When I misbehaved, I was afraid of being rejected and scorned. When I became a Christian, I brought that same belief into my relationship with God. I was sure that the only way God would love me was being a “good Christian.”
I was wrong. I had reversed the pattern and nature of the way God relates to believers. It was a twisted, backward understanding of the Christian life.
2 Peter 1:3-11 helped to straighten out my thinking. It contains the one of the clearest and most succinct explanation of the true nature of God’s relationship with believers found in the Bible.
This is the Christian life.
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 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. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The passage begins (verses 3-4) with the grace of God reaching sinners. God makes the first move. This is always the way.
It was by his divine power that he has given to us everything we need for a godly life. There is nothing that we did to get what is needed for a godly life. God did it. He gave it. He gave us everything we need. Not some things. Everything.
And along with giving us everything we need for a godly life he called us to experience his own glory and goodness.
God gave. God called. It was all done by God for us.
He did these things for us so that we may participate in the divine nature, that is, have an intimate connection with him, and be freed from the evil and decay of the world.
It is all a work of God. It is given to us as a gift of grace and mercy.
Then verses 5 – 11 show us what our response should be to such a wonderful gift.
Now that we have been made alive and called to glory and goodness, because he has given us everything we need for a godly life, we ought to “make every effort” to walk in that good and godly life.
How do we that? By depending on the divine power with which he has gifted us.
What will it look like when we are walking in that good and godly life? We will live lives in which our time and energy go into increasing in faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.
And, when, depending on divine power, we make every effort to grow in these characteristics of a godly person, we can trust that we will not stumble as we go through this life, and will “receive a rich welcome from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
This is the Christian life.
It is important to note the order. First, God comes with grace and mercy for sinners that gives them everything they need for a godly life. Then, having received grace, and depending on divine power, they respond with making every effort to grow in godliness.
The Christian life is not, as is so often portrayed, “get good” then God will be gracious to you. The Christian life is not increase in faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love, and then God will be merciful to you.
The Christian life is God comes to sinners with mercy and grace who then respond with love and obedience.
I often slip back into thinking that God and others will only like me if I’m good. I pray for the grace to lean into his great and precious promises. I pray the same for you.