Three Steps Forward

As a young man newly promoted into a field representative position for my employer, I traveled with my manager as he introduced me to the insurance agents who sold for our company throughout north central Ohio. We had plenty of “windshield time” over a several-week period, so I was privileged to learn from his time-tested cache of workplace wisdom, including this valuable insight: “Some people gain 20 years of experience one time, and others gain one year’s experience 20 times.” It was his way of setting the vision of constant learning, continual improvement, and increasing productivity. In a similar vein, Peter counseled believers that life in Christ is more than a one-time moment of salvation—it begins at our spiritual birth into Him and grows steadily through a lifelong maturity process. “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … has caused us to be born again into a living hope … to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for [us].”1 God’s Spirit births our spirit2 to a purposeful existence of learning and serving, all toward the vision that we “grow up into [our] salvation”3 and “bear much fruit.”4

Yet amid the three-steps-forward adventures along the way, there arise one-step-back moments of frustration. They happen to all of us; they happened to Peter. He had come to terms with the spiritual weakness in his natural self, he had experienced the relief of restoration, and he had availed himself to the Holy Spirit, who had done much through this bold apostle. Yet when influentials began to argue the need to attain righteousness by keeping Jewish law, even Peter was intimidated and “began to draw back and separate himself”5 from Gentile believers. It took a public rebuke from Paul6 to disabuse Peter of his misstep into doubt and to realign him with the truth of salvation by faith in Christ alone. (Good friends do this.)

Shortly before his martyr’s death, Peter penned final thoughts “to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.”7 “Make every effort,” he wrote, “to add to your faith goodness … knowledge … self-control … perseverance … godliness … mutual affection … and love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure,” Peter continued, “they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”8 By now, we know we cannot bear such spiritual fruit in our natural strength, but only as we offer ourselves entirely to the Spirit of God, knowing this: He will lead us in constant learning, continual improvement, and increasing productivity—to a lifetime of experience one time.

We pray with Paul that we “may be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”9 Amen.

1 1 Peter 1:3, 4 ESV
2 John 3:6
3 1 Peter 2:2 NIV
4 John 15:5 NIV
5 Galatians 2:12 ESV
6 Galatians 2:14-21
7 2 Peter 1:1 NIV
8 2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV
9 Colossians 1:9-12 ESV

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