II PETER 5
Roy Osborne 2006
revised and reprinted
CHRISTIANITY IS NOT PASSIVE
In our previous essay we emphasized that faith is not a passive experience. The only faith that counts is the one which drives you to diligently seek the Father. Just so, all of these Christian characteristics mentioned by Peter in this chapter are dynamic traits. None of them is simply descriptive of a nice moral person. They envision a dynamic individual, involved in the process of overcoming the powerful influences of the pagan world, and challenging himself to grow more like the Master day after day.
The first characteristic we noted was virtue. This does not mean just being a good person. The word virtue comes from the Latin word for manliness. It is more than just avoiding moral mistakes. It is a positive, even aggressive effort to be a good person, in spite of a world which entices you to be otherwise. Knowledge is not learning academic facts in some protected ivory tower. It is awareness of God’s presence in His world, and realizing that His is the only way that makes sense in the perverse society in which we live. This knowledge is not gained by going to church and listening to the preacher, no matter how good he may be. It is not learning the beliefs and rituals of your church. It is only to be gained by earnestly studying His Word and being personally convinced of the will and person of God Himself.
Virtue and knowledge are added to your personality as a result of exercising your faith, and using its power to mold you into what God wants you to be.
Next, Peter mentions temperance. There is always the battle between the passions of the earth-man and the reasoned control of the spiritual man. God never intended forus to emasculate ourselves into a passionless, celibate, monastic existence. Being a Christian is not a retreat behind some cloister walls, off the battlefield of life. The Christian is sent out to live life, with all of its passions, but to keep them under control. Temperance is not total rejection of all my earthly nature. It is the self-control which allows me to use for good what God has given me, and to discipline myself with the wisdom which comes from above. When Christ said, “Go”, in the great commission, He sent us out into the world with the message of Heaven. He never intended for us to retreat from the battle, but to engage the enemy daily, and with self- control to win each encounter.
I once heard a preacher argue that alcohol was evil and to drink it in any form was sinful. He argued that the wine Jesus made at the feast in Cana was just grape juice. Of course, this is not true. The guests, who were people used to drinking wine, proclaimed it the best they had had, and grape juice would not have caused that kind of a reaction. Jesus used wine, but only to be used with temperance. A religion of absolutes is not a religion of reason. The reason that Christianity has literally changed the world, since Jesus’ time, is that it is the most reasonable and sensible way to live in this world. Temperance is using all things with self-control. This you can do by exercising your faith!