Does anyone know why Christians feel the need to maintain a facade of perfection when their lives are actually falling apart? I do this all the time. Even (and especially) if my life is crazy and feeling wildly out of control, I still keep my Good Little Christian Mask in place. And it’s the same when I sin. I sin just like everybody else, but I don’t like to talk about it. Because I don’t want people to think less of me.

Are those the same reasons every other Christian hides behind the mask of the Holier Than Thou? I don’t know. But it seems likely to me.

I don’t like people to know my weaknesses. I don’t like people to think that I’m a bad person. I don’t like people to know that I’m not perfect in every way. Of course, everyone knows all those things already, but there’s something in me that makes me want to put forth an image of perfection in spite of that. But it’s a lie.

So if every Christian is like this, wearing masks to cover up their failures and their flaws, what happens in a church? You end up with a bunch of people who are faking life. They’re fine. Their life is fine. Their family is fine. Everything is fine when it really isn’t. And I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with that . . . until someone who knows they’re not fine walks through the doors.

That’s something that has always fascinated me. Christians have this concept that we’re supposed to be “fine” all the time just because we know Jesus. But people who don’t know Jesus already understand the fact that they’re screwed up . . . and they don’t have a problem with it. Most of the time, they try to be better. Christians cover it up.

So that’s why people who don’t believe in Christ feel like they don’t belong in church. They know that they’re not perfect, and hanging around a bunch of people who are pretending to be perfect is frustrating.

The verse this morning is James 5:16.

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

We’re supposed to confess our sins to each other. Not to a priest for forgiveness. But to each other for accountability. It’s a lot harder to go back to your specific sin if someone is holding you to your word not to do it anymore.

Christians are people, and all people are flawed. It doesn’t matter what you believe, where you live, how you grew up or who you are; everyone sins. And trying to cover it up not only hurts you as a person, it alienates you from other people. Am I saying we should be proud of our sin? No. That’s kind of funny though. Taking pride in our sin. I know some people who do that, though, but I think those people just don’t understand how serious sin is.

How does covering up our sin help us? Just think about that. Jesus didn’t come to die for us so we can deny the fact that we’re sinners. He came to die for us to make a way for us to escape sin altogether. Covering up, denying the fact that we’re all imperfect, flawed failures, cheapens His sacrifice and it takes glory away from God.

When you get right down to it, denying your own sin is pride.

It’s so odd to me, personally. Because I have no trouble listening to other people confess their sins. I never think ill of them, and I always pray for people to help overcome whatever sin they struggle with. But when it comes to confessing my own sins to others? No. My pride takes over and I don’t want to admit to anyone that I struggle with the same things they do. I have this idea that I’m supposed to be better than everyone else and that everyone expects so much of me that I’m not free to admit any failure of any kind. And that’s wrong. Because I have failed. More times than I like to think about. And the beautiful part of my failure is that God has always been there to pick me up again. He’s never given up on me. Not once. And when I act like nothing’s wrong — when I act like I’m fine and everything is going perfectly in my life and in my relationship with Christ — I take all the credit for anything good in my life, and I don’t deserve it.

Masks are only appropriate in a place where you don’t want to show your face, where you don’t want to admit who you are or where you want to make people guess. People wear masks at masquerade balls with dresses covered in feathers and sequins and weird stuff like that. And while masquerades are fun to attend on special occasions, life was never meant to be like that. But that’s what we turn it into. We hide our faces — our real selves — from the world because we want people to like us, but all we accomplish is pushing the world away because we are hypocrites.

No one is perfect. Everyone has fallen short of the goal. It’s time we stop acting like we haven’t. And once we are free enough to let everyone in the world know that we have all failed, God will be able to show the world that He never has.

Attitude is like Faith – you can’t see it but it changes everything

Does anyone else struggle with their attitude? Generally speaking, I’m usually okay, as long as my day is going all right and no one upsets me . . . or if nobody expects more out of me than I’m prepared to give . . . or if people don’t act like buttheads . . . or as long as people don’t drive like idiots . . .or as long as people do their own jobs. If everybody else manages to behave, I am usually able to keep my attitude in check.

But on the days when the people around me don’t behave? Yeah. Watch out.

It’s so strange too because all it takes sometimes is one thing going wrong — or one person acting stupid — and my attitude (and all of my good intentions) can go down the drain. How silly is that? That one person can affect my entire attitude?

