Supplement to Subtract

As Christian we all get concerned sometimes about removing worry, doubt or fear or some nagging sin from our daily life. We know, most of the time what the truth is about ourselves and whether or not we are sleeping well with a good conscience or whether we are being kept up with something or someone that is weighing us down. Sometimes we think, “this is has been an issue for so long…how can I get rid of it?” Here are things to think about from a different angle. These are two portions of God’s Word that have stuck in my mind recently and have been a real help to the extent that I obey them and learn to trust Him more in the process. I hope they help you too! I find that they carry truth that is vitally linked together as I want less of me and more of Him!

 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
2 Peter 1:5-7

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

Faith is Key and…
Faith is the key.  We must start with trusting and believing Him. Then and only then does Peter say add to “it” – faith – and good will follow, but it does include the ‘ands’ that link these qualities together.  Later in the chapter (2 Peter 1:9) it says that if we don’t we will lose our eyesight and become nearsighted. It reminds me of when Jesus said that to him who ‘had’ more would be given and to him who had nothing even what he did have would be taken away in light of investing in the kingdom of God.(Matthew 25:29) It sounds as if God expects us to continue to grow, not shrink or coast or plateau but to increase. God is into to adding and not subtracting. But what if we need to truly ‘take away’ some things from our life….habits, sins, etc.? I think it has more to do with adding, and that in the adding the subtracting begins to happen as a result. The more we are attracted to Him, the less the draw will be towards sin and the wisdom of this world.

Faith Does Not Camp Alone But is Drawn to the Light
Like Jesus, faith does not abide alone – see John 12:24 – the seed goes into the ground to die for sure, and then to bring increase. Hebrews says we must believe  that He ‘is’ – i.e. have faith in Him for His existence – and also it adds that I must trust that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. The object in Hebrews 11:6 is twofold, if we are to be pleasing to God and if we are to be drawing near to Him we must believe things about Him. Being the King of the Universe – the Most Holy God of purist light and glory – we are beholden to please Him but also to be (seemingly invited) to desire to draw near to Him!  It is too good to be true, so yes, “I’ll take two measures of drawing near to Him please!!” How could I not want to get close to a God who is this amazing – that He wants me to? But what is the Bible trying to really say in Hebrews and how does that relate to 1 Peter 1:5-7?

God’s Good Desire – Our Closeness to Him
What I am learning from Hebrews 11 is that God actually desires a sinner like me to trust Him. But what specifically am I called to trust in? That He is a rewarder. That is inviting. That is a welcoming God – He wants to reward me. Is it for good works? No. It is a reward for simply believing in Him and wanting to be close – drawing near. This tells me something. He is good. He is really good. He is loving. 1 John 3:16 (the other John 3:16 in the Bible) says that love is defined – love is graded and at the top of the curve is Jesus dying for us so that we could be brought back into relationship with God. You want to know what love looks like – look at Jesus giving up His life to make it possible for me to get close to Him. My sin separated me – it killed our relationship and only His death made it possible – but I had to believe it – accept it – and believe that when I did I would receive an instant reward – Him.

Even after I am in Him for awhile I can receive more – by growing in my faith and knowledge of Him. My obedience and being further set apart for His glory means I am going to be rewarded time and time again with more of Him. I am continually drawing near to Him, in deeper humility, in more thanksgiving and in more obedience and He is no man’s debtor. He rewards me with new understandings of eternal truth that does not change. I am the one being changed.

God’s Goodness – Virtue
What does this have to do – for heaven’s sake – with 1 Peter’s ditty? It is the first thing in the list, virtue. We are told before anything else to “supplement” or add virtue to our faith. It means moral excellence or purity. In a word – goodness on a God-scale. Not just good feelings or karma or my idea of goodness – purity of motive and thought and a deep goodness that is linked, inseparably to God. He alone is virtue, and He is virtue incarnated. Jesus was good. Jesus is the perfect reflection of the nature of God (see Hebrews 1) and when I want to understand the goodness of God the best place to start is with Jesus. When Peter says to add virtue to my faith – it is really the natural thing to do. In faith I am already focused on Him and when you look at Him you want Him. You want more of “I am my beloved’s and He is mine” to be the natural exchange of two persons – one divine one human. That is relationship. My growing in faith means adding more of His traits so that more of His image is restored in me – contrary to and in total resistance to the fall – God is restoring what was lost in Eden!

