by Kim Reisman
World Methodist Evangelism
As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness! And by that same mighty power, he has given us all of his rich and wonderful promises. He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in his divine nature. So make every effort to apply the benefits of these promises to your life. Then your faith will produce a life of moral excellence. A life of moral excellence leads to knowing God better. Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-8, NLT)
One of the core commitments at World Methodist Evangelism is the belief that we show and share the love of Jesus through the wholeness of our lives – through our words, through our deeds, and through the signs that the Holy Spirit manifests in us and around us. Flowing from that commitment is the belief that it is entirely possible for us to live out our faith in visible, tangible ways – that there are things we can do that indicate to the world that God is at the center of our lives and that we take the witness of Scripture seriously in the choices we make and the commitments we undertake. It is these visible and tangible ways of living that make up our moral life – the godly life as Peter refers to it.
Our behavior and our faith are intimately intertwined as is reflected in our Scripture for this month. Peter writes, “As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.” Clearly deepening our relationship with Christ is crucial if we are to live lives of moral significance. Conversely, living a “life of moral excellence leads to knowing God better.” There is an obvious interdependency here. But it’s not simply a neatly packaged set of “steps” that will instantly make us morally excellent or magically place God at the center of our lives. Instead, our faith experience is a process of deepening our relationship with God through prayer and spiritual discipline, through the study of Scripture, and through a commitment to the moral life. Each of these components in turn strengthens the others as the process continues for the entirety of our lives. As our faith grows, our knowledge about Christ, about Scripture, about the various tenets of the Christian faith becomes productive and useful; that experience then deepens our faith, and on it goes.
How then do we begin to be “more productive and useful in our knowledge of Jesus Christ”? How do we strengthen our moral lives? The foundation for such an undertaking is very simple. We begin with moral sincerity. We must truly want to live a moral life; we must earnestly desire to apply Scripture to our daily lives with integrity and power.
There may be some of us who need to start one step earlier. We may need to begin by asking God to help us want to live a moral life. A deliberate commitment to moral integrity that extends beyond simply wanting to “be a good person” may be something that has been externally placed upon us rather than springing from within ourselves. Thus, our first task is to ask God to help us desire that deeper commitment, to help us actually want it rather than feeling we ought to have it.
As we begin the process of strengthening our moral selves, we must start where we are – not where we think we should be. We must ask for and accept the forgiveness God offers in order to be free from the guilt of the past that so often constrains us. For some of us this is an ongoing part of our spiritual journey, but for others this may be a giant first step. Regardless of where you are on your journey, moral sincerity is a gift from God; for it is God whose divine power gives us everything we need to live a godly life.
A second foundation for a commitment to the moral life is the community of faith. Moral excellence is a “lived reality” that is strengthened by the community of believers. As social beings, we are constantly being shaped by the culture that surrounds us. Thus, if we are to succeed in our commitment to the moral life, we must surround ourselves with others who treasure virtue, who are dedicated to teaching and living the moral life. These monthly devotionals may be helpful on a personal level. They may launch you on your journey of knowing God more deeply and living in ways that reflect that relationship. However, our striving to apply Scripture to our daily lives with integrity and power – to live out our faith in visible and tangible ways – that striving will not be consistently rewarding without the support of a morally serious community committed to providing direction and encouragement.
Following Jesus involves action. We commit ourselves to Scripture, to prayer, and to living in ways that reflect our faith. In other words, we behave in ways that reflect God’s place at the center of our lives. This behavior is not confined to specific activities such as church attendance; but it extends to our daily lives and all the decisions and actions that take place there. As we commit ourselves to following in this way, Peter’s word will become more and more true in our lives, we “will grow to have genuine love for everyone” – something desperately needed in our world.
As you pray and fast this month, I challenge you to think seriously about the ways in which you want to strengthen the moral fabric of your life and then find a community that can support you in your effort. As you do this, I pray that you will remember that through the Holy Spirit, Jesus has given us “everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness! And by that same mighty power, he has given us all of his rich and wonderful promises.”