My attitude is mine. It’s my choice. It’s not like you’re born with a bad attitude, even though some people act like it. Our attitudes are a choice we make, usually every morning when we wake up. In my case, my attitude is a choice I make after I drink my morning coffee . . . . But it’s a choice I have to keep making throughout the entire day.

Attitudes are kind of like faith because it’s something you choose and have to keep reminding yourself that you’ve chosen even when the world blows up around you. Attitudes aren’t some ethereal, abstract concept floating around in the ambiguity of life’s gray spots: they are real, concrete choices you have to make every moment of every day.

When I wake up in the morning, I can choose that I’m going to have a good attitude today and that no matter what happens to me I’m going to keep that good attitude. But I guarantee that I will have to remind myself of that choice a couple of hours into my day when someone cuts me off in traffic, or when some kamikaze suicide driver pulls out in front of me off Bently Road (it happens every morning). And then I’ll have to remind myself again when I get to work and discover that some project I worked my butt off on yesterday has been redone and I have to spend another week on it.

Attitudes are important because they determine how we handle the events in our lives. It’s beyond optimism and pessimism. That’s more of a personality issue. Like whether or not you say a glass if half empty or half full. I have always said half full. I know someone else who says half empty. I’m an optimist. This other person is a pessimist. But we both have good attitudes.

Attitudes reach beyond our personalities. Beyond our inclinations and proclivities. Beyond our talents and our identities.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:5-8 that we need to have an attitude like Christ had.

5You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

 6 Though he was God,[a]
      he did not think of equality with God
      as something to cling to.
 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
      he took the humble position of a slave[c]
      and was born as a human being.
   When he appeared in human form,[d]
    8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
      and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

That is a tall order. Have an attitude like Christ? Is that even possible? How can we even begin to do something like that?

Jesus was God. Period. It wasn’t that He was a man who God had chosen. It wasn’t that He was a man who had worked hard enough to be good enough. It wasn’t that He was even just the Son of God. He was God. (He is God, rather.) They are one and the same.

While He was on Earth, He could have demanded royal treatment. He could have had people bowing at His feet, worshipping Him. He deserved it. Even before He died for us, He deserved it. He would have been well within His right.

But He didn’t.

He was born in the dirt and filth of a stable. He grew up in a poor home. He was a blue-collar worker, a man who worked with His hands. He was despised by the people of his town because they looked at Him like an illegitimate child.

I’m telling you what, if anyone was entitled to have a bad attitude, it was Jesus.

Just imagine what it was like for Him. God sent Him down here, first of all (They’re the same, but They’re different; don’t ask me to explain the Trinity and don’t try to explain it to me either because you can’t). Jesus had lived in Heaven so how could Earth even begin to compare? It was filthy and nasty and dirty and poverty stricken, full of people who were vile and cruel and wicked on good days. And Jesus was here to die an agonizing death for us, so He lived with that knowledge hanging over His head for His entire life. Can’t you imagine what He must have felt when people mistreated Him? When people spoke ill of Him or made fun of Him or pressed Him to do things for them that they should have done for themselves? He could have easily put on the martyr attitude. Or the put-upon child attitude. Or the whiny attitude.

And it’s not like He’d done anything to deserve ill treatment, either.

He was God, in the flesh, on Earth, being mistreated. And what did He do?

He healed people. He loved people. He laughed with people. He cried with people. He was humble. No, He was beyond humble. I don’t think humble is a good enough word to describe the life Christ lived on Earth. I just think it’s the only term available to us at the moment.

So how can I justify getting angry at bad drivers? How can I justify letting my attitude slip into something dark and moody when someone mistreats me? I can’t. There is no justification for it. I’m sure Jesus had bad days too, but they didn’t affect His entire attitude. And that’s what I need to work on. When events in my life all feel like they’re stacking up into a mountain that’s higher than I can climb, I don’t need to get gunchy . . . I just need to take a step back and let God help.

I need to have an attitude like Jesus did. And I need to keep that attitude, no matter what happens to me throughout a day. I may have to decide to keep that attitude twenty times in a 24-hour period . . . but when the day is over, it will be worth it. Because even if everything in your life is going down the drain, if you can keep a positive attitude and keep your focus on God, you can deal with anything. You can have joy in the worst circumstances. Not only that, but it’s so much easier to remember that God is in control.

The second Adam

I’m so thankful God gives us second chances. And third chances. And fourth chances. And 100th chances. No matter how hard I try, I still end up doing what I know is wrong. So knowing that He will always be there for me is comforting, especially when I’m struggling with guilt in the aftermath.

