Anyone just learning to quilt has many new skills she needs to learn. She needs to learn to cut precisely so her pieces will fit together easily. She needs to learn to sew straight 1/4" seams, how to press those seams without distorting the pieces and how to measure before adding borders.
And that's just to make the quilt top! Then there's basting and quilting and binding. With each quilt the beginner will get a little better at these basic things. We all did, or will. Then we move on to other skills. Maybe we add applique or embroidery or free-motion quilting to our repertoire. Whatever the style, most quilters are always on the lookout for a new technique to try, a new skill to master.
In his second letter recorded in the Bible, Peter wrote of several things Christians should be adding to their repertoire as well. These are not skills to master, but rather characteristics to help us better conform to the character of Christ.
"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 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. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins." (2 Peter 1:3-9)
First off, in verses 3 and 4 Peter tells us that we already have everything we need "for life and godliness" so we "may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." So these characteristics aren't beyond our reach. It isn't an impossible task he presents to us. With Jesus as Savior and if we rely on the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us to guide and strengthen us, it is possible to live as God calls us to live.
We begin with faith. Through faith we accept Jesus as Savior, which is the first step in living the way God intends. Then, relying on the Spirit daily, we add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love.
Peter doesn't mean believers suddenly acquire these characteristics or that we don't have to work at them. In fact, Peter tells us to "make every effort." That means we work at being good, we work at increasing our knowledge and self-control and on through the list.
Just as a quilter doesn't say she will work on cutting perfectly while ignoring the size of her seam, we don't work on only one characteristic and ignore all the others. We may place more emphasis on one, especially if we are struggling in that area, but we can't completely neglect the other areas.
Verse 8 tells us there is no end point, no moment when we can say "I have all the self-control I need." Peter tells us the goal is to have "these qualities in increasing measure." In other words, we should always be trying to become more good, more knowledgeable, more self-controlled, to show more perseverance, godliness, kindness and love. Then we will not be "ineffective and unproductive," which I think means that if we have these qualities in increasing measure then we are experiencing the full result of knowing Jesus as Savior.
What about if we don't have these qualities? Peter says believers without them are "near-sighted and blind" and that they have "forgotten that [they have] been cleansed from [their] past sins" (v. 9).
That's not how I want to live!
It's not easy to focus on improving these qualities in our lives. We'd rather believe we are good enough as we are and spend our energies pointing out the faults of others. But that's not what God desires for us.
So, do you have faith in Jesus as your Savior? What about the other qualities? What efforts could you be making to increase your measure of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love?