Friday, January 17, 2020

Introduction to Christianity 101: Practical Theology

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2Cor 10:5).
The first section of our introduction to Christianity is what I’ll call practical theology. Theology is simply thinking about God. Everyone is a theologian. Everyone has an idea of what they think God is like, and that affects how they live. So it’s important to have correct ideas about God. As Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

levels of theology
But not all theology is equally important. Every discipline has specialists. They get into academic discussions that don’t matter to the average person. They drill down deep and explore the frontiers. They split hairs and parse terms. We don’t necessarily need to know all of that. It's important to know what God is like, what’s wrong with people, and how we’re saved. It's less important to know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, exactly how election works, or whether the millennium is literal or figurative.

Which is why I call this “practical” theology. I want to focus on what we absolutely need to believe, why we believe it, and what difference it should make in our lives. And knowing God — and what he says about things — more deeply will help us love him more dearly and see things more clearly. And it will help us to explain what we believe and why we believe it to others.

All of this is necessary because there are a lot of bad ideas about God out there. Everyone's a theologian, and most people are bad ones. They have wrong ideas about God, wrong ideas about humanity, and wrong ideas about what’s wrong with the world and how to fix it. And they can influence us if we’re not careful. But we can also influence them!

All of this is about making a difference in the world for Christ and his kingdom. We do not want to know things for the sake of knowing things. “Knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor 8:1) unless we are careful to guard our hearts against pride. We only know what we know because God has chosen to reveal it, and when he revealed it he gave us a task. We want to be more like Jesus and to take the good news to the people who desperately need to hear it.

To that end, we will focus on a very particular subset of Christian theology. Theology is sometimes divided into (1) primary issues, (2) secondary issues, and (3) tertiary issues (see diagram above). Primary issues include those things you must believe to be saved and those things that make us distinctly Christian (eg, the trinity). All Christians should believe these things. Secondary issues are things that determine whether we can belong to the same congregation (eg, infant vs believer baptism). Tertiary issues are things that people within the same church can disagree on (eg, views of the end times). I intend, to the best of my ability, to stick to primary issues. If I discuss secondary issues, they will be clearly labeled as such.

I want to do it this way because I don’t want to talk about being a good Baptist or a good Presbyterian (not that there’s anything wrong with being either of those things) but about what all Christians have in common, what makes us one family and one people with one mission: to introduce the lost to Jesus.

So this will be organized around the Apostles' Creed, the ancient summary of what all Christians everywhere ought to believe.

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried.
He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy catholic Church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting. Amen.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Christianity 101

I'm about to launch into something I've been working on, in some ways, for 20 years. I've been working on it in earnest for over a year now. We need to equip the next generation to know what Christians ought to believe, why we believe it, and what difference it makes in our lives.

My oldest child will be heading off to college in a couple of years. College is a spiritual and cultural war zone for our kids. If they're not prepared, they will be casualties. At the very least they can be wounded and filled with doubt or maybe decide to compartmentalize their faith or perhaps try to hide from the real world in a Christian ghetto. At the worst they can walk away from the faith altogether. In any of those cases their ability to serve at witnesses for Christ will be impaired at best.

But if they are properly prepared, the battle field can be a mission field, and their faith can come out of the experience stronger. That's what I want for my children and for yours.

I had originally intended this to be just conversations I had with my kids, but for a variety of reasons I've decided the best way to do this is to put it in writing in little bite-sized pieces. And if I'm putting the hours in to write these little articles, I may as well share them with anyone else who might find them useful, so I'll be posting them here. My posting frequency is going to go up quite a bit — I'm hoping to put out two a week.

If you know anyone you think will benefit from this, feel free to share. Besides "following" on Blogger, there's an RSS feed, email subscription, and you can share via the social media buttons.

