Do you know someone who has really made an impact on your life? Someone whose example, care or instructions helped you become more effective and productive? I’m sure you do. We typically have learned much of what we know from others. Well, in 2 Peter 1 we are told how to be effective and productive in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as what would cause us not to be.
2 Peter 1:5-9
(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, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, 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 if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Before I go any further I would like to discuss these two words, effective and productive. If you have worked any job, those terms have probably come up. Your worth as an employee is based on how effective and productive you are. You’ve probably seen people get fired because they weren’t effective. I worked in sales for years, and being productive was rewarded big-time. The more effective and productive you are, the more valuable you are in the work force. Of course you can’t become more valuable to God because Jesus Christ himself, on the Cross, paid the price for your new life as a child of God. It does not get more expensive than that! You are priceless! Now it’s time to act like the masterpiece you are in Christ!
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we are to be effective and productive in: our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Think about this, we are not to be effective and productive in our own abilities or strengths, but in our knowledge of Jesus, our Lord. This word “knowledge” is defined as coming from a thorough participation, a knowledge that powerfully influences the knower. We can read about Jesus, but he doesn’t want us to stop there. He wants to be in relationship with us and powerfully influence us so that we can be effective and productive for him. This will require us to pay attention and actually follow his example and instructions.
When we look at the qualities we are to possess in increasing measure, it’s easy to notice that they depict so much of the character of Christ: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Surely he “made every effort” to live out these qualities and that is what we are also told to do. These qualities just don’t happen because we are born again. We must continually, and with humility, strive for intimacy with our Lord so that we can be like him. How sad to think of believers who did know the Lord Jesus to a degree, whose lives once bore great fruit but who became “ineffective and unproductive,” and even hurtful to others. That is why Peter, inspired by God, is saying, “make every effort.”
In Chapter 2, verse 20, he goes into more detail: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” Unfortunately, I’ve seen this, and it has always perplexed me. How could people who walked in such power, knew God’s Word, saw miracles, and knew the Lord Jesus get entangled in the world again? 1 Peter 5:8 gives us the answer: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” People who bear fruit are very “tasty” to him. That is why we need to be “alert” and “make every effort.”
Think for a moment what it looks like when you are making an effort to accomplish something. Do you have a plan? Set time aside? Have to say “no” to other things? When we consider the godly qualities we are to exemplify, we see that they don’t just happen. How will taking this seriously look to you? What efforts will you make?
I think it is interesting that goodness is the first quality listed. The King James Version reads, “virtue,” from the Greek root meaning “to lift up.” It is actually uprightness or moral excellence, being someone people can look up to because your choices are morally right. The Devil deceives people by tempting them to make immoral choices and do things that stem from lust, greed, pride, or fear. That is why we must be determined to make right choices no matter how we feel.
One of the things we know about Jesus from reading the Bible is that he was “…tempted in every way, just as we are —yet was without sin” (Heb. 4:15). How did he do it?! In Matthew 4 we see how he did it. Jesus specifically quoted the verses in God’s Word that spoke against each particular temptation. One way to make every effort is to recognize where we are being tempted and speak God’s Word to the evil that is influencing us. Think through where you are typically tempted and write down verses to combat (and I mean combat) those thoughts.
That brings us to the next attribute we are to “make every effort” to have, which is “knowledge.” When Jesus was tempted, something tells me that he didn’t have to pull out a scroll and look up the passages he quoted. No, he had committed them to memory. We too must know the truth and hold it in our hearts. Satan, “the father of lies” (John 8:44), knows how important this is, and that is why he constantly promotes lies.
Once we know the truth, the next quality, “self control,” plays an important role. Just to know something isn’t enough; we must make ourselves do what is right. Sometimes that requires knowing yourself and planning ahead. You know the temptations you find yourself easily succumbing to: gossiping, lashing out inappropriately, lying, ______ (fill in the blank). How will you respond next time? Maybe, like Jesus, you might want to take a moment to ask for wisdom on how to handle your situation (see John 8:1-11).
It seems that “perseverance” is a perfect fit as our next attribute. It means “to stand under pressure, to endure through difficult circumstances, to do what is right.” The important factor here is that we stand through the trials with the strength Jesus Christ supplies (Phil. 4:13). He is “the Vine,” and we must cling to him with all we are (John 15:1ff). Jesus wants us to be “clingy,” that is, dependent on him, always asking for help, sticking close to him, and keeping in mind that we will see him face to face one day. That is what will get us through our trials with peace and joy as well as develop a spiritual maturity in us, which is what our next quality is all about.
“Godliness” is total devotion to God, which manifests itself in a very real relationship with our Father. As Jesus totally exemplified, godliness is the firm conviction that you are God’s child and are all about doing His will. The very first recorded words of Jesus, at twelve years old, were how he must be about his Father’s business. We too can have this mindset. We are God’s children and are called to the “family business,” which is owned by God and managed by His firstborn Son, Jesus!
Since we are a family, cooperating together, the next quality is a must: “brotherly kindness.” Galatians 6:10 says it plainly: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Looking at Jesus’ example, we see over and over how he treated people with kindness and respect, from little children to tax collectors to demonized men hiding out in the tombs. He didn’t disregard people because they were a bit dysfunctional. The people to whom he spoke harsh words were the religious leaders who were mistreating God’s people.
The last quality in the above list really embodies them all, and that is “love.” When I have difficulty loving someone, I need to ask: “How does Jesus love them?” Jesus laid down his life for every person alive so that those who so desire can have everlasting life and know both him and God intimately. Keeping this in mind helps me realize that I might be able to help others understand Jesus’ love for them. This really is our ultimate purpose as believers: helping others to know Jesus.
The above qualities are what being effective and productive looks like. The next verse (2 Pet. 1:9) is really astounding: “But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” Basically, it means we are in the dark. When we forget that we are new, cleaned up people, we stumble around in darkness. Too often we forget that we are forgiven, and we are then blinded to what we have been given as children of light. Spending our waking moments in condemnation and self-loathing is so unproductive and unnecessary. We each need to remind wourselves who we really are: a new creation in Christ. We need to accept our forgiveness and get busy adding goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.
So make every effort to know Jesus better. He wants to influence your life. He wants you to be effective and productive for him!