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Building up believers and the New Testament church

Spiritual Maturity

Adding To Our Faith

"But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Peter 1:5-8). Peter goes on to say that "if you do these things you will never stumble."

When we first consider these things, they may strike us as rather uninteresting and too vague. Many today are looking for something else. Miracles, wonderful music, and great displays of spiritual gifts seem much more attractive and exciting. We tend to measure spiritual maturity by these, but we have no scriptural basis for doing so. Paul said of the Corinthians that they "came behind in no spiritual gift," yet he spoke to them as "carnal" or fleshly--definitely not spiritual. He did not say that spiritual gifts were wrong; in fact, he encouraged their pursuit (I Cor. 14:1), but spiritual gifts are not a measure of spiritual maturity.

Cement foundations require hard work, and they are not the most visible part of the building, but in many ways they are the most essential. The areas Peter addresses are the foundations that must be laid in our lives if we are to stand the storms of life and finish the course set before us. God is deeply concerned with these foundations, and we must focus on them if we are to "grow in grace and the true knowledge" of our Lord Jesus. We are instructed to "give all diligence" in these things. Are we as diligent in these things as we are in other areas of our lives?

The phrase "add to your faith" that precedes the naming of specific areas is very critical. None of these virtues can be produced in our lives separate from a vital faith relationship with Jesus. It is imperative that we understand what this relationship is and how it works. Paul asked the Galatians how they received the Spirit and how the Spirit was supplied to them on a continual basis (Gal. 3:2-5). His answer was "by the hearing of faith." We are told that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).

Peter lays the foundation for his exhortation by reminding his readers that God has given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness, and that we have been made partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1:2-4). This is what happened at new birth. God came to abide within us, and in so doing made us a new creation in Christ Jesus. In the words of Paul, "faith has now come," or to say it another way, a union relationship with Christ by faith has now been made possible. By a miracle of God's grace, we now are a new creation, born of the Spirit. This union is realized and maintained, however, only as we move in response to the indwelling Spirit by faith.

The key to understanding and experiencing growth is knowing the reality of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). God comes to abide within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. He is not outside, trying to get us to follow His example. He is on the inside, doing what we cannot do. We are not listening to voices coming to our natural ears, but responding to the indwelling Spirit who has come to make the things of Jesus ours.

This working is not automatic. Our part is first to believe that what God says about this relationship is true, and then to obey and move in union with His Spirit as He moves within us. If I doubt that I really am a new creation in Christ Jesus and able to obey God in all things, I question the character and grace of God and destroy the relationship. If I do not move when He moves, I manifest my lack of submission to His authority, and this also destroys the relationship. Jesus must be Lord in reality, not just in theory. This "faith relationship" must be realized in every area that Peter is addressing. In very simple words: we are living His life.

Next: Virtue