Is it possible to improve upon perfection? I think this is an age-old pursuit. Many try to "improve" themselves, constantly seeking the next best job, or the next cosmetic enhancement - all in an effort to seek the elusive state of "perfection" they desire. Truth be told, we pursue things, positions, relationships, and even life-altering procedures in an effort to address this desire to be "something we are not" at this present moment. Somehow we have this idea of "improving ourselves" a little out of context - for all improvement begins at the point of saying "yes" to Jesus and continues as we actively engage in this relationship with him day by day. A new job, a glamorous new relationship, nor a nip and tuck, will accomplish the genuine change we desperately need - only Jesus' Spirit within can do this.
Do your best to improve your faith. You can do this by adding goodness, understanding, self-control, patience, devotion to God, concern for others, and love. If you keep growing in this way, it will show that what you know about our Lord Jesus Christ has made your lives useful and meaningful. But if you don’t grow, you are like someone who is nearsighted or blind, and you have forgotten that your past sins are forgiven. (2 Peter 1:5-9 CEV)
We have a responsibility to grow in our faith - in so doing, we are "bettering" ourselves in a way God actually "plans for". You see, at the moment we said "yes" to Jesus, he made us perfectly righteous - a standing of holiness we could never attain by anything we did, did not do, or tried to improve upon in our lives. Yet as we walk daily with Jesus, there is this transformation which occurs within whereby we are changed from "glory to glory". In other words, walk long enough AND close enough to Jesus and he will change you from the inside out.
Everyday "improvements" occur when we get close enough to Jesus to actually allow him to change us. He brings about the desire to choose goodness (moral excellence, virtue) over those previously dominant choices toward what is a little shady or lacking in moral terpitude. The idea of moral terpitude is that of a "community standard" of behavior which reflects a minimum set of standards toward what is just or honest.
If you haven't already caught my drift here, moral terpitude is based on a "community standard" - not necessarily the biblical standard. If the community-at-large agrees a certain behavior is fine, then the level of behavior only needs to measure up to that specific definition. This is dangerous ground, as we could be living by a standard which falls far short of what God desires for our lives. This is where we need God's "everyday improvements" in our faith - by adding "goodness" into our lives.
Goodness suggests a change of character - moving from what is simply "acceptable" in general terms toward what is "honorable" in very specific terms (those set out in the scripture). The idea carried in this passage is that of not sitting still - settling for what we received - but allowing what we received in Christ Jesus to begin to mold our behavior in such a manner that we rise above the "community-standard" and set a higher standard of living by which others may actually model their lives.
We see this "shift" in living as we add to our understanding new evidence of truth in our lives. There is no "new truth", but there are greater and greater dimensions of revelation of that truth in our lives. In turn, this truth acts as a "buffering agent", causing us to move with a greater degree of "self-control" - a control over the desires of our flesh and a reliance upon the leading of the Spirit of God within. We see a far different outcome when we rely upon the Spirit's leading, don't we?
The outcome of engaging in an active walk with Jesus - actually drawing close enough to him to allow him to affect our lives deeply - is that of developing a greater concern for others and exhibiting his love in action. Yesterday, I challenged us to live in such a way his grace became the evidence of our love. I think this is again true in this passage. We receive grace - the beginning point of the passage. We are called to "add to" grace something which takes it from a personally experienced thing to a publicly noticed and appreciated expression of Jesus in us.
In essence, we are told to add that which gets Jesus "noticed" in our lives. Why? As I have said before, people need examples of grace in action. They need to understand God's goodness better and how best to do that than through a positive example of his grace in action? Just sayin!