5-9So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.
(2 Peter 1:5-9)
Peter opens this second epistle to the church with a reminder that the salvation we have been given is all because of the "straight dealing" and intervention of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Everything we need to get to know God better has already been given to us in the gift of salvation - we just need to apply it to our lives. The very ability to get to know God intimately is not something we have on our own - it is a gift directly from Jesus.
Now, Peter focuses us on building on what we have been given - salvation should lead to a life change (sanctification). The process of being "cleaned up once" (salvation) leads to the life-long process of being "cleaned up, transformed, and renewed" on an ongoing basis (sanctification). All with the intention of bringing us to a place of spiritual maturity in Christ. Peter directs us the allow for good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love to be "worked into" the life we live on a daily basis - these compliment the basic faith we were given at the point we reached out to God in salvation. I will spend some time elaborating on each of these over the next several days.
Good character - character is often referred to as the sum total of the traits that form the individual nature of who we are. Our character is made up of both the good qualities and the various peculiarities that make us uniquely who we are. It involves moral qualities by which we live, ethical standards by which we form judgments, and the principles upon which we base our decisions in life. If there is one thing that requires change when we come to Christ, it would be our "character" - the sum total of the traits that form what others term as our "reputation".
We possess both good and bad qualities. Some of these qualities or peculiarities are already "good" at the point of our salvation - such as a person who has the quality of being a hard worker. Some of them are likely to be viewed by God as "not so good" - such as our tendency to want our own way. Each trait makes us uniquely who we are at the point of our salvation and lends to the unique way God will move in our lives as we grow in him.
The "good character" that God wants us to work toward is really something that focuses on the set of moral and ethical beliefs we have formed over the course of our life prior to being welcomed into the family of God. Apart from Christ, the standards we may have chosen to live by may have been self-focused, and even damaging to both our own life and that of others. Therefore, God wants us to allow his Spirit to work on those character traits that don't align with what he views as good, honoring, and solid.
When we spend time with God, asking him to reveal the parts of our character that do not align with his standards, he is faithful to point out opportunities for growth. The key to growing in Christ is really two-fold: being willing to be exposed for who we are; and being willing to re-align our priorities, actions, and principles of life with the standards he lays out in his Word. It is a matter of willing surrender that produces "good character" - laying down our old beliefs and flawed standards while embracing the standards he provides.
This process is uncomfortable at first - even downright unpleasant. This is because the process of transforming our moral standards is counter-intuitive to our very sinful nature. It is sometimes like a process of battle - we resist a little, yield a little, struggle a little more, eventually submitting, but not without the battle. Our will is strong - yet our heart desire is pulling us toward the "good character" God desires to see produced.
Peter reminds us that the very power to live the life we have been given is provided by Christ himself - it is not in our own ability to that we make this exchange of character. If we keep that in mind, the disappointment we experience in shifting from one set of behaviors (bad) to the another (good) can be a little easier. All we are asked to do is take the steps of obedience - God does the rest. He is the one that regenerates what needs the transformation - all we do is take the steps he asks us to take (as difficult as they may be). What is God asking you to step out into today? Where is he focusing his attention in your life? Chances are good that it is with the intention of producing within you "good character" where a character "flaw" now exists. Don't grow weary in the process of sanctification - the rewards are greater than the battle.