Welcome to part 4 of our series “Building on the Rock” from 2 Peter 1:5-8. To view previous entries, click HERE.
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self control, to self control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This week’s devotion is on the word virtue.
I was thinking about this one a couple weeks ago, and trying to decide exactly what I was going to write about it. I mean, you really can’t get much broader than “virtue”, can you? All of the other components in this verse fall under the category of “virtues” – knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness. So why add “virtue” next, if that’s what every single one of these are?
Here’s a quick definition of virtue: the quality of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong, moral excellence.
What can I pull out of the word “virtue?” I think in this verse, it doesn’t mean virtue in the sense that it’s defined above. But here’s what God has been working in my life this past week, and it may be a little off track from the true definition of the word virtue, but perhaps God will make a connection in your mind like He did for me.
Virtue is, as I’ve said, a pretty broad word. But I think that’s exactly why it’s right after faith. Faith, as we’ve seen, is our foundation. It’s what we build upon. But virtue is right after faith. Why? Because virtues are kind of relative.
Depending on your worldview, religion, or belief, virtue has different meaning to you. For many religions, virtue is some pious work or holy ritual, or even just high morals by which you must live.
As Christians, however, good virtue is something that God works in us that becomes a foundation for the way we see the world. See, without faith it is impossible to please God – but Jesus also says you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:20)
One thing I have been meditating on a lot this past week is idols – things that get in our way of Christ.
Over the years, I’ve had multiple different understandings of what idols are. When I was little, all idols were were things like Buddha; or the fat jolly man who sat cross-legged on the floor with candles in front of him at all the Chinese restaurants we went to. Basically it was a “bad god” or a “false god.”
As I got older, I learned that idols could be anything you placed higher than God. This wasn’t a hard concept to grasp, and in my 10-year-old mind, there wasn’t much you could put higher than God. God was…just…IT.
The more I matured and the more I began to understand about the world, the more idols I found were competing for my worship. They weren’t just something you obsess over. It didn’t have to be something you blatantly put ahead of God. In fact, the idols I found in my life were things that became more subconsciously ahead of God. Things I didn’t quite notice had taken God’s place – like friends, family, and church even.
Church?! I was appalled when God revealed this in my life. How could church be an idol? But God showed me that I had been putting serving Him above Himself.
Oswald Chambers writes: Beware of anything that competes with your loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him. It is easier to serve than to pour out our lives completely for Him…We are not sent to do battle for God, but to be used by God in His battles. Are we more devoted to service than we are to Jesus Christ Himself?
Aghk. Those are powerful words.
Just last Friday, however, I was presented with a different kind of idol. Or rather, another way of seeing idols.
My friend’s mom was reading a quote from a book to me. I don’t remember exactly how it went, but here is the gist of what I gathered from it.
Put your hand up to your face and look through your fingers. Now turn your head about to see what’s around you. No matter how you turn, your view will always be distorted by your fingers getting in the way.
The same is true with idols. Whatever we idolize becomes the mask through which we see the world. The thing that distorts or tints our vision to see things a certain way.
I find this particularly prominent in my social media/online life. As I go about my daily tasks, the little things in life that I enjoy or find interesting I find myself instantly writing it in my head as a facebook status or blog post – because facebook has become a mask through which I filter how I see everything.
I do the same with people. I often picture certain people I care about as if they were right next to me or imagining how they would react to a certain situation. Instead of seeing that situation through God’s eyes, I begin to see everything through theirs.
These are idols.
I was talking to a friend a couple nights ago, and the topic came up about wanting God to be real to us. Wanting to hear from God, to hear Him speak to us and show us His will. But the thing that struck me so hard is that…if I have all these masks up that I’m seeing the world through, how can I clearly hear the call of God? He can’t speak to me when I’m filtering everything through the distorted views that I hold. I once heard it put that we need to see the world through God-colored glasses.
And I think this is why virtue is right after faith.
Faith is a great big leap, but after you’ve leapt, it’s all too easy to turn back. To have doubts. Which is why virtue is next.
Mike Donehey, the lead singer for Tenth Avenue North (whom you will undoubtedly hear me quote time and time again in this series. ) says his favorite verse is Psalm 34:8 – Taste and see that the Lord is good. “Because, if you don’t do that, none of the other stuff will make any sense.”
And at first I thought that was a little weird. I mean, aren’t there really important verses like John 3:16 or Romans 5:8? But what he said is that if we don’t taste and see that the Lord is good, none of the rest of it makes sense. One of his most famous quotes is “we can’t learn to live for God until we learn to live because of God.”
The thing that struck me so powerfully about this was how it relates to the picture of the mask/idol blurring my vision. Because I can’t do anything else for God unless my idol – my mask through which I filter everything – is God Himself. I can’t live for God till I learn to live because of Him. I can’t make sense out of any of what God has done for me until I can catch a glimpse of how powerful and awesome and wonderful my God is. What good is a God who loves us unless He’s a good God? I don’t worship God’s saving grace, I worship the God who gives saving grace.
Edmund, in the LWW, is one who’s worldview was distorted by the White Witch. It’s so easy for us to look at Edmund and see that he was falling into evil. But for Edmund, it didn’t seem that way. He had just met a beautiful queen who fed him his favorite food, warmed him through, and made him to feel good about himself and less for his siblings. And it’s clear to see how this immediately translated to the way he treated his family. He was sour and rotten to Lucy when he returned from Narnia, and even goes so far as to betray his siblings when they all enter Narnia.
Peter and Susan also had worldviews and ideas that were thwarted – thwarted by their supposed ideas of reality. Of what was possible and actual – and it hurt Lucy to have those she looked up to disbelieve her.
It was not until they all came into Narnia and began their journey to search for Aslan – looking to the one whose worldview was true that they saw the light.
And so virtue. It’s a broad quality, but it’s one that is so important because that is what we see our world through. Our virtues should be shaped by one and only one person – that is Jesus Christ. My challenge to you this week is to look at your life. Through what things do you see the world? Facebook? Music? Loved ones? Narnia, even? We are called to put these things to death.
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth. (Colossians 3:5) and Seek those things which are above. (Col. 3:1)
What kind of mask do you wear?