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For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  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.  But if anyone does not have them, he is short-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed and from his past sins.  1 Peter 1:5-9

A national magazine, The Wittenburg Door, used to publish a monthly “greenie, weenie” award which was granted to some Christian person or group that did an uncommonly stupid thing.  The column was one of the most watched for, and the stories were typically quite funny – but in a sad and tragic way.  We could all make nominations for that award, and if we were honest, maybe even nominate ourselves at times.

The reality is that many persons of seeming great faith can often be the most insensitive, and foolish, and inconsistent people we know.  “Old things are passed away” certainly doesn’t seem to characterize many believers.  Indeed, some seem to become worse, now justifying their behavior with spiritual claims.

Why is this so?  Why do we have people who have genuinely been redeemed, accepted the grace of God, trust in His righteousness alone – but their lives are so tragically inconsistent?

The text from 1 Peter above suggests one key factor.  Peter, writing to believers, acknowledges in the opening part of the chapter the great work God has done in their redemption – the “very great and precious promises” (v. 4) of God, and assurance that “His divine power has given us everything we need” (v. 2).  But then he insists, “For this very reason . . .” supplement your faith.

One commentator noted that for far too many Christians, their spiritual life is one initial great spasm, followed by years of lethargy.  A great beginning – but then nothing.  We often forget that salvation by grace through faith is not the end of our journey, but the beginning.

Peter notes a shopping list of things we need to add to our faith: goodness, knowledge, self-control, and then, lastly, love.  Perhaps that list is, at least in part, progressive.  Love, so easily proclaimed by us, is not the starting point, but rather comes toward the end of a long process of spiritual maturity.  Real love is mature stuff, not for beginners.

Then, finally, notice the promise and warning.  If we do supplement our faith, and enrich it, the text promises in v. 9, that we will be productive and effective, and in v. 10, a promise of stability – “will never fall.”  Finally, to those who enrich their faith there will be a joyous celebration of their entrance into the kingdom – a “rich welcome” (v. 11).

But to those who fail to add to their faith, the warning is severe.  They will be blind or shortsighted – that is, they will not spiritually see things at all.  They will be groping in the dark, stumbling along.  And they will not even remember the forgiveness of their sins.  That is, they will not have a sense of grace, or release and freedom from judgement.  The joy of the Gospel will not be present in their lives.

The importance of this “supplementing” of the faith perhaps can be illustrated in the world of music.  Consider the difference between hearing a work of music with only the melody played; and then hearing it with the full range of harmony and instrumentation – the richness of sounds and tones, the interplay of sub-themes, the trumpets, percussion and symbols.  So it is with our faith.  Faith is surely the theme, the melody – it is the substance of our calling.  But how much richer than faith is, how much alive and vibrant when it is enriched by those qualities to which the Gospel calls us.

The Reformation and our evangelical faith certainly declare Sola Fide – “faith alone” as a watchword of the Gospel.  We vigorously, and I believe correctly, insist that our works do not earn the grace of God.  But sometimes this principle of “faith alone” is tragically misapplied and even misunderstood.  Faith alone saves – but faith alone is not the call of the Gospel.

Supplement your faith!

Lynn R. Buzzard

 

– This article comes from AI’s devotional for lawyers titled, “What Does the Lord Require of You?”

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