I get so frustrated with myself because it’s so easy to think any sin I commit isn’t as big a deal as other people (there’s my pride issue creeping back in again). But Jesus said even thinking about committing a sin is just as bad as if you had done it. If you look down on murderers, have you ever hated someone? If you look down on adulterers, have you ever had an innappropriate thought? Just thinking about it is tantamount to doing it.

We’re all the same. And all our sin is the same. Just because some of us think about it instead of doing it doesn’t make us any different. Or any better.

Many people curse Adam, the first Man, for the sin he committed in Eden — eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil when he knew he wasn’t supposed to. And even when I was little, I wondered why he had done it. Why he had sacrificed all of us for a piece of fruit. But the truth is, folks, Adam didn’t know about us. He didn’t know that there would be uncountable billions of people who descended from him thousands and thousands of years later. He was human. He had no clue about the consequences of his sin. Just like us.

We stumble along in life doing what we want to do because we want to do it, and we have no idea how our actions are going to affect our children and our children’s children and our children’s children’s children. But we don’t think about that because it’s too big for us to wrap our heads around.

And we curse Adam for failing us in the garden? Adam did the best he could. He was the best shot we had. Otherwise, God would have made someone else instead of Adam.

Our sin deserved death. People think death means something it doesn’t most of the time. In our normal human connotation, death means the end of life as we see it. But death in the Bible just means separation. Physical death is separation of the Soul and Spirit from the body. Spiritual death is separation of the spirit from God. With Adam’s sin, because all of us are descended from Adam, we were all born spiritually dead, doomed to spend the rest of eternity separated from God when our bodies die.

That’s why God sent Jesus to die for us. Jesus was the second Adam, the second chance for the human race to have a relationship with God.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22

20But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

 21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.

Adam was the best hope we had, and he blew it. Not because he was a bad person. On the contrary, I’m sure he was a great guy. I’m excited to meet him someday soon. But he was still human.

Jesus was human, but He was also God. Able to feel everything a human feels, to struggle with everything a human struggles with. But God enough to overcome all of it. And Jesus didn’t fail. He triumphed victoriously, and because of His sacrifice on the cross, anyone who believes in Him can be restored to a one-on-one relationship with God.

Does that mean that those who believe are automatically perfect?

Yeah, right. I wish.

Believing makes us right with God, but it doesn’t get rid of our smelly old sin nature. We’ll still struggle with that until the day Jesus comes back to take us home.

But even though we still sin, it doesn’t mean that we forfeit the new life we’ve been given through Christ. He paid for all our sins with His one sacrifice. I don’t know about some of you, but all my sins were in the future when Christ died for me. So any sin I commit tomorrow is already paid for. Nothing I do or say or think is enough to separate me from God again now. It’s out of my hands. And I’m glad. After all, my hands don’t really accomplish a lot when left to their own devices.

So if you’re creeping back before the throne of God today like I am, asking for your 490th chance, remember that the price has already been paid. No matter the sin, no matter the severity, no matter how many other chances you’ve already had, it’s taken care of.

Talking the talk is harder than it seems

Believing in Jesus is easy. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find it difficult to believe in Jesus. I don’t find it difficult to believe in the Bible. I’ve witnessed too many miracles, too many supernatural things not to believe in God. And I can sit and talk to other believers about God all day long. But what I find the most challenging is talking to people who don’t believe.

Most of it is fear, and it’s irrational.

I’m a shameless people pleaser, after all, though I’m certainly a lot better than I used to be. And it’s my first response to hold conversations with people that won’t upset them. That will maintain our friendship. That won’t make them angry with me. And I get so afraid that people will get angry with me that most of the time I neglect to bring up my faith, even when I have a good opportunity.

Is that the right thing to do?

The verse for today made me think of this.

Romans 10:9-10

9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.

I don’t know if churches still do this, but they used to have this time after a message called an altar call. Anyone who needed to pray could come to the front and pray at the altar at the front of the church. Anyone who needed to talk to the Pastor could come and talk to the Pastor. Anyone who had decided to accept Christ could walk forward and Pastor would have them pray with a deacon. Usually, everyone would sing all the verses to “Just As I Am” while they were waiting.

On Palm Sunday in 1990, I responded to the altar call at our church in Houston. I was 7 years old. And I might have been young, but I understood the concept that I was a sinner and that I needed someone to save me. But I’m here to tell you as a kid who sought to please everyone, stepping out in front of my parents and my friends and my teachers (they all went to the same church) and exclaiming to them that I wasn’t already saved was hard to do.

