Are we making a difference? Are all the hours of prayer, evangelism and preaching, coupled with the billions of dollars faithfully given in tithes worldwide having any real impact on the world?
I have to confess that one of my greatest fears is to become ineffective and unproductive in my Christian walk. Challenged by a global paradigm shift in mission and ecclesiology I am constantly asking myself the above questions.
Well, before dragging you down into the pit of my own introspection, I better say how thankful I was to get the beginnings of an answer while meditating on the first chapter of 2 Peter.
“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” v.8
I’m probably not going to be able to answer some of the “action” questions so dear to my heart, but “these qualities” seem to go a long way in laying a foundation of simply “being” fruitful.
So what are these qualities?
Well it all begins with “divine power.” v.3 – an encounter with the Holy Spirit, a personal Pentecost. We get the words “dynamo” and “dynamite” from the Greek word “dunamis” used here for power. You need to be operating from your own internal power source of the Holy Spirit. Human effort will not be enough. You need the kind of explosive breakthrough that only an encounter with God can bring.
This power gives us “everything we need for life and godliness.” So, if there is absolutely one thing you really need, it has to be a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit who will make the life of Jesus real to us. We are called to “participate (koinonos) in the divine nature”, and, sharing together in the only true life that exists, we escape the entropy of the world, entering into never-ending vitality.
We then get a list of things to do to be effective in verses 5-7.
“Make every effort!”- As our Western Protestant Christian culture has so overloaded the “free grace” equation, it may come as a shock to some to realise that, even though you may be saved by faith, you still need to make an effort – spontaneous, anointed and joyous, to be effective.
“…add to your faith (pistis) goodness” (arête – valour, excellence). It is great to have faith, but it needs to be switched on by courageous acts of excellence.
“and to goodness knowledge” (gnosis). The classic song says “The greatest thing in all my life is knowing you,” and true intimacy in our relationship with God is an essential for growth. Knowing God will also lead us to a greater knowing of those around us. “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” 1 John 4:20
“…and to self-control, perseverance” (hypomore – to stay under, remain). Hang on in there! Beyond the miracles Paul named perseverance as being one of his major apostolic qualities. In the parable of the sower, it is the perseverance that produces the fruit. “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:15
“…and to perseverance godliness” (eusebeia – well reverent). I’m old enough to remember Manchester United winning the European cup against Benfica. The star player for the Portuguese side was a guy called Eusebio! The “star quality” of a God seeker needs to emanate from your life! My ambition is to become the Right Reverend Robert Reeve!
“…and to godliness, brotherly kindness.” You’ll have to work for the Greek. Think of an American state, a cheese spread and a song by Bruce Springsteen. “Philadelphia” Like the cheese, we need to spread this around! There is nothing more powerful than a group of people who love one another – that is why we are constantly needing to arm ourselves against the enfeebling power of division.
“and to brotherly kindness, love” (agape – sacrificial love). Love is not just a feeling it is an act of the will. We attain to the “divine nature” – “God is love. Whosoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16
So, here we have seven steps to fruitfulness. Apply them in your life’s walk and confirm your Christian identity. “…be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.”
And a final, encouraging promise.
“For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome (does that imply there is also a “poor” welcome?) into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” v.10-11