It is so easy to take our Christianity for granted. I say this not only from honest personal introspection but also from the admissions of many of my brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the years that they too at times fail to heed the warning from Paul to the Corinthian church which was the foundation of my editorial in the last issue of the Carolina Messenger: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Co. 10:l2).
Yet one can’t help but notice a sharp contrast between Paul’s warning to Corinth and the exhortation given by Peter at the end of his life to his faithful spiritual family: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2 Pe. 1:10). Put side by side, the divine imperative given through these two apostles would be this: Always be careful to never fall. Here’s how to make sure that never happens.
I remember the first time I read the qualities listed by Peter in 2 Peter 1:5-7 which make up the theme of this issue and of which he was referring in verse 10. It was on the occasion of preparing for my very first Wednesday night devotional as a youth minister intern in Greenville, Illinois, in the summer of 1999, only seven months after my graduation from Harding and when I was just beginning to consider the possibility that I could dedicate my life to the ministry. Perhaps it was due to the majority of my life up to that point being filled with mandatory math classes from kindergarten through early college, but I remember my first thought upon reading the passage being that it was very much like a mathematical formula. Basically what Peter was saying to Christians was, “Diligently add virtue to your faith, knowledge to your virtue, self-control to your knowledge, and so on…and the sum will be eternity with God!”
The diligence factor is an important part of this spiritual formula which cannot be overlooked. One could even say it’s what starts and ends the formula in that “giving all diligence” (NKJV) or “make every effort” (ESV) is commanded even before the first commanded addition to our faith (v. 5) and is commanded towards the end of Peter’s discourse with his command to “be all the more diligent” (v. 10). Diligence is also implied in the statement found in verse 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.”
For all our adamant and legitimate refusal to acknowledge any legitimacy in the erroneous Calvinistic tenet commonly known as “Once Saved, Always Saved,” our Creator and Master knows how easy it is to unconsciously adapt that same mindset into our Christian mindset. Our Savior knows how simple it is to conclude that simply because we were immersed in water for the forgiveness of our sins into the Lord’s church of which there is only one, worship according to the New Testament pattern by observing communion and giving of our means every Sunday in a worship service which is without instrumental accompaniment or any other man-made additions or subtractions, and adhere to biblical church organization by refusing to call our preachers “pastors” because the New Testament gives elders and bishops that particular designation, we have no need to focus on any other aspects of Christianity. We were saved by our obedience to sound doctrine concerning salvation and continue to observe sound doctrine concerning worship and the church, and that’s quite a lot more than those deceived souls over in the denominational world are doing…so that’s the only thing that really matters in the end, right?
Sure, I may not know the Bible nearly like I should. Yes, I tend to hold grudges pretty easily. Okay, I tend to gossip, complain, and jump to conclusions quite a lot. All right, so there’s not that much difference between me and your average non-Christian except for my church attendance…and okay, other than my belief in God and my willingness to “Amen” his teachings when preached from the pulpit (as long as I feel that they apply more to the rest of the church — especially you — than they do to me), there’s quite a lot of difference between Jesus and me. But that’s okay, because I was baptized, it was immersion, I worship without a piano, and I’m a member of the church of Christ.
God wants more. He is pleading with us and warning us to be more than churchgoers who believe in Jesus. He wants us to know Jesus. He wants us to act like him and follow him. In addition to our faith, God wants us to have the same virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love that Jesus has. He wants us to not only initially obtain these qualities, but diligently grow in them each and every day of our lives. Only by purposefully and diligently pursuing these traits will we never fall and stay saved because we will never take our Christianity for granted. Instead, we will continually repent of our faults and be encouraged by our growth and God will be pleased and continue to help us and forgive us.