I hope you will benefit from these articles. I hope our kids will benefit from them. We are in a fight for our children's future. I intend to win.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

30 Years to a Better You

It's hard to believe I have 30 years of Christianity to reflect on, but I appear to be getting old. So I began thinking about lessons learned, mistakes made, and positive changes I've seen in myself. I'm not what I want to be, but by the grace of God I am not what I was.

Herein I offer the benefit of my bumps and bruises for whatever use you may make of it.

Jesus doesn't just want to be your Savior. He wants to be your Lord.
There are a few things Jesus repeats in the gospels. "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." "Believe the good news." These get talked about a lot. There's one that gets less air time in many circles: "Come, follow me."

Believing is important. So is following. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." The thing we have to remember is that Jesus didn't come just to save us; he came to transform us.

A big part of following Jesus is reading his word.
Read it. Read it again. Keep reading it. A broad knowledge is important. A deep knowledge is important. You can't get both of those at the same time. Sometimes read to get as much Bible into you as you can.  Sometimes slow down and get hip-deep in the details. 

Study the Bible. Study studying the Bible. Study the Bible some more. The scriptures are the primary means by which God communicates with us. They reveal what he is like, what pleases him, what he wants, and what he intends for us.

So read it when you feel like it, and read it when you don't. Prioritize it. You don't have to spend hours a day in it. Some days you'll have half an hour, and some days you'll have five minutes. The commitment to spending time in his word is as formative as the time itself. And the day may come when "getting" to spend some time in the Bible will be a treat rather than a chore.

Just pray.
I think the primary lesson of the "Lord's Prayer" was that we should keep it simple. God's not looking for the correct formula or language. He's looking for you.

Sometimes you'll be a bit ashamed of your behavior in the recent past, and the last thing you'll want to do is expose yourself to God. Pray. This may be the most important time to pray.

Ask God for what you want, but remember that the purpose of prayer is not primarily about asking for things. It's about meeting God.

Slog through the doldrums.
There are seasons when you feel like God is right next to you, when the experience of his presence is almost tangible. Those do not last.

The rest of the time has been likened to the doldrums on the sea when the wind dies down and little progress can be made. Rankin Wilbourne, in Union with Christ, says, "The doldrums are an important, even necessary, part of learning to abide [in Christ]. They protect us from the dangerous temptation of enthroning our experience of Christ over the real Christ. See, if you always got a high, or a spiritual surge, every time you drew the sail, it would be easy to shift into pursuing your own immediate gratification instead of pursuing Christ."

Screwtape says, "It is during such trough periods, much more than the peak periods, that it [the believer] is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. ... Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

Habits help.
If you can set up your life so that certain daily actions trigger the behaviors you want, you'll do yourself a huge service. If you can get to the point where you reach for your Bible the minute you sit in your chair — even when that's not why you were sitting down there — all of this gets easier to maintain. Build a habit you can maintain. If you can't spend an hour a day in the Bible most days, don't try to do that. It's easier to spend a little more time when you have it than to maintain an impossible habit.

I've gotten in the habit of praying in the shower. I don't have anything else to do, might as well use the time, right? After a decade of that, it takes a conscious effort not to pray in the shower. So I'm guaranteed to spend at least a little time in prayer every day.

Does that feel cold and impersonal? It's really not. It's simply training yourself to do the things you want to do. And habits can really help you persevere during the doldrums.

Constantly evaluate yourself against what you see in scripture.
Don't just read it. Ask yourself what you need to change based on what you see there. Be specific. Make specific goals. "I need to be nicer" is not specific. "I will ask my neighbor how I can help her" is.

That thing you are absolutely sure doesn't apply to you does. That thing you really don't want to change is the thing Jesus most wants to change.

If you've read a passage a dozen times, and this is the first time you've noticed this place where you're lacking, that means this is the time the Lord has chosen to work on that. Cooperate and things will go better for you.

Hang in there.
I ran across a Desiring God article that speaks to this topic: Most Growth Will Be Slow Growth. The title pretty much says it all. We live in a get rich quick, get thin quick culture. This is the polar opposite of the Christian life. Sanctification is sloooow. Don't ask "Do I look more like Jesus than I did yesterday?" Yesterday could have been a particularly good day, or a particularly bad one. Ask "Do I look more like Jesus than I did five years ago."

