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Advent 3: Pressing on . . . In character

By Emmanuel Egbunu
12 December 2021   |   2:31 am
Does anyone ever arrive at that ideal point of saintliness in the Christian walk? That, surely, is not consistent with our experience of human frailty. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, “No one knows...

Rev. Emmanuel Egbunu

Does anyone ever arrive at that ideal point of saintliness in the Christian walk? That, surely, is not consistent with our experience of human frailty. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, “No one knows how really bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” Yet, we must keep moving forward in this pilgrimage.

Advent holds a mirror before us and shows us the spots and blemishes that require urgent attention. Peter, who knew imperfection firsthand, as he came face to face with perfection personified in the incarnate Christ, also knew the grace that takes us beyond ourselves and the possibilities that make us hopeful, rather than languish in despair. In telling his audience the virtues to keep adding, he moves beyond knowledge (which was our focus last week) to more issues to supplement our Christian character: and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:6–8).

Knowledge puffs up, and that is why we must add to our knowledge “self-control”, that virtue that enables us to apply spiritual brakes and not go off course from the path of Christlikeness. Peter still does not leave us there, but takes us further to add “steadfastness”, that discipline of consistency that builds integrity into our character.
“Godliness”, which he adds next, is more than a word. It is painstaking discipline of seeking to know the ways of God and to do what He would want done. That is the desire that makes us sing, “Breathe on me, Breath of God; fill me with life anew; that I may love what Thou dost love; and do what Thou wouldst do.”

Peter really gets to us, for he tells us that even our seeking to be godly is not enough. We must add brotherly affection and love. These early disciples surely knew the façade that godliness without love can be, for John says as much in his letter:  If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 2

1 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:20–21). In Apostle Peter’s words, “if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If we are serious-minded about true godliness that prepares us to see God, this is the biblical way. None of these excludes the outworking of God’s grace, for the Christian life is, from start to finish, the work of God’s grace. To keep us in good shape, we can readily admit that this is such a helpful checklist for us, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, and look forward to His second coming. It is not about what people think of us or our reputation in other ways. This relates to Heaven’s view, which has the final say. May God help us!

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