As an adult now, I understand how they felt. Happy. Joyful. Excited that I had made a decision. But at the time, I was afraid that letting everyone know that I wasn’t a Christian from an even younger age was really hard for me. It was silly, I know, an example of the unrealistic expectations I’ve always placed on myself.

Part of me misses the altar calls. I understand why we had to stop doing them, though, but I miss them. Because putting action behind what you believe is what Christianity is all about. Don’t misunderstand, of course. Christianity isn’t a works-based faith. It’s more like faith-based works. Because in James, the Bible tells us that faith without good works is dead. You can claim to be a Christian all day long, but if your life and your works don’t back it up, are you really? Becuase you’re not living like you believe.

Believing is easy. Making the decision to believe isn’t hard. It’s telling everyone that’s hard. It’s changing your life that’s hard. But if you decide to believe and you don’t tell anyone and your life doesn’t change, do you really believe?

I think that’s why I liked the altar calls, because they gave people the opportunity to act, to do something, to follow through with the internal decision they had made and tell the whole congregation that they had decided to believe in Jesus.

If someone comes out and asks me if I’m a Christian, I tell them yes. But that’s an easy answer to respond to because everyone calls themself a Christian anymore, and very few people know what it means. And refusing to explain what I believe because I’m afraid is wrong. Now, I do think there are times when we as believers need to back off and let God do the talking. Many times, God will speak through our silence more effectively than He will through our words.

But being afraid of people and what they think is foolish. And refusing to give an account of my faith just because I’m worried about how I will be perceived is damaging, not only to me but to the people around me. I’m still working on this. And I know the verse for today is generally used in leading people to faith in Christ, but I think it’s relevant for the rest of our lives too.

You can believe in Christ all day long, but until you start telling people what you believe, how else will anyone know?

There’s an ap for that

It seems to me that fewer and fewer people are reading the Bible. Most Christians say they read it, but sometimes I wonder if they’re just saying that so others won’t think they are “bad Christians.”  And of those Christians who do read the Bible, they only read the parts of it that they like. I remember one person I know used to just read the Revelation over and over again because it was cool, but she’d never touched the Old Testament because it was boring.

It’s interesting to me that we can call ourselves Christians without really knowing what we believe.

Granted, we know the most important thing, as today’s verse explains:

1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4

1 Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters,[a] of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. 3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

As Paul writes, Christians all know what is most important: Christ died for our sins and rose again on the third day.

But what about the rest of it? If the Bible isn’t important, why do we have it? If the Old Testament is just a bunch of history and timelines and geneologies, why did Jesus have such a respect for it? Even the verse above makes reference to Scripture, basing our faith on what Scripture says.

Why is it that we think we can live a Christian life without reading the Bible? Without knowing what it says?

This is what I think:

The Bible is a living book. You can read the same verse over and over and over again for years and years and years and then all of a sudden — one day — you can read it and it means something completely different to you. When you’re a child, it means one thing. When you’re a teenager, it means something else. When you’re an adult, it means something else yet again. Its depth and breadth grows as we grow. It reaches different levels of meaning as we are able to understand them.

The Bible is God’s Word. The Bible is God’s means of communicating with us.

Maybe there are times when you think you hear a voice in your head. Maybe there are times when you have dreams. Maybe there are times when God speaks to you through someone else. Maybe. I’m not going there today. Because sometimes these things aren’t real. But the Bible is always real.

The Bible is the best way to get to know God, to get to know what He wants for your life, to understand what the future holds.

But if you never read the Bible, you’ll never know who God is. Can you believe in Jesus without reading the Bible? Of course. Can you believe Jesus died for your sins without actually reading the account? Yes. There’s no verse anywhere that says you have to read the Bible to be saved.

Okay. Bad analogy time.

I have never owned an i-Phone, but I know people who do. And they seem to be able to do just about anything. There’s an ap for just about any conceivable need or want. There are games. There are tools. The IT guru at church can even control the computer that runs our giant screens from his i-Phone . . . which about freaked me out the last time I was running them because the screens started running themselves.

What if someone purchased an i-Phone and only used it to call people?

I mean, that would be okay, wouldn’t it? After all, an i-Phone is — first and foremost — a cell phone. But it’s so much more than just a cell phone, it seems a waste to only use it to call your mom or your best friend.

