Over the course of recent “Follow Me ” columns, we have taken quite a journey through Scripture in coming to see what Christ meant when promising, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18 John 14:18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
American King James Version×).
Through our journey together we have come to understand that the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×) isn’t merely a spiritual power tool, but is the very distilled nature of who and what God the Father and Jesus Christ are (Romans 8:9-11 Romans 8:9-11 9 But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.
American King James Version×). God gives this Spirit “to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32 Acts 5:32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God has given to them that obey him.
American King James Version×)—those who surrender their lives in obedience to Him.
It’s this divine essence that our Heavenly Father desires to impart that allows Paul to declare, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16 1 Corinthians 3:16Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
American King James Version×). God desires to take up residence inside us!
And what is the purpose of God giving His Spirit to us? Paul explains in Romans 8: “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Sprit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
“For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you … (Romans 8:5-9 Romans 8:5-9 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
American King James Version×, New Living Translation 2013).
With all that said, the simple question is: So where do we go from here? In the previous column I left you with a thought: If Christ dwells in us and we are offered salvation by God’s grace and not by human merit (Ephesians 2:8 Ephesians 2:8For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
American King James Version×), what’s left for us to accomplish?
Living God’s way as His priesthood
Do we just stand still and bathe in the light of God’s grace? No! William Barclay, in his commentary on 2 Peter, offers this insight: “The truth is that, as Christians see it, happiness depends both on God’s gift and on our effort. We do not earn salvation, but at the same time we have to bend every energy towards the Christian objective … Faith does not exempt us from works; the generosity of God does not absolve us from effort” ( The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters of James and Peter, 2003 , p. 346).
That is, faith (in God’s sustaining grace) without works (obedience and total surrender to God as our grateful response) is dead (James 2:17-18 James 2:17-18 17 Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yes, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
American King James Version×)!
Christ’s call of “Follow Me” is multidimensional. It’s not merely to be a disciple (student and follower) learning a way of life, but is additionally to be the fleshly temple of God on two feet on the move toward the Kingdom of God. We are also called to be “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you might proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 2:9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
American King James Version×).
Revelation 5:10 Revelation 5:10And have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
American King James Version×takes this one step further to outline God’s intent for Christ’s followers to become “kings and priests” under His future worldwide rule. The biblical reality is that we are now in training to become a realm of holy priests under the tutelage of the great heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:1 Hebrews 3:1Why, holy brothers, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
American King James Version×). What do priests do? They teach and guide worship, they proclaim praises and act as intermediaries, including through offering sacrifices.
The daily call to be a living sacrifice
Perhaps there’s no more complete means of worshipping and praising God for granting us His Spirit of the divine nature than sacrificing ourselves on a daily basis.
Paul speaks to this in Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (emphasis added throughout).
Our human response to God’s spiritual grace is to offer up ourselves to Him and to others on a daily basis. It’s an incredible thing to die for God in martyrdom, but in one sense it’s equally challenging to live for Him and live like Jesus Christ on a daily basis by having our minds and thinking transformed by “walk[ing] just as He walked (1 John 2:6 1 John 2:6He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
American King James Version×) and by “dying daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31 1 Corinthians 15:31I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our LORD, I die daily.
American King James Version×)—deed by deed, need by need, person by person.
How do we actively surrender every element of our human territory into holy and acceptable alignment to the righteousness imparted to us through His divine nature? Be advised: It’s not an event but a lifelong process. And remember, Jesus promised, “I will come to you.” We are not alone!
After the incredible pronouncement about being partakers of the divine nature in 2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
American King James Version×, Peter offers systematic qualities to guide us in the Spirit-led sacrificial life, wherein God rules the throne of our heart. The apostle presents our part in drawing on the righteousness of God to ultimately occupy every vestige of our life.
Diligence with zeal
He begins in verse 2 Peter 1:5 2 Peter 1:5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
American King James Version×by exhorting us first to be “giving all diligence” in response to our Heavenly Father’s calling and gift of His Spirit. The original Greek word denotes a sense of zeal towards the mission granted. Dedication in such a manner requires focus and, yes, self-sacrifice.
It’s been said that many people aim at absolutely nothing all their lives and hit it every time. Remember Barclay’s comment that “we have to bend every energy towards the Christian objective”? While salvation is God’s gift, He wants to see our responsive desire to grab hold of it. And the opportunity for that will come minute by minute and person by person when we least expect it—but we need to be prepared.
I’m reminded of the words of pianist and composer Jan Paderewski when asked by a fellow pianist if he could be ready to play a recital on short notice. The famous musician responded: “I am always ready. I have practiced eight hours daily for forty years.” The other pianist remarked, “I wish I had been born with your determination.” Paderewski then replied: “We are all born with it. I just used mine.”
Let’s remember that those of us who’ve been spiritually converted have all been “blessed … with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3 Ephesians 1:3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
American King James Version×). The same determined Spirit of Christ that said, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 Luke 22:42Saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.
American King James Version×) resides in each of us to be drawn on!
But we have to draw on it! Being a Christian takes diligence that comes through a zeal that consumes us as it did Jesus (John 2:17 John 2:17And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of your house has eaten me up.
American King James Version×) and continual practice. It takes total commitment to learning and living His Holy Word. Life will have its twists and turns and continuous interruptions. Be zealous and diligent as you allow God’s Spirit to occupy every facet of your life by putting first things first—praising God not merely by what you say, but by what you do.
Faith and virtue—and laying down our life
Continuing in 2 Peter 1:5 2 Peter 1:5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
American King James Version×, the apostle next tells us to build on diligence with faith. Faith is more than believing in what you hold in your hand. As Hebrews 11:1 Hebrews 11:1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
American King James Version×expresses, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (NLT 2013).
Simply put, when faith goes to market, it takes a basket. The Christian faith is not institutionalized, but is personalized and echoed in the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:12 2 Timothy 1:12For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.
American King James Version×: “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day.”
Such faith reminds us and at times restores us on the journey, refreshing us about a promise, “I will come to you,” and—better still —“I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 Hebrews 13:5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
American King James Version×).
Returning to 2 Peter 1:5 2 Peter 1:5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
American King James Version×, Peter next spotlights virtue as a reasoned response to the goodness of God that has been granted to us. The root Greek word, arete, denotes an intrinsic moral excellence visible to others. A picture is worth a thousand words. Is it any wonder that Christ says that we are to be a light to a darkened society and not remain hidden under a basket? (See Matthew 5:14-16 Matthew 5:14-16 14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×.)
Of course this is not about promoting ourselves but humbling ourselves in self sacrifice—allowing Jesus Christ as the light of the world (John 8:12 John 8:12Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
American King James Version×) to shine through us to others. This takes faith, courage and, yes, practice—not in the soft spots of life, but in moments in which our knees may be shaking yet our hearts remain firm beyond the moment.
Sacrifice does not come cheaply. It will cost us something— ourselves. Jesus Christ of course gave all. When people look at us, do they witness the bright light of Christ—seeing us emulating the sacrificial life of our Master? Or do they merely see the flickering flame of momentary devotion?
The Spirit-led sacrificial life isn’t perfected in a day or hour. It’s not an event frozen in time, but is a progressive adventure encompassing the remainder of our allotted days. It can’t be squeezed into a moment, and neither can the qualities it requires be squeezed into one column.
So let’s keep walking together towards the next column and beyond as we continue to explore the qualities of the Spirit-led sacrificial life, exemplifying our desire to remain on the path set before us as we respond to the call of “Follow Me.”