Don't lose heart.
It's understandable that hearing "this is going to be a long, slow slog" can be disheartening. But we were never promised fast results. What we were promised was "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil 1:6). You will get there. That's the important thing.

How to be a Self-Feeder
7 Tips for Reading the Bible in a Year

Monday, December 23, 2019

What the Angels Said About Jesus

Before John called Jesus the divine Word who "was with God and ... was God," before Paul called him "the image of the invisible God," even before Jesus ran around Judea and Galilee claiming divine prerogatives for himself, people were warned what to expect from this Jesus. The angel Gabriel did not just tell Mary, "You're going to have a son." The angelic visitations attending the birth of Jesus laid out the story for anyone who was ready to listen.

Luke 1:26-38
"You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.

"The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."

Matt 1:20-21
"...what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. ... She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

Luke 2:11
"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

"He will be called the Son of God." In the Old Testament, there are many "sons of God." There is whoever Gen 6:2 refers to, there are references to angels being sons of God, and kings and all Israel are called sons of God. So what makes this kid special? This son will be conceived when "the Holy Spirit will come upon" Mary. He will be no normal man. Many in the Bible were unable to conceive without God's help, but this time it will be without the involvement of a man. Furthermore "He will reign over Jacob's descendants forever." Forever. This is no mere mortal. He's not mortal at all.

He will be "holy." Holy, especially when talking about people, means to be set apart. Samson was set apart from birth. So was John the Baptist. You know about Samson's hair. Zechariah was told about John, "He is never to take wine or other fermented drink" (Luke 1:15). These restrictions highlighted that they were set apart for God's use. There are no special instructions for this child. He's not a Nazirite. He's not "set apart for a special work." He's intrinsically holy. Like God.

"He will save his people from their sins." Do you think Mary and Jospeh wondered how he would accomplish that? I doubt they could have imagined the form that would actually take, but besides that, how can a human being save anyone from their sins? A human being cannot. The blood of bulls and goats does not bring forgiveness of sins, and neither would the blood of any mere man.

"He is Christ the Lord." "Lord" in the New Testament means different things. It can mean as little as "sir." It can mean a servant's master or an exalted person. Or it can mean the king. Calling him "Christ the sir" makes no sense, so he's obviously exalted to some extent. To what extent? He's no mere mortal. He's the Son of David. He's the special Son of the Most High. He'll reign as king forever. He will not be a lord but the Lord.

The Savior that was born to them and to us was no mere man. To anyone who was listening, the angels spelled out that this baby was going to be God in the flesh, come down to save mankind and call the nations to himself. The shepherds "spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child" (Luke 2:17), and so should we. We worship him best by joining his mission to call all nations to be reconciled to God.

Of Sons and Promises
The Forever King

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


What's going to happen tomorrow?

There are lots of good reasons to spend less than we make: So we can give to charity; so we're not caught up in materialism and greed; so we can handle unforeseen expenses like car repairs; so we can handle foreseen expenses like retirement and college.

Here's another one: In the not too distant future, people you know may face the choice of giving up their careers to honor Christ.

In The Benedict Option, Rob Dreher argues the day is rapidly approaching when American Christians will have to pull together to help each other survive more than we have had to in centuries. We've already see bakers, florists, and photographers face the choice of giving up a huge chunk of their business or violate their consciences. The day may soon come when doctors, pharmacists, teachers, and other professionals may have to make the same choices, even to the point of going into a new career.

Could that happen to you? Would you be able to help a brother or sister in Christ who faced that situation? Would you be able to help your church make up the loss in giving? Would you be able to continue giving to your church if your contributions were no longer tax deductible?

