For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. II Peter 1:5-8
The Basic Bible Truth
Spiritual maturity should be the goal of every Christian. When we are saved, our understanding of God and His ways is very limited. Our spiritual diet at that initial stage is much like an infant, milk or soft and easy to swallow. But as we grow in our knowledge of Him, we begin to crave the meat of the word, the stuff we have to chew on a while before we can swallow it. We need spiritual protein and we get it from studying Scripture.
A Masking Tape “ Football” Field A Football A Rule Book Referee Shirt, Hat, Yellow Flag, And Whistle A Little Red Wagon
I do this lesson every year on Super Bowl Sunday. I actually have two different versions of it. One is a basic explanation of salvation. The second is more in line with the spiritual maturity idea. The picture shows the field laid out in 7-“ten yard” increments. That will make perfect sense for Lesson #2. At the bottom of the page is the rulebook for lesson #1: Print it out at a #5 font (It is meant to be impossible)
The Lesson #1
As I present the idea of the football game to be played, I hand each one in attendance a copy of the first page of the rulebook. They can follow along as I read rules number 1 and 2—in their entirety! The font, (no larger than 5 point), is incredibly small by design. (I usually print a reference version of rule 1 and 2 in a bigger font so I can read it easily in class.) Everything about this game is going to be impossible for the players. Usually, by the time you have read rules 1 and 2, the class is tired of hearing rules and does not want to hear any more. I will often have rule number three ready in case there aren’t objections to the process of reading. I want them to tell me to stop reading. I will refer to that mistake at the end of the game. Finally, with enough objection to the reading of the rules, I dispense with that and begin the playing of the game.
Four volunteers are chosen to play the game. They are informed that the premise of the game is quite elementary. They simply must walk the length of the field PERFECTLY, according to the rules, carrying the football, to the Goal line, and they will automatically win the game. I give each of them a complete rulebook to look over and refer to as they play the game. And, of course they look at me with disbelief. After handing the first contestant the football, I stand about midfield with my whistle and yellow flag at the ready. Just as they begin to take a step I whistle and throw the yellow flag. “There has been a flag on the play”. I explain to them that they should have started with the other foot, according to rule number 115, paragraph 2, section 3a. They are promptly thrown out of the game and asked to take a seat. The next contestant takes their position.
I again am at the ready at midfield. This time, even before they begin to step, I whistle. “Were you thinking about chocolate chip cookies?” And when they say “no”, I throw the flag and say, “There has been a flag on the play.” And they are thrown out of the game and asked to take a seat. “Rule number 119, paragraph 1, section 5 clearly states that a contestant must be thinking about chocolate chip cookies when they begin the game.” And the next contestant it asked to take their place.
As contestant number three is getting ready, I again whistle, and ask them the same question regarding chocolate chip cookies. Usually they inform me that they have indeed been thinking about them. I then have a follow up question, “With oatmeal, or without?” Whatever they say is wrong, I throw the flag and throw them out of the game.
At this point, everyone is absolutely sure that no one is going to ever be able to play the game perfectly. And they are right. But I explain to them that there is a very interesting rule, number 131, the very last rule in the rulebook, (that they wouldn’t let me read to them by the way.) Rule 131 states that if a contestant realizes that it is impossible to play the game perfectly, he may ask the referee for a substitute runner. The referee is then obligated to furnish a substitute runner who is able to play the game perfectly. Whenever possible, I ask my son, (my only son, by the way), to be in the classroom for this very moment. He steps forward, pulling a little red wagon. I ask the contestant if he would like to request a substitute runner. If the answer is yes, the fourth contestant is seated in the wagon, still holding the football, and my son pulls him across the field to the goal line. I blow the whistle and signal a touchdown and the game has been won.
We are all playing the game of life. Its God’s game, and He has made the rules, and He has said that only those who compete and do so perfectly are eligible for the goal—Heaven. We cannot even come close to winning the game on our own. We need a substitute. And God has provided His Son, His only Son, who can play the game of life perfectly and win. He does all the work, but we still have to carry the ball.
The Lesson #2
In 2nd Peter 1 we read “…add to your faith…” He continues to list seven virtues that are of great value to spiritual maturity and growth. In Greek, the word “add” is epichoregeo from which the words chorus, choreograph, and chorus master and donor are derived.
In ancient Greece, three major theatrical productions were performed each year. Famous writers such as Socrates and Aristotle wrote plays, which were acted out before audiences of nearly fourteen thousand. Also included were choirs, musicians and mimes.
The choregos who directed the production was responsible for finding a donor who was willing to pay for the expenses. Theater was a very important part of Grecian culture and it was an honor for the wealthy to play a part. To a large extent, the wining production was determined by how much the donor was willing to lavishly spend. Eventually the word choregos became epichoregos to reflect the combining of the duties of the chorus director and the donor, who now became one and the same person.