Being a Christian who doesn’t read the Bible is like using an i-Phone only to call people. You have grasped the most foundational truth about it, but there is so much more functionality, more purpose, more awesome experiences you can have if you just know how to use it.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross means so much more when you understand who He is.

The depravity of the human race is so much clearer when you understand that people were the same 10,000 years ago as they are now.

God’s great love for His creation is so much more dumbfounding when you understand the lengths He has gone to in order to protect the people who are willing to follow Him.

Reading the Bible gives you insight into people, into yourself. It teaches you how to live, how not to live. It reminds us that for every action there is a consequence, what we reap, we will sow. The Bible is full of wisdom, and if you can wrap your head around it and live by it, you will come to know God Himself.

How can you say you’re friends with God if you never talk to Him? If you never listen to Him? The Bible is the key to understanding God’s will for your life. So how are you to know what that is until you read it?

If you think the Bible is too confusing, find a translation that makes sense. Try the New Living Translation. Try the Message. Just read it. Read it again. And read it again. Don’t stop. And when you find something that doesn’t make sense, ask somebody.

Even if it’s just five minutes a day, even if it’s just one verse a day, read it. If you have time to watch movies, play games, read novels, go to work, go to school, you have five minutes you can give God. Just give Him that and see what He does with it. You won’t be sorry.

Getting shot for someone else is easy

1 John 3:15 says,

 16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.

 When I was young, I would read this verse and wonder what it really meant. I used to think that it was talking about sacrificing myself to protect other people. Jumping into the line of fire to save someone else. Like heros out of movies or something, the ones who defy death to take the people they care about.

On one hand, I think this verse is talking about that. After all, Christ did die for us. And, as Christians, we shouldn’t fear death. So being willing to sacrifice our lives for someone else shouldn’t be that big of a leap.

Maybe it’s just me, but death doesn’t scare me. It never really has. Granted, it’s not my first choice when I wake up in the morning, but if today is my day then there’s nothing I can do about it. God’s got me covered. I know where I’m going. And if He can accomplish something incredible through my death, I think that would be awesome. I know people here would miss me . . . but, hey, death just means I get to go home. So I have no complaints or worries.

Being willing to die for someone is an easy choice.

Being willing live for someone is hard.

We are inherently selfish beings. We want what we want, when we want it, how we want it, and it doesn’t matter if it hurts other people or not. Conquering that selfish spirit is one of the hardest things to do as a Christian, but we need to do it. Because Christ did it for us.

We always focus on His death. But what about His life? His life tells us just as much about Him as His death does.

He loved people. He healed people. He walked with people. He taught people. He hung out with ordinary, everyday folks. He didn’t waste time sitting around arguing theology; He was out on the streets playing games with kids, laughing with his friends, eating at people’s houses.

But think about it from Jesus’ pespective.

He had to leave everything behind to come here to Earth. We are foolish enough to think that our planet is a pretty nice place to be born and live. I think it’s awfully nice too, by the way. God made it, after all. So of course it’s wondrous. But Earth is broken and life here is flawed. And even on its best day, it can’t compare to what Jesus had in heaven. And He chose to give that life up to come here to save us, to teach us how to live.

We’re so caught up in being comfortable. We like where we are and what we do and how we do it. Maybe our lives aren’t perfect, but they’re our lives. And we don’t want to change anything because we feel safe in our routine.

But the Bible says that we need to give up our lives for our brothers and our sisters. We need to be willing to live for other people because that’s what Jesus did for us.Now I’m not saying that we have to sell everything we own and live in a cardboard box on the street corner. Many times people who have been given wealth and status can use that wealth and status to help others. What matters is your perspective and your motivation.

That’s what this verse is really saying, I think. That Jesus gave up the life He had in heaven to come to this dirty, broken, cruel world and build relationships with ignorant, arrogant, loud-mouthed people.

Shouldn’t we do the same?

Faith is only the beginning

How many people think living the Christian life is easy? How many Christians operate under the delusion that once they’ve given their lives to Christ, everything will work out and be easy and perfect and they’ll never have to struggle with anything again?

I think the Christian community we live in now, in 21st Century America, has communicated that accepting Christ is the hard part and living life with Him (and for Him) is easy.

In a certain light, that’s true. Living for Christ is easy in that it’s easy to know what decisions you need to make; He has told us quite clearly in the Bible what we’re supposed to do and what we’re not supposed to do. What’s difficult is actually doing it. What’s difficult is waking up every morning and reminding yourself that you have chosen to live for God and that your life needs to reflect that. What’s difficult is staying positive and continuing to believe that God is going to work everything out when you are in the middle of a storm that never seems to end.