How do we prepare for that rather likely eventuality? By learning to make do with less now. By learning to live simply. We can learn to ask whether we really need to buy that. We can ask how many streaming services we really need to subscribe to. We can re-evaluate our transportation choices.

We can decrease the pile of gifts under the Christmas tree. Christmas is the time of the year when we most clearly tell our children that piles of stuff is good. This year, cut back a little on what you spend on Christmas for you and yours. Instead, have your family do some buying for an angel tree. Or gather around the World Vision, Heifer International, or Samaritan's Purse Christmas catalog and together pick out some gifts to give people who can't give back to you. Start getting your family used to spending less on yourselves.

Fancy clothes, fancy cars, and fancy houses filled with latest electronic gadgets are just things that moth and rust destroy. Storing up treasures in heaven is a far better use of our money.

Let's learn to live simply and give lavishly before the world makes us.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Review: The Fallacy Detective

I buy books at a faster rate than I can actually read them. As such, I've had The Fallacy Detective on my shelf for a few years, intending to read it and have my kids read it. Then I came across an offer from the authors for a free review copy of their new Audible edition. "Reading" in my car is my primary form of reading these days, so I jumped on it.

The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Six Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning is a logic primer aimed at middle schoolers and up.

"Hold on," you say, "logic primer?!" Two things you need to know:

1) Logic is simply clear thinking. Christians need to know logic. We need to know how to think clearly, and we really need to know how to identify shoddy reasoning from the world around us, because it is everywhere, and the world uses it to try to influence us and our children.

2) This "logic primer" is no stuffy text book or pseudo-Puritan handbook. It handles the material in short sections with the occasional joke and light-hearted examples that none the less illustrate the skills in question. It has a breezy tone and presents the material clearly.

The book covers all the typical reasoning errors with examples, then it gives exercises (with answers provided) for practice in recognizing the fallacies. Finally, the authors offer a game to help you and yours (they recommend 3+ players) sharpen your skills. Each chapter could probably be covered in less than 10 minutes, including exercises.

About the Audible version: The narrator does a fine job of reading the material, and he uses different voices to make the example conversations easier to follow. There are weaknesses. It's hard to do the exercises that way at first, and sometimes he has to describe a figure in the text (it really doesn't work). The authors recommend the Audible as a supplement to the hard copy (or maybe as the parent's version), but if this is all you have, you can make it work.

Again, every Christian — especially young Christians who are about to enter college and then the "real" world — need to know basic logic. This is about as painless textbook as I can imagine. Logic is not hard, and you (and your children) can use any book, but this is the gentlest of all the books I've come across. Of the best of the rest, A Rulebook for Arguments is shorter, but less clear, and Come, Let Us Reason is quite clear, but longer and less ... friendly. I think The Fallacy Detective will serve you and your family well.

(links are affiliate links)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Blog update: Sharing posts

After all these years I've finally managed to fix the buttons to share posts to Facebook, Twitter, and such. Yes, I am quite the luddite. I wonder what I broke while fixing this.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Right to Remain Silent

Are you getting tired of seeing stories about people who post something on social media and then get upset at the 100% predictable response?
Twitter logo

It's not just movie stars or athletes. It happens to everyday people, too. And it's been happening to some high-profile Christians. Israel Folau, the Australian rugby player, was only the latest example.

Let's get some things out in the open. Yes, it's a shame that people are only allowed to express "approved" opinions in our society. Yes, the scriptures say homosexual relations are immoral, along with a host of other things.

But this is our world right now. How do you want to live in it?

We should be willing to stand up for the truth. But we should do it in a winsome manner. And we have to pick our battles.

Ray Comfort teaches folks to use the Law of Moses to show people that they are sinners. He also teaches people not to bring up people's "favorite" sins. You don't bring up adultery to an adulterer. He knows he's an adulterer. He doesn't realize he's also a lying blasphemous thief with the seeds of murder in his heart. Talking about adultery will make him defensive. Showing him that his sin goes far deeper than he imagines may make him receptive to the gospel.

