When I was a child, the song, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” was popular. While that was me one year in particular, I thought it was hilarious that two front teeth would be the entire list for Santa. My list always had a lot of stuff on it that was much more fun. With age, my Christmas list has become smaller, probably because I don’t really need that much anymore.
But this year is different. I came across a list of some really impressive items that I’ve decided would be good for me to have – you know, items you didn’t know you wanted or needed until you saw the TV commercial. However, this list came from 2 Peter 1:5-7 and includes eight items that I don’t think Peter would mind sharing with me. “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
I don’t want to seem greedy,but I really believe I need all of these. Even as those annoying TV ads are designed to be enticing, I was drawn by the odd specificity of Peter’s list and the fact that the order mattered. Why not start the list with love since Jesus is basically the personification of love (1 John 4:8)? And where is grace, mercy and trust? They seem important.
I am so thankful that the Lord recognizes honest questions and is pleased to give answers. He has helped me to see that faith must be the starting point because without it, we don’t know that God exists (Hebrews 11:6). It is only by faith that we receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. That confession deposits Holy Spirit to live within us, and His presence triggers an immediate change in us reflective of His goodness. The difference I saw in myself was so pleasantly surprising that I endeavored to learn as much as I could about this God that loved me so unconditionally. With the knowledge I gained came overwhelming gratefulness, wanting my life to be pleasing to Him. This meant exercising self-control to change some bad habits and die to self. Change can take a while, and sometimes that becomes discouraging. But persevering in seeking God, believing His promises, and putting faith into action brings about the change that has us acting and speaking more like Jesus – godliness. A huge characteristic of godliness is being others-focused, rather than self-focused. That means we extend brotherly kindness to others as we’re obedient to honor them above ourselves (Romans 12:10). Interestingly, honor is necessary in order to love. This kind of love is from the heart and fulfills God’s commandments to love Him and love others (Matthew 22:37-40).
The thing that really sold me on Peter’s list was what he said next. “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. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” (verses 8-9) I really want to be effective and productive for the Lord, not stuck in the past where the importance of my performance was all about me. The encouraging news about this list is that there is always more. It is the hope of continuing to grow. Attaining the end point of love wondrously increases our faith in God and His character, graduating us to the next and deeper level of pursuit.
Life in Christ is never boring, but abundant in every way – in overt blessings and in hidden blessings that come from overcoming hardships. That is why I will close my wish list to God with this line from Psalm 119:125, “I am Your servant; give me discernment that I may understand Your statutes.” I am so grateful that receiving my Christmas wish list is not dependent upon being naughty or nice.