The beginning of Peter’s second letter makes it clear that in God we lack nothing. Through Christ, we are given “everything we need for life and godliness.” Because of this reality we are called to mature and increase in faith and the fruit of the Spirit. As it is sometimes put: God has made you holy, so go and be holy. Or as Peter might phrase it: God has chosen you, so go and “make your calling and election sure.”
We seem to struggle with grasping how these two realities can be true at the same time. Doesn’t focusing on our own efforts to grow in faith go against God’s way of grace? Perhaps we ought to be satisfied with the holiness we have in Christ while trying to make a few improvements here and there?
However, that is not the picture the Bible, nor Peter’s letter, paints for us. The picture we see is one of birth into new life, through Christ, and then a lifetime of growing and learning and stumbling and maturing. God does not create redeemed people in a factory by assembling a finished product in a matter of minutes, rather we are treated as humans with bodies and souls living in a wonderfully difficult and complex community of other humans. God certainly has the power to transform us instantly, but God’s purposes in our salvation and sanctification are much larger than getting us to the finish line as quick as possible.
The finish line is not “getting to heaven” or “becoming perfect,” the finish line is about the glory of God and God is glorified when we learn to love and worship Him with heart, mind, and body. The sanctification process, the transformation from old to new, is not a matter of following a 12-step program or reading something akin to an owner’s manual. In other words, it is not a mechanical process. It is a very human process which involves every part of our being. In fact, it a process wherein living, breathing human beings set out on a path and follow the God who took on human flesh – Jesus Christ.
As the disciples followed Jesus up and down the land of Israel, they were continually surprised and challenged by the path Jesus took them on. It is the same for us. We are following Jesus, as we encounter him in the Word of God, and the path is not often smooth and straightforward. But that is part of God’s way of transforming us, of making us holy. The boulders and sinkholes along the way remind us that we do not walk by our own strength.
Putting the Christian life in terms of following Jesus also helps us to makes sense of the fact that we are holy and are called to holiness. Whenever we decide to put our faith in Jesus and follow him, we are committing to walking a certain path. To walk that path, we will need to put in an effort for God does not plop us into a time portal and zap us into the future where we are perfectly holy. Neither are we robots whom God programs to move and speak in a certain way. God redeems humans, with all their complications and emotions, not robots.
So, following Jesus requires that we are striving to add to our faith, to grow in righteousness. As Peter writes, we are to make every effort to add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. That can be a hard path to walk, but that is the call of Christ. Thankfully, we walk in the divine power of God and with the knowledge that as long as we have our eyes fixed on Jesus we will not fail. Knowing our efforts to grow in faith are not futile, we can push on with eagerness and confidence, looking forward to the day we will be presented spotless before our God and King.