This changes virtue from the legalistic mentality to the true beauty that it is. It is glorious because it is a reflection of  the very heart of our God – He is good – and He loves to share/reward those who turn to Him with His goodness/virtue simply because purity is a good thing. There is no fly in His ointment, no spot or wrinkle or anything that corrupts – it is pure, purer than the whitest snow…

Purity means Peril & Progress
That ‘virtue” of purity is so rare in our world – and everything the world is doing fights it -villain-like against this. The devil is corrupt and wants to share his corruptness and thereby ruin people so He hates what is not corrupt, namely purity or virtue. He is “good” at it. We must identify his schemes with the lens of Scripture and the guidance of the Spirit – not just so we can campaign for goodness but so that we can be good. When we do, the light will be so glorious that others will be drawn to it, first in curiosity, but then some will be prompted to believe. They, like us will be drawn into the dance of faith, learning and adding to and growing up in Christ. The side benefit being in the battle for mature faith will be the great subtraction. When you get a taste of this God of ours – you lose the propensity for worry about the affairs of this life. The more settled you become, the more determined, the less distracted. You become more like Jesus. You subtract immorality, because you want to get virtue – but not by ‘subtracting’ first but by supplementing faith with it and the other qualities mentioned in 1 Peter 1. You are really in pursuit of Christ in this ‘faith’ walk – and He then in turn gives you – He rewards you, with more of Himself and you want more and it is more, of Him – and He draws you closer, and then you want to be like Him. It is a good cycle because it is upwards and not the normal downward spiral that so many seem to fall into even within the church.

So the natural thing to do is to copy Him because you are falling in love with Him more each day. Probably the first thing you learned about God is that God is holy – pure – all good no evil, not one little bit. He is virtue. The definition of all that good is the three times Holy God. But do we realize how much more we are saying when we say that God is good that goes beyond just holiness? He is good in that He loves. The son wants to be like his dad because he has realized that his Dad is a hero – that he is a “good guy.”  When we are drawn into Him, into Jesus, we are drawn by chords of love. The love is love because it is good love. It wants what is supremely good for its object. Then we want to be and to act like Him, the originator and the continual giver of perfect, loving goodness.

1 Peter’s message begins by stating that “by faith” is the only way to go – but we not to stop at faith alone because it is not alone by definition but meant to go on and on in faith, supplementing our faith first with virtue and then with every single facet of who God is. In this we subtract sin and bring every thought into captivity to Christ. Though Satan will, no doubt try to come after and steal it, and though we may stumble and fall sometimes in our faith pursuit of it – we must add virtue to our faith. We must persevere by His grace and continue to fight the good fight…of faith!

Love
The end of the list is so packed with poignancy. 1 Peter 1:7 says the end is love. The book end on the left is moral excellence and on the right end – love…with equal measures of knowledge, self-control, stead-fastness, godliness and affection filling out the middle of this ‘cake.’ I believe that the best definition of God’s nature, fully revealed in Jesus Christ is love. Love is the most delicious part of the cake, it is the essential icing and not just empty calories. 1 John 4:8 says this implicitly – God is love. 1 John 4:19 says we love because He first loved us.

So what we have is…you start with faith, you grow in faith by adding to, or supplementing your faith with qualities starting with virtue. When He is done growing you up in Himself you become like Him – and you end with love, the genuine love that is only from Him is now in you. So really, you are richer and not poorer for all the giving that you must do. The only thing that is subtracted is that which is not pure, or non-Godly. When He is done with us we will resemble His Son – the true epitome of and expression of pure, divine love.

Hallelujah for the Cross and all that flows from it down to us, the place where love was poured out and came down to us!

It is what drew out our trust and hope – and this kind of hope does not dissapoint.
Indeed, we love because He first loved us!

Amen

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