Each year as we turn the calendar to start a new year, many of us who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ wonder if this might be the year when He Himself comes from heaven, meets us in the air and takes us home to the Father’s house. I wish I knew and could state that this will be the year. But I (and you) do not have the security clearance to possess that information.
But, nevertheless, knowing that it is a real possibility, the wise believer will be making preparations for that eternally significant day. Not to prepare would reveal an amazing level of short-sightedness on our part. If 2020 be the year for the “fullness of time” for Jesus’ rapturing of His bride and our immediate appearance before the Savior at His judgment seat, then how should be live in the days and months of 2020.
Some people faithfully set goals as a new year approaches. Often those have to do with things that can be objectively stated; such as, we will set aside five percent of our income for savings, or I will go the gym at least three time a week. But what about setting objective goals as we live for Christ? Is it possible for us to set measurable goals in the rather subjective area of the Christian life?
I have found that the counsel of the Apostle Peter is most helpful in this regard (2 Peter 1:5-11). As we anticipate (maybe in 2020) the Lord’s return for us and then our time of accountability before Him, Peter gives some valuable advice. He begins his second epistle by reminding us that have been given a wonderful salvation as well as all that we need for living a godly and productive life. He then exhorts us to add seven virtues to this great gift of salvation. He points out that if these seven virtues are present and are growing in our lives, then two things will be true for us. First, our present lives will be useful and fruitful (1:8), and second, we will experience significant reward at the return of the Lord Jesus (1:11). Regarding this second point (1:11), Peter says that an “abundant” entrance will be given to believers who add these seven virtues to their faith. This is a picture of rewarding. This abundant entrance pictures the victorious Olympic athlete triumphantly returning to his home city. He has won and has brought great honor to himself but also to his city. Traditionally, such a victorious athlete would not enter the city by the usual gate, but an entrance would be created just for him. He deserved to be honored in some distinctive way and an “abundant entrance” would be created to honor him. Peter conveys the important truth of rewarding at the time of the Lord’s return (note Rev. 22:12); a time when those who have added these seven virtues will not just enter the kingdom of Messiah, but will have a special entrance into that kingdom. So this rich reward comes as a result of diligence in this life.
But not to be overlooked is the first point. There are benefits that come to us in this life right now when these virtues are present and growing. He notes that there are many negatives that don’t become part of our lives: such as, being unfruitful, having a basically useless life, stumbling throughout life and not seeing life correctly (1:8-10). And positively, when these seven virtues are added to our salvation, our lives have meaning and purpose, there is a certainty and clarity with which we go through life, and our lives bear fruit which is greatly pleasing to the Father (John 15:1-12).
So as we enter 2020, with the empowerment and insights of the Holy Spirit, why not target 2 or 3 of these seven virtues for development in our personal lives; setting some objective goals for our own Christian maturing.
While each of these virtues deserves a complete sermon, here we can just give a brief definition and explanation, so that we have at least some idea of what we might specifically choose to work on, as our personal goals for 2020. Here are the seven.
(1) Moral excellence. This is a unique word (which is why there is quite a variety of translations). But the basic idea is that of something which fulfills the purpose or function for which it is made. So, for example, the “excellence” of a knife is that it cuts things. Our “excellence” is to fulfill the Lord’s will for our lives, whatever that might be. God has expressed His will for us in our various roles in life (in the family, in the church, in the use of money, etc). So the question is, “am I doing God’s will to the best of my knowledge and ability?” Nothing can come ahead of obeying Him.
(2) Knowledge. Genuine biblical Christianity has an intellectual aspect to it. We are told to love the Lord our God with all our minds, as well as our hearts. Paul reminds us that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. (So many churches today seem to believe that we are transformed by having emotional experiences). We are to understand God’s Word and apply it to every area of our lives. Diligence, effort is required in obtaining “knowledge” (note Prov. 2:2-5). A worthy goal for sure.
(3) Self-control. In every aspect of life, the passions, the thoughts, the emotions and the desires of the believer are to be controlled. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23), and the believer in whom the Spirit dwells has the power to be self-controlled in any and all areas of life, including the thought life (note 2 Cor. 10:5). “Addiction” ought not be dominating any area of the believer’s life. Any areas that are out of control?
(4) Perseverance. This word means to “stay under” and looks at a life that does not move away from the Lord when confronted by adversity, difficulty or distress. This one does not give up but rather increasingly submits to the Lord. This become more and more ingrained in life when the believers comes to understand that the Lord is sovereign, good and all knowing. Am I resolved in all settings to stick with the Lord?
(5) Godliness. The emphasis of this word is having an attitude of reverence that seeks to include and please God in every area of life. Believers, long ago, used to speak of “practicing the presence of Christ.” Theirs was an attitude of dependence and trust in the Lord on a daily/hourly basis. (Just including the Lord in our lives on Sunday mornings would likely point to an “ungodly” life.) Today, it seems that Christians are more and more secular (ungodly) in the way they do life. Am I godly or ungodly?
(6) Brotherly kindness. This word communicates the point that we are to be gracious and merciful in our attitude towards other imperfect believers (the person in the mirror is clearly in that category). It does not mean that sin is overlooked, but it does mean that we will be ready to forgive and will attempt to guard the unity of the Body of Christ. It includes the idea of being “devoted” to one another (Rom. 12:10).
(7) Love. We would expect this greatest of all virtues (note 1 Cor. 13:1-4) to be included in Peter’s list. It speaks of a mindset that seeks what is the very best for others. This is produced in the heart of the yielded, obedient believer by the Spirit of God. We are able to “grow in love” as we search the Scriptures to discover what constitutes the best for others; husbands, wives, children, fellow believers; the neighbors, folks at work or school). Then we can seek to actually do what is best for those individuals. This likely is an area that most of us need to be “diligent” in.
As we come to 2020 with the possibility of the Lord Jesus returning, we want to be living our lives “with all diligence.” But instead of just vaguely or generally trying to mature in Christ, why not select two or three of these virtues and target them in 2020?