe in God.  But – if I’m not praying for you, I probably won’t help you then either.  This is not to suggest those who don’t believe in God never help others.  But if you see how self-serving I am by reading my description of self, you see that I probably won’t help you without God prodding me.  “I’ll pray for you”, in those moments is sort of like saying “Better you than me”.  I’ve been there and done that, more than once….

Thank you Lord, that I can turn to you – even when I’ve turned away so many times!  I praise you, that your amrs are always open.  I thank you that I am forgiven.  I thank you that NONE of this can be done of myself – I need you.  You put this desire in me to turn from my selfish ways, and turn to you.  Help me to do so.  Apart from you I can do nothing.  But with you, all things are possible!  Thank you that because of you, I can put others before myself.  I can love others as you love me.  I can make a difference in someone else’s life, because you would use someone like me, even in the little things.  Thank you Jesus!  Amen!

The verse about the prayer of a righteous man goes like this (from James 5):

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

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If You Possess These Qualities In Increasing Measure……

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8)

I’ve been writing about the verses in 2 Peter for a few days.  It’s been a sort of way for me to meditate on these verses, and as with other posts, it’s sort of a “public journal” where I lay out what God is saying to me.  It is cool to be able to look back on these things, and see where God truly spoke to me and where I was simply reflecting on his word.  With that, I want to delve into the last verse in this passage….

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If we look at the beginning of this passage, you see that Peter is admonishing us to “make every effort” to add to our faith.  This verse seems to tie it all together, and more.  It begins by assuming we have faith – read the entirety of 2 Peter 1 to get the context of what Peter is talking about here (Faith in what?  And why???).  I supply for you a couple verses here, but certainly read it all for yourself….

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

So, because we have faith, we are to add to it goodness, and knowledge, and self-control, and perseverance, and godliness, and brotherly kindness, and last but certainly not least, love.

But these aren’t qualities we should collect like rocks, to just sit there once we “have them”.  No, instead we are to “possess them in increasing measure”.  We are to constantly strive to attain them.  We are to constantly seek these qualities in our lives.  We are constantly seek the face of God.  A couple verses come to mind, that sum this up immensely for me:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13)

Finally, brothers, 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 (Philippians 4:8)

Jesus.  All we need is Jesus.  But we need him more than any one of us is willing to admit, or maybe even realize.  Tomorrow, I will talk about areas in my life where I forsook these godly qualities in favor of the world, and by this was “ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”…..

And to Brotherly Kindness, Love….

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8)

In my last post, I talked about brotherly kindness.  What it means to show true love to others.  This post is sort of a continuation of that last one.

and to brotherly kindness, love.

Love.  It’s all about love.  This is something I think most can agree on.  It’s what you define love to be where we may disagree.

I was going to discuss what my thoughts were on love – what is love, what is not love, what the world sees as love or hate.  I think instead I’ll save that for another post.  Instead, why not just share my favorite verses on love.  The perfect description of love – of Christ.  God is love after all.  So if we remember that in Christ there is nothing but love, we might remember that without Christ, we probably are serving ourselves instead of loving others…..

From 1 Corinthians….

And now I will show you the most excellent way.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I think this one quality we should “possess in increasing measure” is not only the most important, but the one that will allow us to possess the others.  Love.  Jesus Christ.  Amen.

And to Godliness, Brotherly Kindness….

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8)

In my last post, I talked about godliness – being “like God”.  I have to say that what I wrote, I don’t believe.  I DO believe it – but I certainly don’t live as if I do.  I’m sure I’m not the only one….  🙂

Today, I want to talk about kindness.

and to godliness, brotherly kindness

Brotherly kindness……  Seems like an oxymoron to me, when I think about growing up.  🙂

Kidding.  For the most part, I got along with my bro and sis.  But we did have our fights, and the “MOOOOOOM, he’s touching me!!!” episodes.  Still – we cared for, and care for each other.  the saying “blood is thicker than water” applies to many families, mine not being an exception.

So – what if we loved all as if they were family?  What if we looked at the world through God’s eyes?  What if we saw EVERY PERSON as God does?  How do you think that would look?  I’m not so sure it would look the way things look today…..

Today there seems to be so much hatred, coming from all angles.  We need an enemy.  We need drama.  We play right into satan’s hands……

Brotherly kindness – You see someone destitute, in need of food, water, money – don’t take your kids to the other side of the street, because “maybe this person will freak them out”!  Talk to that man or woman, make them feel human.  If just for a moment.  And if they are in need, are we supposed to in our minds determine if they are going to “use our money for food or booze”?  I don’t think so.  I get that if you know the person intimantly, and know they are going to harm themselves, we should not help them to do so.  But if in our hearts we are making a judgement call, based on one’s appearance and not on fact, I’m not so sure that is brotherly kindness….

