2007-04-05 - Layer on Layer
2 Peter 1:5-9 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. (NASB)
This reminds me of the progression of arithmetic and mathematics.
First we learn our numbers. Then we learn to add and subtract. But we are told we can not subtract a larger number from a smaller number. Then negative numbers are taught one day and it is then possible to subtract a larger number from a smaller number. The mechanics are the same, but a new concept has been added. The same holds true with many mathematical rules as the years go by. One by one new concepts are added and old rules are removed - division by zero, continuous functions, unit circles, taking the square root of negative numbers, etc. As these new concepts are added, and more, the math becomes more powerful until you can model anything and know how it should behave before the first screw is ever turned. The first Boeing 747 flew, the Space Shuttle lifted off, the Apollo spacecraft and Lunar Module behaved as the designers and engineers expected where failure would have been disastrous.
The list in the above verses are building blocks just like the years of math classes. Diligence in learning the basics of Christian faith will build excellence. Once you know what you believe and why, self control becomes a simple matter of following that knowledge. This builds confidence in faith which draws into perseverance and on up to the point where faith is expressed in love.
The Apostle John was probably the last living Apostle to know Jesus Christ in His time on Earth. His constant reminder was, "love one another". It was the new commandment that Jesus gave his disciples at the Last Supper (John 13:34). In many languages, including Greek, there are multiple words for English calls 'love'. There are erotic, emotional, brotherly, parental and very selfless expressions of the single English word. It is a wonder there is not even more confusion than there is on the topic. We use the word love a great deal. We love our new car or clothes, and we love our children using the same word. They clearly speak of different emotions. But the word that John was using is agape (gk.) expressing a very pure and selfless love - an unconditional love.
This is the love that took Jesus to the cross ... for us. Before the human race was created, God knew we would fall. He knew we would rebel against the one rule He gave us - eat not of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, lest ye die. Even with the penalty clearly explained, we did it. And even though we threw the Garden of Eden, the direct fellowship with God and the love that its perfection expressed back in the face of God, God continued to love us. He evicted us from the garden to protect us. One-by-one, own our excuses have been removed until we are left knowing that we have sinned, falling short of perfection. And Jesus put aside His glory and became one of us to show us the nature of God and His love for us. In that perfect, sinless life Jesus crushed the power of sin and death showing us pure, unconditional love by dying in our place.
This is the love we learn layer on layer, precept on precept.