Monday, July 30, 2018

God's not finished with any of us yet

I am always touched when I observe someone just going the extra mile for someone. Maybe it is they guy who stopped to help an elderly lady with a flat tire, or the team of landscapers who jumped out to help someone push their stalled car off the roadway safely. It could be the child who tenderly helps their grandmother navigate some uneven pavement, or the worker on their way to the cafeteria who helps someone lost in the maze of hallways looking for a particular department. Brotherly love and kindness are traits that never grow old, my friends. In fact, they are traits that seem to exhibit just a little bit of the character of Christ in all of us - because he was always looking for the opportunity to serve others, if even in the slightest way - just because his heart was moved by their need.

So 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.  (1 Peter 1:5-9)

Warm friendliness and generous love are the last two character traits that we will examine that absolutely need to be a part of our daily walk in Christ. In another translation, these are referred to as brotherly love and kindness. We think of friendliness as the 'warm-fuzzy" characteristics that mark a good friend - there is no hostility really evident, but rather this idea of us being inclined to be amicable toward one another. Why is this an important thing to add to our character traits? It is simply because we cannot add all this other Christian character without adding the traits that make us a good friend or person to be around!

Generous love speaks of a lack of selfishness. There is a joy that comes from being around an individual that is not self-centered, is continually willing to reach out to others, and who is just plain abundant and welcoming in their expression of love. It draws others to us and it keeps them coming back. In examining these character traits throughout this passage, we now are told that they are to be fit together - each one developing or building upon the next. Not one of these character traits exists in a vacuum - they are like puzzle pieces specifically cut out within us that carefully fit together. When you line the pieces up, they make a lovely sight to behold! In a jumble, the 'image' of the finished pieces really isn't appreciated!

These character traits are not a "once gained, always maintained" type of trait. We are reminded that they must be active and growing in our lives. There is a process of "working them into" the places of our heart, mind, body, and soul - of our entire being - until they become who we are all the time. In the course of time, the way we express love begins to develop into greater, deeper expressions of love and kindness. This is not just because love was built into our character at one point in time - it is because as God points out areas where his love is not coming through very well, we address what he asks us to focus on that keeps that love from coming through in its fullest glory within us.

There is a "maintenance" of these character traits that is required. Care or upkeep is implied. Attention must be turned to areas in which we are revealing a lack of stability in our walk - wavering in our choices, not as committed in our obedience as we should be. When this care is taken, we will be maturing in the things God wants us to develop. Fully developed Christian character is the goal of each believer - no one wants to be truly mediocre in their walk. The "rub" comes in the amount of "maintenance" this truly requires! It is WORK - a four-letter word none of us wants to embrace. BUT...if we don't take the effort to learn where we need to grow, allowing the Holy Spirit to focus our attention on those areas of our life, then we will be as Peter describes - oblivious!

Oblivious people are lacking in focus, distracted, or even unconscious of that which requires attention. God's children have a "focusing" agent in their lives - he is called the Holy Spirit. His work is to allow us to be exposed to the areas of sinful character that need the application of the Word of God, and the tending of the Holy Spirit as our tutor and guide in this daily walk. In turn, there is an expectation that we will develop consistent obedience to the principles he teaches, embracing the newness of character that God so wants to see in our lives.  So, we don't let grass gather under our feet! We keep pressing in until we see the manifestation of what God desires in our lives. Then, we press a little more - because we are never finished growing! Grow on!