Fruit is tasty. With the exception of my seven-year old, who is riddled by culinary oddities, everyone agrees plump, explode-in-your-face juicy fruit is the best. No one more so than the Apostle Peter.
In 2nd Peter 1, he begins by establishing the grand Christian starting point for the life of faith: all followers of Christ share an equal standing before God. This is because they receive the perfection of Christ himself in the eyes of God, and needn’t continue a life of seeking recognition for their own rightness. Lofty theology? Not so much as it is practical teaching. It has inescapable bearing on the smallest details of life as a person matures.
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. If grace and peace were multiplied in the life of a person united to God in Christ, how would that affect their character? Peter presents a fascinating chain of character development, beginning with the implication that growing robust character qualities requires daily focus and…practice. We get good at the things we practice, and inward transformation proceeds from practicing trust in God’s promises that relate to the entire scope of life.
What proceeds from faith directly relates to what is added to it. Peter explains that, first and foremost, we must add moral excellence to our faith. This makes sense because the Bible describes us as deeply flawed creatures that need redemption and restoration. The link between faith and morality is active trust in the pledge of assistance God has made to those who trust his provision. As God’s Spirit awakens moral sensibility in hidden thoughts and intentions, it becomes possible for the human intellect to engage with redeemed desires. This marrying of facts, experience, and divine influence produces wisdom.
Proverbs 18:15 says “an intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Wisdom is the right application of knowledge. Everybody acquires information, but wisdom encourages virtue, i.e., moral excellence. This reality-accepting kind of knowledge makes self-control possible. It persistently erodes illusions that guard unspoken comfortable turf, making it less necessary to react to threatening words and occurrences. We may even find liberation from compulsions and addictions.
Expanding control over our affections and appetites increases our resolve and makes us tenacious. The Bible calls this spiritual tenacity steadfastness. As we become more steadfast, more reliable from God’s work in us, we become able to accept the testing of our faith as an advantage that is perfecting us in ways God intends.
It becomes possible then to see why god-like-ness requires training. Virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness: these are character attributes that must be learned progressively over a lifetime, but that produce sweet rest in the soul with each new learning. Godliness makes our road rage in the journey of life transform into a disposition of fondness for one another; a brotherly affection not rooted in manipulation or passing circumstance.
Thus we find ourselves pressing toward the endgame of our existence: love. God is love, and for those who trust him he has given us his pledge to make us like him. Love is our intended aim and end. Love that transcends circumstance and selfishness does not happen naturally in this broken and beautiful age.
Love brings us full circle to the delightful flavor of life-giving fruit. Do we want want our lives to count, to not be ineffectual and fruitless? The path to the fruit-bearing orchard routes through knowledge of Jesus.