Brotherley kindness – Today, it seems so easy to hide behind a vote, instead of putting yourself out there, on some very sensitive issues.  Then we don’t ever have to talk about them.  We are bound by fear, forgetting that “true love casts out fear”.  So it’s much easier to vote anonymously on something, and put on our “nice face”.  Sorry, that is not love.  That is not brotherly kindness……

Brotherly kindness – Unfortunately, the opposite happens too…..  “God hates fags”?  Really???……  It seems our loudest voices are those that truly spew hate.  I’m not talking about sharing the truth in love, when appropriate – again, that seems to be something we’re too crippled by fear to ever do.  I’m talking about the loud, obnoxious, hate-mongers, that do nothing but divide.  Truth itself will divide.  The Gospel is offensive.  We don’t need to add to it ourselves.  Nor do we need to lift up others who do so as our heroes.  Sure, most of us would think Fred Phelps is a whack job.  But how many of us applaud someone like Glenn Beck?  And why?  And be honest here – is it maybe because we love deep down inside to feel some pleasure when he “sticks it to them” on the air?  That’s not brotherly kindness…..

Why is it that Peter placed “brotherly kindness” after “godliness”?  Maybe because we as human beings can’t in ourselves show true kindness?  I’m not talking about how the world handles it.  The world says “You do what is right by you, so long as you don’t intrude in my life”.  That’s not brotherly kindness.  But we are no different, if we don’t first try to emulate God in our lives.

This is not to say that nobody of themsevles can be kind.  We see it happening all the time.  But BROTHERLY KINDNESS is when we put ourselves out there, when we put others before oureslves, when we lay down our lives for others.

Some other examples of Brotherly kindness…..

Luke 10:30-35 – Jesus tells us about the good samaritan, who helps without worrying if the man deserves brotherly kindness.

Matthew 23 – Believe it or not, Jesus was not “sticking it to the Pharisees”, as he called them ‘brood of vipers’ and ‘whitewashed tombs’.  He LOVED them.  They needed to hear this, because their hearts were so hard.  Remember, these are the very same people Jesus cried out for his Father to forgive, as they cruicified him.  Brotherly kindness……

Ezekiel 3:18-21 – These verses talk about warning a wicked man and a righteous man.  We are called to.  If we saw someone running towards a cliff, to jump off, would we not do anything in our power to stop them?  But by that token, I don’t think we would shoot them in the head to stop them.  Nor would we yell “Hey idiot, you shouldn’t do that or God hates you!”  No, these verses talk about simply responding with love.  With brotherly kindness.

To the point of the verses in Ezekiel 3 – we don’t need to worry about whether our words stick.  We have a gift we are to share.  We aren’t the savior – only God can save.  But we shouldn’t be bound by fear, or prejudice, or hatred, or we might miss those golden opportunities God presents us to share his love to others…..

I’ll leave you with this video from Penn Gillette.  Penn is a devout atheist.  In this video, he’s describing a man who approached him with the gospel.  Not in an overbearing way.  Not with any intentions that HE would be the one who converts Penn (He didn’t).  But he did what he was called to do in this situation, no more no less.  Penn describes this for you, as well as his thoughts (at least at the time this video was made) on what we should be doing, if we really  believe what we believe….  Enjoy!

And to Perseverance, Godliness…..

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8)

In my last post I talked about perseverance – hanging in there.  Something that is some times difficult to do even in the best situations, can often seem impossible in the worst.

Today, I want to talk about “godliness”

and to perseverance, godliness

Godliness – being “god-like”, or “like God”.  We were created in God’s image – we are LIKE GOD!  How amazing is that????

This doesn’t in any way imply we are gods ourselves.  Sure, we often think we are, or live like we are.  But we’re not.  God is omniscient (all knowing), we are not.  He is omnipotent (all powerful), we are not.  He is omnipresent (everywhere), we are not.  Nor can we posess these qualities.  We are not God.  BUT – we are like God, created in his image.  That is not something that was granted to any other living creature, not even angels.  Wow!  That just blows my mind….

So – we screwed all that up when we fell.  My son always says “that dang Adam!  Thanks for sinning and messing everything up for us!”.  🙂  But we have to remember that we aren’t to lay all blame on him, or even satan, for our sinful nature.  We have a share in that blame.  I know I do….

Anyway – Thanks to Jesus Christ, we are restored.  I don’t think we get that.  It’s done.  We are restored.  We are not the old selves, if we have accepted Christ.  But we do, for some reason, hang on to our old selves.  This is why Paul tells us in Ephesians to “put off our old selves, which is being corrupted by its evil desires, and put on our new selves, created to BE LIKE GOD in true righteousness and holiness”.  Be holy, because HE is holy.

Jesus tells us to “be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect”.  Not “work at it”, or “do your best”, or “try harder”.  No – BE.  It’s done.  We just need to BE what he’s made us to be.  Sort of like what Lady Gaga says in her song “Born this way”?  Maybe not what she meant.  🙂 But when you are born again – You are “born this way”, in the perfect, holy, righteous image of God.

