His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 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.
(2 Peter 1:3-7 ESV)
The opening of 2 Peter is one of the best places in all of Scripture to see the importance of the old axiom “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” at work. It is generally so easy to see the teaching in the Epistles as an end in itself, as if the highest order of God’s self-revelation is found here. But as Jesus himself observed, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39 ESV) This is Peter bearing witness about Christ; it is not moral or ethical teaching for the church. In fact, Jesus offered very little of the latter. He offered a great deal in terms of revelation though. God has given us, in Jesus, everything that pertains to life and godliness. We need to be told little else when we have that.
The way we get life and godliness is by knowing him. Period. The more I know him, the more alive I will be. I will be more alive spiritually – that goes without saying – but I’ll be more alive in all other ways too. To say that Jesus improves me is an understatement.
Did you ever wonder what God wanted you to do? He tells us here: you and I are called to his own glory and excellence. As my friend Michael Kelly Blanchard once wrote:
The moon is a dark and barren stone flung by an ancient sling
With no soft beauty of its own; no native gift to bring
Its glory comes from the setting sun that moves beyond the hill
And the brokenness of Jesus reflects God’s glory still
We shine because we’re shined upon -- the mirror glint of grace
A loan of light for a dark, dark night, like the Moon’s reflecting face
The glory, of course, is his. The excellence is his. But we’re called to be this impossible thing: glorious and excellent. And yet it isn’t impossible, because we are ingrafted into the vine; we drink the same cup; we have the same blood flowing through us: the atoning blood of Jesus. That’s what he means when he says we partake of the divine nature. That’s what so impossible. And yet, Jesus also said, “with men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Be careful not to treat your life in Christ as if it were a water faucet you could turn on to whatever level of flow you like – including “off”. You can’t. That’s what makes it so awful when, knowing Christ, we veer off to do things we know don’t please him. The divine nature is IN us. It goes with us in full measure wherever we go.
Having said that we who believe bear his image all the time, no matter what, there is something we can do. It doesn’t improve us. All it does is put us in a position where God is free to do in us what he wants. Think of it like taking vitamins versus having an operation. The operation will make you better. The vitamins merely build a favorable environment for when you need the operation. Here are the supplements you can take: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.
My problem, and I’m going to have to spend some time reflecting on this, is that there is just so much vitamins can do for you if you insist on eating all the wrong things. I’m still alive, but I keep clogging my arteries with jealousy, envy, greed and the like. I keep taxing my heart because I make myself fat with desire, strife, gossip and slander. Thank God there is a Good Physician who can do the heart transplant I’m going to need if I keep pursuing those things instead of taking a few simple vitamins and getting some good honest exercise.