Peter is writing this letter as a written record of his teaching. His current audience is following the commands but he wants to care for the future generations too, after he is gone.
Peter starts by reminding his readers that Jesus gave us the power to move towards godliness. It didn’t come from within us. It was birthed in us through the knowledge of Him; faith in Him and believing He is the ONLY way to salvation. But He doesn’t leave us at that beginning knowledge and call it “good enough.” Instead He gives us His power to continue growing in Him. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… by which He has granted us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers in the divine nature” (verses 3a and 4a).
So, since we have His promises and power, what do we do now? EXERCISE THEM! How do we do that? Start building on that faith foundation. “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (verses 5-7).
This “list” brings to mind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid from my psychology studies. In his theory he proposed that we have “building blocks” of needs that have to be met first before the next level can be reached.
You have to have the basics taken care of before you can move onto the more complex levels. In Maslow’s pyramid you could be working on several levels at a time and move back and forth between them as the environment and stressors dictated.
I see the list Peter provided in much the same way. But instead of US moving ourselves along under our own power, Jesus provides the power to do the work. We have to access it and employ it though. If I simply sit back and say, “I’m saved and that’s all I need” I DON’T go anywhere. I would even question if a person taking that attitude really was saved. As several of our bible authors cited, it takes faith in conjunction with works to have a healthy relationship with Jesus. And without that dual relationship you will hear “Depart from Me for I never knew you” when you approach the throne of God. NOT words I EVER want to hear, especially directed at me!
In this pyramid we start with faith: faith in Jesus, His promises, and His substitution work. After this is laid we move on to virtue: beginning to live a life like Jesus would be proud of; one reflective of the Ten Commandments. Next comes knowledge: getting into the word of God and finding out more about Him and what He has planned for our lives. Along comes self-control: this is only possible because of the relationship being built with Jesus. It goes beyond the original ten and gets deeper into the heart. Moving deeper into steadfastness: keeping on doing the works Jesus would approve of even when the going gets tough. Next comes godliness: letting God be Lord of your WHOLE life, not just parts of it. Then comes brotherly affection: reaching out to your brothers and sisters in Christ and meeting their needs as the Spirit moves you to. And finally love. This one is actually spread out throughout the whole pyramid because without some degree of it you wouldn’t be motivated to move on. Our love for Jesus is what started us on this path to begin with. But the pinnacle of love is being a TRUE reflection of Jesus. Esteeming others above yourself, following wherever the Spirit leads no matter how tough it is, investing your whole self in Jesus’ mission to reach the world.
This pyramid, like Maslow’s, also has us working on more than one level at a time and going back and reinforcing areas that have grown weak. We CAN’T do this on our own. We may never reach the pinnacle this side of Heaven either. But we ARE supposed to invest ourselves in this task. We are to rely on Jesus to put the “power” behind our purpose. We do the work but He enables us to. The more time we spend with Him the more we can climb this mountain.
Father God I want to climb this mountain to the top! Not so I can stand up and shout “Look at me!” but so I can be a true reflection of Jesus. Lord Jesus, help me EVERY DAY to go deeper with You. Help me take one more step in our relationship. Holy Spirit, point out the holes that need patching as I climb. I don’t want to fall and fail. Remind me of the basics and how important they are to the overall structure. Continue to build my foundation of faith through our daily relationship.
Help me ALWAYS walk in Your love. I know I have prayed this before, and meant it then as well as now. I need Your strength Jesus to make this a reality in my daily life. Thank You for Your forgiveness when I fail at this too.
Right now though Lord, I need Your wisdom with my husband and his ever changing needs. Help me know which ones to bring to the doctors and which ones to simply wait out. Give me an extra measure of love in this process too so I NEVER make him feel as if he is a burden to me. Give me insight, tools, and assistance accessing the things he needs to make his life enjoyable. Thank You for Your love for Him too. He is precious to more than just me.