Gay people know that traditional Christianity teaches that homosexuality is wrong. We don't have to tell them that. No one is going to repent in dust and ashes because you post about it on Twitter.

The only thing that will happen is you'll be flamed. And possibly fired.

We are called to give a reason for the hope that is in us. We are called to be ready, willing, and able to share the gospel.

Our beliefs on same-sex marriage, etc. are not the gospel.

If someone asks you, one on one, what the Bible says on a topic, don't shy away from the truth. Be gentle, but be honest.

But don't go looking for opportunities to cause offense. Christ calls us to be "as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Matt 10:16). Paul said, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Rom 12:18).

In modern terms, you have the right to remain silent. You are not required to broadcast your opinion for all to see. And keeping it to yourself will probably make your life a bit more pleasant.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Standing on the Promises

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed recently and saw two posts right next to each other.

The first: "Virtually Wiped Out": 95 Christians Killed in Mali Village

The second: "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still" (Ex 14:14).

I couldn't help but ask "What happened? Did God forget to fight for them?" What's going on here? Of course God didn't "forget" to fight for them. But he also didn't promise to fight for them.

Christians love to quote the promises of God, and there are lots of books containing such promises. It's common in certain circles to hear that "all the promises of the Bible are for you."

No they're not.

For some reason, I never hear people try to claim this promise:

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:2-3).
Everyone knows that was God's promise to Abram, and no one tries to appropriate it. But for some reason they try to appropriate promises made specifically to other people.

Many, maybe most, promises in the Old Testament are made as part of the old covenant. The beloved Jeremiah 29:11 ("For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD...) was made to people under the Law, in the context of the Law. These promises do not apply to you unless you are under the Law of Moses. (Hint: You don't want to be.)

Many promises were made only to specific people and/or only for specific occasions. Ex 14:14 above ("The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still") was made to Israel as they were leaving Egypt when they found themselves trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. It wasn't even a blanket promise to Israel. On some occasions God expected Israel to fight. On some occasions he left them to their own devices (eg, Josh 7) — which didn't go well for them. It certainly was not a promise to modern Christians.

Why does this matter? I'll simply point to the example I gave above. If you tell people "God will fight for you" and he doesn't:
A. You have lied about God.
B. You have caused the people to whom you lied to now doubt God.
C. You may destroy the faith of weaker brothers and sisters by doing this.
D. You make Christianity look ridiculous to outsiders.
On a related note, when prosperity preachers use OT "promises" to tell people that God will make them rich and/or healthy and he doesn't, it drives people away from the gospel (while making these preachers rich).

There are lots of promises in the Bible that apply to the NT believer. Most of them are in the NT.

God's word to us today is good. He said, "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." He said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." He said, "neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." He has given us "his very great and precious promises" in Christ Jesus. We don't need to steal old promises from the old covenant.

If you're going to "stand on the promises," make sure they're promises God actually made to you.

Related: Never Read a Bible Verse

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Life Verse for the American Church

"... To boldly go where no one has gone before."

A mission statement can help you filter ideas, activities, and choices based on how they correspond to your priorities. Remember when "life verses" were popular? I suppose some people still do that, but there was a time when it seemed like everyone had a life verse — basically a mission statement or philosophy of life. It's not a bad idea.

In fact, I think the church in America needs one. We need this one:

... make every effort to add to your faith goodness;
and to goodness, knowledge;
and to knowledge, self-control;
and to self-control, perseverance;
and to perseverance, godliness;
and to godliness, brotherly kindness;
and to brotherly kindness, love. (2Pet 1:5-7)
These verses are important because they highlight for us that we're supposed to striving to be characterized by more than one thing.

Let's back up and look at the context. Verse three is very important: "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." Jesus has given us what we need. We have the tools at our disposal. We have the power at our disposal.

"Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature ..." (v4). He has also given us great gifts. He has blessed us beyond comprehension.