God led Peter to use the word epichoregos to teach us that our spiritual growth and maturity are in many ways similar to a theatrical production—a production that requires one to lavishly provide the necessary virtues at their expense. There is a cost involved in adding to our faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. The more one is willing to lavishly spend on developing these spiritual disciplines, the greater the influence upon the audience who is daily watching. As we endeavor to “act out” our roles on the stage of life, may it become increasingly clear that pursuing spiritual growth is an expensive effort and takes great diligence. We must be committed to add, at our own expense, no matter the cost.
(From this point on, as I come to each “add to” I move the football ten yards down the field.)
We are to add to our faith goodness. Exceptional moral character, like courage, strength and valor, should mark the Christian life. What is our word worth in the world? In my life I have very few heroes. I have not met many people who I hold up as shining examples of a life well lived. My grandfather is one of the few heroes I cherish to have known. As a man in his prime, he was physically tough and stout. The story is told of some men at the farmer’s supply store who were standing behind a pickup one day, trying to decide how to pick up a huge bag of feed and load it in the bed of the truck. My grandfather, annoyed by the commotion, pushed his way to the middle of the onlookers, bent down and grabbed it up and placed it, by himself, into the bed of the truck. He then turned to the men who were still standing with their mouths agape and said, “That’s how it is done.” And then he simply walked away and went about his business. I knew him later in life, after the ravages of Parkinson’s disease had taken its toll on his physical self. By the end of his life, he could not feed himself because of his shaking hands, he needed help to use the bathroom, and his heart did not allow for any strenuous activity. My grandmother told me later, after he had passed, that not once, NOT ONE TIME, did he ever complain or ask “why me”. That may seem small to many, but to me, it showed tremendous character. Hero type character.
Add to goodness, knowledge. Do we read and study the Bible as we should? This is an amazing book. It contains everything that we need to know about life, God, our future—it’s all there. I have met few people in my life who have read through the Bible even one time. And fewer still who have done it more than once. Why? We have the most incredible book, the living Word of God, at our fingertips, but we ignore it and spend our time on other things. God has said of his Word, that it will not go out from Him and return void or empty—it will have an effect. Nothing will change your life as profoundly as simply reading Scripture. Read the Word of God!
Add to knowledge, self-control. Restraining emotions is difficult for most of us. We tend to witness an event and immediately react emotionally. A wise person moves slowly, thinking through an emotionally charged issued to make sure that decisions are made wisely, and with no regret later. As I look at the political unrest that has been present in our country for as long as I can remember, there is one consistent feature that I have seen now for 6o years in the news. And that is that the average demonstrator is a young person. It is rare to see 80 or 90 year olds out throwing bottles and pillaging businesses. Reigning in our emotions requires time and effort, but it is worth it in the long run.
Add to self –control, perseverance. We live in a world that is full of stress. It is the nature of the beast and will always be there. We are to learn to endure under hardship. We must never give up—never! The writer of Hebrews said we are to have faith, work hard and endure. This trio is to go together always. I recall, many years ago, my grandmother died and I wanted to go to the funeral, which was out of state. The cabinet job I was working on at the time was for a lady who had little or no concern for me, or my family issues. I was told in no uncertain terms that her cabinetry must be in place before I left the state or she would sue me for breach of contract. I knew quite well that she was unsaved and I was determined to display to her an example of how a Christian reacts to difficulty. I had no recourse but to work straight through and complete her job—44 hours worth, non-stop. I have never forgotten that episode in my life. She got her cabinetry, and I got to say goodbye to my grandmother at her funeral.
Add to perseverance, Godliness. I can sum this one up very concisely. Godliness is having an appropriate fear of God. God is worthy of respect, our deep respect and honor. The more I learn about God, the more I know I need to learn about God. That is achieved through a lifetime commitment of having a personal devotional time. It cannot be achieved through any shortcuts. This one takes time. A lifetime.
Add to Godliness, brotherly kindness. God made us creatures that need relationships. We have in the book of Genesis the account of creation. And as each day ended, God looked at what He had done and said, “It is good.” But when He had finished creating Adam, his words were, “It is not good…” What a striking contrast. It is not good that man should be alone. We are social beings and need each other to fulfill our lives as God desires. We must learn to accept each other, regardless of our warts and all. Kindness to those around us who are Christians, who wear the same title we do—children of God—deserve our respect, our love, and our kindness.
Add to brotherly kindness, love. There it is, the “Holy Grail” of life, the greatest thing that we can ever obtain and attain—love. What is love? God is love. When we understand God, we will see love in perfection. It must motivate all that we do, it must come before all that we say. Let me give you an example of how this works. If I tell you I have 1,000,000 dollars, you would be impressed. All those zeros look pretty impressive lined up like that. But the most important numeral in that number is the “1”. Without it the rest is worthless. So it is with life. If love isn’t first, if love isn’t before, if love isn’t motivating everything we do or say, we have gained nothing.