As a Christian, we have the privilege of not only being saved by Jesus, but to be given new life so that we would mature and grow to become more like Him. Our calling to grow and become more like Jesus is throughout all of the New Testament. A few examples are: John 15:16, 1 Peter 1:15-16, Titus 2:11-14, Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 1:10, 2 Timothy 1:9.
However, we need to remember the warning that Paul gave in the book of Galatians:
"Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Galatians 3:3
This new life given to us by Jesus is a gift of grace. And just as it is God’s grace that saves us, it is by His grace that we grow and mature and become more like Him.
With that said, God has given us handlebars and helpful ways for us to fan this gift of God from a small flame into a burning fire. It is by God’s grace that we have an opportunity to grow, and it is by His power and Spirit that we have the ability to walk in His grace and mature by faith - but he has also given us very practical steps that He has put in place for us to act on and do our part. As Jesus said, it is when we obey God in faith, and put these into practice that we are blessed (Luke 11:28).
To encourage our spiritual maturity, Peter lays out a general template of how we grow in our faith and become more like Jesus in 2nd Peter 1:5-8.
"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. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8
Here’s a breakdown of the list we find in this section:
- Brotherly Affection
NOTE: Faith is where salvation takes place. Everything from here on our is the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification, which is the life-long process of God’s Spirit making us more like Jesus. When the verses above say “supplement your faith with…” it’s saying to make complete and whole. Not that you are unsaved, but that the purpose of faith is to bring about our relationship with God and our sanctification. So when we “supplement our faith with…” we’re NOT adding to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We are saved by grace through faith alone. However, we are told to corporate with God in bringing about our sanctification by obeying Him in faith.
With that in mind, let's look at how this process works itself out in our lives:
We begin with faith. Nothing can happen apart from faith (Hebrews 11:6).
After faith, we begin finding and encouraging virtue in our lives. As God’s Spirit fills our lives, we supernaturally will begin to seek to obey God by living a more virtues life.
From virtue we are encouraged to grow in knowledge and continue to learn the will of God that we may be even more obedient and near to His good plan for us.
Resulting from knowledge, we are called to self-control. Now that we’re even more aware of God’s plan and purpose, we are called to have self-control and seek to pursue Him over other choices in life.
From self-control we are called to remain steadfast in our lifestyle. That we wouldn’t have self control one day, and then abandon God’s will the next. We are called to walk with God throughout our life.
Through steadfastness comes godliness. It’s been said that what you do defines your character and your character defines who you are. As we continue in self-control and steadfastness, we are becoming more like Jesus and we begin to have godly character.
Eventually, godliness we will grow into brotherly affection. As we become more like Jesus it’ll be normal for us to have a love for His church, just as He has.
And ultimately, brotherly affection grows into general love for God and others.
A quick summary of what we just went over is:
- From faith in God, we are called to seek God’s will for our lives, and be obedient to Him
- We will find our character grow through continuing to seek Him and obey Him consistently.
- From this nearness to God in faith that plays itself out in our everyday lives, we will begin to grow spiritual fruit of brotherly affection and love (see John 15 on bearing fruit).
Another way to put it is:
God’s plan for your life is that you would:
- Know Him (faith)
- Obey Him (virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness)
- Become more like Him (godliness, brotherly affection, love)
Paul then ends this section by telling us that if we do all of these things (“if these qualities are yours”) and if they are growing because we continue to pursue Jesus, then we will keep from “being ineffective or unfruitful.”
So may we be effective and fruitful as we have been called to be, and may we put these into practice.
If you would like to learn more about how to apply these in your life, we highly encourage you to read this book: Spiritual Disciplines by Donald Whitney. You can also read this blog post by Alesha where she encouraged us to build habits and to have perseverance in our spiritual growth.