So many Christians I have spoken to get the idea that once they accept Christ all their troubles will be over, and that’s not true. Living the Christian life is hard. Doing the right thing is hard.

When we decide to believe in Christ, when we choose to place our faith in Christ, we become a new person, yes. But the old person we used to be is still rattling around inside of us. And the world outside us doesn’t change either. Our faith is all that has changed.

Faith is another thing I think a lot of Christians get confused about. I think people believe that once they decided to trust Christ that everyone gets this magical ability to simply believe everything God says without question. Again. Not true.

Having faith doesn’t mean you don’t question. Having faith means you believe even if you have questions.

Faith is a gift that God gives us, yes. And when we accept Christ, God gives us the faith to believe Him, but that doesn’t mean that our faith is automatically big enough to handle the truly difficult struggles of our lives. No. It needs to grow.

Have you ever met anyone with incredible faith? Someone who God could allow anything — absolutely anything — to come into their lives and they wouldn’t bat an eyelash? I have met many people like this, but I can tell you that they weren’t “born” with that kind of faith. They had to develop it. Their faith was small when they started, but they put God to the test, and He never let them down. And when their faith was tested, they hung on to it and when the trial was over, they came out stronger for it.

The passage today is a long one, and I went ahead and included the beginning verses, too, just for context. 2 Peter 1:3-8 says this:

 3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

5 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

 8 The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 2 Peter says that when we came to faith in Christ, God gave us everything we would need to live a godly life. And not only that, He gave us a way to escape a life of darkness and sadness caused by the world.

But how?

I think it’s interesting how lazy a lot of Christians are (myself included). Maybe it’s the influence of modern-day America. I don’t know. Or maybe it’s a knee-jerk reaction to legalism. That could be.

Let me be very clear so I don’t miscommunicate this. There are nothing we can do that will save us. Works don’t make us right with God. Only belief in Christ allows us to have a relationship with God.

That being said, faith is just the beginning of that relationship. If you don’t work at your faith — if you don’t take steps to help it grow — it will stay small and ineffective and your life as a Christian will not be what God intended it to be.

You must have faith. But according to this verse, to live a godly life, you need to supplement your faith with a few things. And this list is in an order for a reason. If you think about it, you have to have each one in order before you can attain the next one.

Once you have faith, you need to have moral excellence. You need to be aware of what is right and what is wrong, and when you are given the chance to do wrong, you need to choose to do what is right, even if it’s difficult.

Once you have moral excellence, learn. Gain knowledge. About anything and everything that will help you live a godly life, that will help you be effective in ministry. If you can understand morality, you will be able to know what is right and what is wrong and will be able to see what knowledge is beneficial and what isn’t.

Once you have knowledge, you must have self-control. You can’t just walk around spouting off all the facts that you’ve learned. You could confuse other people. You can’t walk around telling people how to live. That’s not your place. So you need to learn to control yourself.

And when you’ve learned to control yourself (the most difficult person to control, and–really–the only person you can control), learn how to endure patiently. It doesn’t matter if it’s people or situtations. God allows them into your life for a reason, and you can learn something from them.

After that, learn godliness. Learn what it means to be truly like God. Know His characteristics and do what you can to incorporate them into your life. Obviously, there are some aspects of God that we can’t ever be like (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, etc.) but there are qualities that we can share. His creativity (not that we can create anything, but we can come up with new ideas). His love. His joy.

The next step is brotherly affection. Learn to love your fellow Christians. This is hard because oftentimes Christians are the hardest people in the world to love. But if another person believes in Christ, that person is our brother or our sister, and God has commanded that we love each other.

And after you learn how to love fellow Christians, show love to everyone. Love the people around you who aren’t Christians. Love the people around you who think they’re Christians. Love the people who hate you. Love everyone.

Do you see what this is? It’s a process.

When you first come to know Christ, your faith makes you whole. Yes. That’s done. It’s immediate. Have faith in Christ and be saved from your sins.

But the life you live after you decide to have faith is a step-by-step, day-by-day process that will take the rest of your life on Earth. It’s not something that happens overnight, and it’s not easy. And there are good days and there are bad days, but the more you grow in your faith, the more effective you will be as a Christian. The more you live like this, the more useful you will be to God.

Faith is a choice. Living it is a series of choices. But as 2 Peter already said, we already have everything we need to live like this. We just have to look for it. And if we ever get turned around, we have the Bible as our roadmap.