"For this very reason ...." Because Christ has given us all the tools and power we need, and because he has blessed us so richly. God always seems to remind us of what he's done before asking us to do anything. So, in light of what Christ has given us ...

"make every effort to add to your faith goodness"
Make every effort. I kind of like the King James version: "giving all diligence." This reminds me of "train yourself for godliness." He's telling us to work. To work hard.

What are we working hard at? "Add to your faith goodness." Faith is vital to the Christian life. But we can't stop at faith. Too many churches preach faith to the exclusion of all else. Peter says we have to add goodness to our faith.

Some versions translate this "virtue." Commentators tend to agree that this is referring to a horizontal goodness. Or, as Peter put it elsewhere, "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1Pet 2:12). Or as someone else put it, "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matt 5:16).

Someone will object that we're saved by faith. Yes! But a faith that produces results. "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds" (James 2:18).

"and to goodness, knowledge;"
Faith and virtue are not enough to be a mature Christian. You need knowledge. This is anathema to much of Evangelicalism, but I didn't write it. Talk to the apostle.

What knowledge? Definitely knowledge of God. "This is what the LORD says: 'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom/or the strong man boast of his strength/or the rich man boast of his riches,/but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me ..." (Jer 9:23-24). Knowledge of God is more than knowing about God, but it is not less. We have lots of alleged Christians who acknowledge that God is love without understanding that he is holy and just. Or they acknowledge that he is all-powerful without seeing that he must also be all-knowing. Bad theology kills. We cannot afford it.

But this is more than just knowing about God. We cannot "contend for the faith" (Jude 1:3) or "be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Pet 3:15) without knowledge. Christians today have more access to the collective wisdom of our brothers in Christ, both from this century and generations past, than any other generation ever. We have no excuse for the ignorance so many are proud of. Ignorance is not godliness. Ignorance is laziness and pride.

"and to knowledge, self-control;"
Paul spent a lot of ink telling us to be self-controlled. He even talked about fighting with his own body to keep it under control (1 Cor 9:27). Because "Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control" (Proverbs 25:28).

Temptation is going to come. Can you control yourself? This fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:23) is also something you have to strive to add to yourself.

"and to self-control, perseverance;"
The prosperity gospel is a cancer on Christianity and every land it touches. This verse will fight that.

If someone told you that becoming a Christian would make all your problems go away, they lied to you. The Master himself said, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). Paul said, "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim 3:13). Don't expect all sunshine and rainbows. Expect trouble. Set your heart for it so that when it comes, you'll be able to "suffer long."

And don't tell people this lie that they shouldn't have trouble so that they don't fall away when trouble comes. Hmm. That reminds me of a parable.

"and to perseverance, godliness;"
Godliness? Like "goodness?" The commentators say you could translate this "reverence" or "piety." Where "goodness" was being right with people, this is being right with God. What does God value? Besides love, faith, and kindness, humility gets a lot of press (Micah 6:8, James 4:10). He is the Creator; you are the created. Respond appropriately.

"and to godliness, brotherly kindness;"
"Brotherly kindness"—the Greek is a word you may be familiar with: philadelphia. The idea is simple: "As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34). This command shows up in some form throughout the New Testament. It's echoed by Peter, Paul, James, John, and whoever wrote Hebrews. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

"and to brotherly kindness, love."
This one is agape. Besides being devoted to the body of Christ, we must show love to God and to neighbor. Did you think we'd get through instructions on godly living without hitting the Great Commandments? But in a sense, this just sums up what came before. If we love God and everyone else the way he told us to, we'll do everything else in this list.

This doesn't sound easy or fun. Why should we do this, Peter? "For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v8).

Who wants to be useful? Does anyone aspire to walking into heaven with nothing to show for their time on earth? This is your time to serve your Lord and Savior. This is your time to earn your rewards. This is your chance to show the people in your life what it looks like when someone really follows Jesus. One day you will stand before your Lord. It will be a blessed time, but the time for working will be over. Send treasure on ahead.