When people really get to know us, do they know us as Christians? The Christian life is the Christ-life. Can others see the Master living in us? I remember the point being made in a different way. “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” That’s a challenging question.
But “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). What does the latter part of this statement mean – that we fall short of God’s glory? When the Lord told the parable of the prodigal son He spoke of him in his destitution as beginning “to be in want”. That is what we are told here, we are in want” of the glory of God, we have fallen short of it. One day we shall be in full enjoyment of that glory (Romans 8:18; Philippians 3:20,21). But what are the present possibilities?
“For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
“But we all, with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
These verses offer a present possibility of seeing and experiencing the glory of God. The unbeliever does not know about the glory. He has not had the experience of God shining into his heart, but the Christian is a person to whom the glory has been revealed, he knows about it. But the verses envisage more than that. We are not only. to know this glory, we are to share it. When the people saw Moses coming down from the mountain they stood back in amazement at the glory shining from his face. It was God’s glory reflected in His servant. That should be our present experience.
Peter reminds us in his second epistle (chapter 1) that we are made partakers of the divine nature. Is that true of me as a Christian? Yes! But is it visible to everybody? Peter says that we have to add (RV – supply) one virtue to another. God has played His part, He has made us partakers of the divine nature, but now we have our part to play. The word “supply” derives its meaning from the provision of large, expensive, lavish choruses of people for Greek plays. They were often paid for at personal expense, but no cost was spared. So Peter exhorts us to be fully and lavishly equipped with Christian qualities; not to be content with a meagre Christian life but to aim at the loveliest, most splendid life. If we are deficient in these qualities, Peter says we are short-sighted, we only see things as they are now, at close range. Peter continued, “For thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”.
The word “supplied” is the same word that we came across in verse 5 – “in your faith supply virtue …” where we noted that it meant a lavish provision. As in all else, so in this aspect of fostering Christlikeness, our efforts will be fully repaid. Our rich supply of Christian qualities will be matched by our rich entry into Christ’s eternal kingdom. In fact, Peter says more than that – note “richly supplied” not just “supplied” – as though the apostle is led by the Spirit to assure us of a double repayment for all our Spirit led attempts to grow more like our Saviour.
The Greeks had more than one word for “good”. To understand the different shades of meaning requires some amplification. One word for good means morally correct or practically useful, but another word adds a further thought of being lovely and pleasing to the eye. It describes that which commands love and admiration. It is frequently used to describe good works or deeds. There is a moral goodness and correctness required of the Christian but there is an added ingredient too – a quality of loveliness. Goodness can be an austere characteristic but that is not true Christian goodness for it lacks this attractive loveliness.
In the house of Simon the leper at Bethany, Mary approached the Lord Jesus and poured an expensive cruse of sweet spikenard over Him. The disciples were indignant about the alleged waste. The Lord commended her love and vision and said, “she hath wrought a good work on Me”. While mercenary’ disciples lamented the “waste” she made this lovely demonstration of love. Amid the insensitive apostles condemning her reckless extravagance she performed this act which Jesus said would remain a memorial to her. It is not a memorial of marble or gold but an indestructible memory of sweet and precious fragrance. It epitomizes the loveliness portrayed by this word. “Take thought”, Paul wrote to the Romans, “for things honourable (good) in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17).
The Lord Jesus is called the good Shepherd. He does not shepherd the sheep with a cool, calculating efficiency that protects a flock effectively but with a minimum of effort. He knows and loves His sheep, calls them by name, leads them to pasture, watches them ceaselessly, lies across the doorway serving as the actual Door at night. He is not just a good shepherd in the sense of safely protecting them. His service is lovely and truly heroic, commanding a loving response from His flock because of His pure winsome qualities.
Now Scripture requires this attractiveness of all our Christian life. We have mentioned good deeds but we are also to be good soldiers displaying a chivalrous gallantry. Sometimes we serve as if we were press-ganged into service instead of showing happy loveliness. The Christian must be a good servant of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 4:6). Have you ever been put off by a disinterested, curt assistant from whom you were going to purchase something? Ours is to be a courteous, smiling service.
Christian teaching also is to be “good”. Preachers and Sunday School teachers who present Christianity have a responsibility to project the attraction of their message (not to make it attractive, it is attractive). Someone said, “No-one has a right so to preach as to send his hearers away on flat tyres”. The message of Scripture is fundamentally attractive and we do it a grave disservice if we discourage our listeners. Christian witness is also to be good just as the Lord’s testimony was (1 Timothy 6:12,13). We must be careful not to present Christianity as a grim, austere list of prohibitions which obliterates its real beauty and colour. “True Christian witness attracts by its radiance, its vitality, its vividness”. Therefore our total Christian life should attract others to Christ.
More holiness give me, more strivings within
More patience in suffering, more sorrow for sin;
More faith in my Saviour, more sense of His care.
More joy in His service, more purpose in prayer.
More gratitude give me, more trust in the Lord;
More zeal for His glory, more hope in His word;
More tears for His sorrows, more pain at His grief;
More meekness in trial, more praise for relief.
More purity give me, more strength to o’ercome;
More freedom from earthstains, more longings for home.
More fit for the kingdom, more used would I be,
More blessed and holy; more Saviour, like Thee.