Godliness.  We CAN live a perfct, holy, sinless life.  We don’t, because we continue to believe the lies satan has been telling us for generations.  Makes me think of the question Jesus asked of the paralytic, waiting by the pool for his turn to go in and be healed – “Do you want to be healed?”

And to Self-Control, Perseverance….

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8)

In my last post, I talked a bit about self-control.  For me, that becomes a challenge.  Be it food, sex, spending money, Facebook…..  Suffice it to say it can be difficult some times to practice self-control.  Much like Veruca Salt in the old Willy Wonka movie, I want it NOW!!!!

So while it can be a struggle, it can also be very rewarding.  Denying self immediate pleasures more often than not can be rewarded immensely.  Consider saving for something you really want, vs charging it.  Often if we charge something, we are paying for long after its no longer useful or exciting to us.  Yet if we save for it, we first avoid the impulse buy (which is most often followed by buyer’s remorse…) and second are rewarded by not owing someone for it.  I would have done well to have practiced this type of self control earlier in my life….

But let’s say we practice self-control, and see the results or rewards of practicing.  Why then is it so difficult to PERSEVERE?

and to self-control, perseverance

Why, when we are rewarded for being wise, or thinking eternal, do we so often turn back to the temporal, instant gratification?  It’s a hard thing to break, when everything in our lives is instant these days.  We are almost trained to think that instant gratification is good, when my waistline tells me otherwise….

So here is another question – what happens when you practice self-control, and you AREN’T rewarded?  Or worse, you feel as if you were punished for it?  Consider Jesus, and what he endured.  Consider Paul, and what he endured.  Considered David and what he endured when Saul was seeking to take his life.  Why????  I mean, maybe I can understand Jesus, because he’s God and he knows what is going on – and really he sees the sin of the world, and the urgency, I get all that.  But why the other men I mentioned and so many more????

Because.  🙂

Thinking eternal always helps.  I personally don’t think eternal enough.  I don’t think eternal when I get mad at the person who cuts me off.  I don’t think eternal when I buy a Caribou because “I deserve a treat today”.  I don’t think eternal when I would rather win an argument than share love.  I don’t think eternal when I don’t trust God to bring me through even the hardest times, as he has SO MANY times before.  Or when I give in to temptation, because “self-control doesn’t seem to be paying off”……

God never promised us comfort or convenience in this world.  If anyone tells you that is what he wants for us, don’t believe them.  God doesn’t want us to SUFFER – but we are living in a fallen world, and it’s bound to happen.  To all of us, at one time or another.  But there IS comfort, eternal comfort, and JOY in him.  I love this verse from John 16:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The Lord gave me this promise when I found out my dad had cancer…..  While it didn’t take the hurt or loss away, I knew God was with me, and with him.  I knew he was going to take care of him.  I knew I had responsibility, but that it wasn’t UP TO ME to save him.  And I watched while God did amazing things all through my dad’s illness.  I must confess, I don’t praise him enough for that…….

Jesus – I do find my comfort in you.  The only real comfort I’ve ever known.  Yet so often I forget, and look to things of this world to provide what only you can.  Forgive me for that.  And thank you that you love me so, and desire my heart.  I pray you use me for your glory, and for others’ lives to be touched by you.  Cut out those things in me that are all about me – let my life be all about you.  I pray this in your mighty, wonderful, beautiful, awesome name.

Amen……

And to Knowledge, Self-Control….

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8)

In my last post, I talked about “knowledge”.  For me, in the context of this passage, it’s about the knowledge of God and his plans for us.  He’s given us this amazing love letter, this “field manual for life”, if you will.  Yet so many of us don’t know anything about it…..

And for those of you who are like me (there has to be somebody like me….), you may know it, but have struggled, or still struggle with putting it into practice.  I love these verses in the book of James…

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror  and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Many will argue that Christ free’d us from the law.  And I agree.  But I don’t think that means we shouldn’t still follow the law.  Just instead of following the law to SO THAT – to obtain something (self-righteousness), we are following the law BECAUSE – becasuse he first loved us (Righteousness that comes from Christ alone).

I love that “Self-control” is also a character of the fruit of the Spirit.  I wish I could write that I practice self-control well….  But sadly, I can’t.  I’ve given in to lusts of the flesh too often, and too easily.  A key word in Jame’s text is FREEDOM.  That is what Christ gives us – FREEDOM.  But we should be careful not to obsess with thinking it’s freedom from the law – the very law that points us to Christ.  No, it’s freedom from sin.  We are able not to sin.  We are able to practice self-control.  We are able to “be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect”.  If we weren’t, Jesus would not have commanded that of us.

Freedom in Christ comes only from Christ.  And it’s given to us, for his glory.  Hallelujia!