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, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
For most people, the whole self-control and perseverance bit is really tricky. That’s ok. Keep with it. I want to remind you that Peter is not really laying out a linear process. It’s not like you have to master one virtue before you can move on to the next. In developing the other virtues, you will find it easier to make significant progress in the virtues that give you the most difficulty.
Let me illustrate what I mean. I have been going to the gym regularly for a couple of years now. I am still TERRIBLE when it comes to pull-ups. I try, but I can only do about 3 or 4 in a row. So should I just give up? No. I should focus on other exercises that are going to help strengthen the muscles needed to perform pull-ups (triceps, traps, forearms, core, etc.). As I strengthen my whole body, I will become stronger in areas where I was once weak.
If you’re struggling with self-control, for instance, then keep working at it. But also keep working at goodness and faith and godliness and love. All these will work together to help strengthen your willpower to do the right thing.
This brings us to this week’s virtue: GODLINESS.
That’s a really church-y word. When was the last time you and your friends talked about godliness? When was the last time you heard someone described as godly? Have you ever added godliness to a list of character traits you look for in a potential boyfriend/girlfriend?
So what does Peter mean when he tells us to add godliness to our perseverance? I think it’s helpful to talk about more common words that mean a similar thing to more religious words. In this case, a helpful stand in for “godliness” could be “devotion.”
We use the word “devoted” quite a bit more, and that’s a concept we are more familiar with. We know what it means to be devoted, committed, loyal, all-in. Think about everything we can be devoted to:
- Significant others
DIE-HARD OR BANDWAGON?
- Entertainment Value
- The entertainment value that a fan derives from spectating motivates him/her to remain a loyal fan. Entertainment value of team sports is also valuable to communities in general.
- This is described by Passikoff as “the acceptance of the game as real and meaningful”.
- Fan Bonding
- Fan bonding is where a fan bonds with the players, identifying with them as individuals, and bonds with the team.
- Team History and Tradition
- Shank gives the Cincinnati Reds, all-professional baseball’s oldest team, as an example of a team where a long team history and tradition is a motivator for fans in the Cincinnati area.
- Group Affiliation
- Fans receive personal validation of their support for a team from being surrounded by a group of fans who also support the same team.
So what does this have to do with 2 Peter?
NO BANDWAGON CHRISTIANS
Are you a godly person? You may not know how to answer that. But are you devoted to God? Or better yet, are you more devoted to God than you are to anyone or anything else? Anything less is idolatry. That’s why I think the apostles made such a big deal about it in their writings.
Paul especially emphasizes the need for godliness in his first letter to Timothy, a young pastor in Ephesus. Look at how much Paul tells Timothy about godliness:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (2:1-2)
Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. (3:16)
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (4:8)
They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (6:4-8)
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (6:11)
Live a godly life. Godliness is a natural product of the gospel at work in your life. Godliness is more beneficial than physical training because it will last into eternity. You want to be successful? Pair your godliness with contentment and you’ll have all you ever needed. Pursue godliness.
You begin to think that maybe Paul is serious about this whole godliness thing.
FROM BANDWAGON TO DIE-HARD
So what can we do to develop godliness in our own lives? How can we become more devoted to God?
I think it’s impossible to do apart from the community of believers. I think godliness can only be developed in the context of the church. So let’s take a quick look back at those factors at play in fan loyalty and see how they might apply to godliness.
- Experiential value
- The experiences may be entertaining, but entertainment will ultimately leave you unfulfilled. Think about all the experiences you get to have because you are a part of a church – weekly worship gatherings, church camp, retreats, youth rallies, mission trips, service projects, and on and on. Most of all, you get to experience the power of God at work in his people. How awesome is that?!
- I’ll be the first to admit that the church can be one of the least authentic places. But we can change that. We can make it a place of genuine community. Junior high and high school are full in fake people and inauthentic relationships. When you’re devoted to God, you get to be a part of a community that truly cares. You get to be a part of something real, something that matters.
- Christian bonding
- You get to make genuine connections with men and women of all generations, all socioeconomic statuses, all education levels, all different career paths, and so on. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, latino, male, female, young, old, rich, poor. We are all bonded together through Christ.
- Church history and tradition
- The Green Bay Packers just started their 100th season as a professional football team. That’s impressive. Colleges around the country have rich traditions surrounding their sporting events. That’s cool. But when you join a church, you are embracing a tradition that reaches back thousands of years. Countless millions of men and women across the globe throughout the centuries have been participating in the same exact rituals and traditions as we do today – communion, preaching, singing, reading of Scripture, baptism, etc.
- Group affiliation
- You know that you belong to something bigger than yourself. And you know that no matter where you go in the world you can find a community of believers who worship the same God and love the same Jesus and are filled with the same Holy Spirit. You have bothers and sisters, a bona fide family, across the globe.