I was reading from a book, ‘How to Live,’ when I came across the illustration of Peter’s description of the spiritual pathway of growth for the Christian. (2 Pet 1: 1-10) Peter begins by telling us that God gives us everything we need to achieve a life of godliness. We are also told similar things in other places in the NT.
I want to examine this ‘ladder’ in a bit more detail.
We begin with faith. We are saved by grace in faith in Christ’s death on the cross paying the cost of our sin. (Rom 6:23, 3:23)
At this point, we are ‘justified.’ ‘Just as if I’d never sinned.’
But it doesn’t end there.
James tells us that faith without works is dead (James 2: 20), and it is by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (vs 24).
We ARE saved by faith. But we must demonstrate our faith by living it out in our lives. Just believing is not enough (See previous article.) I usually tell people that the ‘proof is in the pudding’ by living out our faith in our daily actions. This is the works.
So as we believe, we act out in that belief. This is the ‘virtue’ of works.
If a thief becomes a Christian, you would expect him to stop stealing.
If a gambler became a Christian, you would expect him to stop gambling.
As we grow in grace, we change our behaviors to meet the biblical standards shown in the Bible. (Rom 12:1-2).
We start where we are. We make the baby step changes.
As we live out our faith by demonstrating it in our lives, then our witness grows. This is why it is important to put into action what we say we believe….so people can see the ‘mystery of godliness’ in action.
As we live out our virtue of what we know, we grow in even more knowledge.
If we skip the step of living out our faith (cleaning up our act), then we are more apt to use the increased knowledge hypocritically. There are too many people who claim to believe, to be Christians, who have head knowledge, but no heart knowledge. They do not live out their faith in action. They are still living according to the world’s standards (drinking, cussing, cheating, lying, making shady deals, etc).
God requires us to change our lives to match the requirements for His kingdom’s citizenship standards. We are to begin living by God’s law of government NOW, while we are here on earth.
As we grow in knowledge, we develop self-control (temperance).
We learn to deny self, slowly but surely, and live according to what God wishes us to do. Temperance is needed to overcome sin.
As we learn self-control, we become more patient with our fellow man. We no longer want things immediately. We no longer believe that things must be ‘my way or the highway.’
We also learn to wait upon God’s timing. This has been the hardest lesson for me, waiting for God’s timing in when things happen. Leaving things to be said to God’s timing also.
By this time, we have conquered (through God’s strength) many of the corruptions of the world. We have ditched false idols. We have fallen in love with God in a way many will never understand. This leads to the next rung on the ‘ladder,’ godliness. We are happiest fulfilling God’s purpose for us. We delight in obeying His law.
From this rung of godliness, it will be easy to exhibit brotherly-kindness. We seek to be of service to all we encounter. From this next rung, we find ourselves exuding love to all we meet. God’s love flows over us, through us, in an outward stream that never ends, no matter the personal afflictions we may experience.
In 1 John 3-4, we find a beautiful explanation of how obedience to God’s law leads to the love we are to exhibit to ‘our neighbor.’ Love is the perfect fulfillment of the law. People will know we have ‘been with Jesus’ when we love. THIS is the final stage of sanctification.
When we love, we automatically fulfill all of God’s law, leading to living lives free from sin.
Can we do this of our own power?
No! It’s only through depending on God, walking as Christ walked, that we can live according to the law of God’s government.
We start out our Christian walked justified. Through a life-time process, we are sanctified. As we wait for Jesus’ soon coming in the clouds of glory, we will then be glorified with Him. This is the final purpose of the ladder of sanctification.
I pray that you will allow God to work in your life (Rom 12:1-2) to complete this work in you (Phil 1:6) unto the day of Jesus Christ.