“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare (shalom) and not for calamity (evil) to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 29:11-14.
Today your LORD (יהוה) God says:
My Hand is upon you for good and not evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11. This goes together with “and we know that God makes all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to the purpose.” And what is My purpose? My purpose for you is shalom (peace, prosperity, good health, and complete wholeness in spirit, soul, and body) and not evil, to give you a future and a hope together with Me as My own family forever. I want you all with Me now and forever. You are Mine. And I desire above all things that you prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers by walking in the truth. My Word is truth and it will sanctify you, give you life, and heal you. I have designed all things for your good. Heaven and earth are full of My goodness and I want you overflowing with My goodness. I want to be your God and you to be My people. I want all to know Me personally from the least to the greatest.
But where does knowing Me begin? You can only know Me by faith. For to come to Me you must believe that I AM and that I reward those who seek Me. “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare (shalom) and not for calamity (evil) to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 29:11-14. When you begin to seek Me with your heart (one believes in the heart) you will find Me right there with you.
But to come to be one of those who know Me and love Me there is a growing process where we journey together until you come to have the perfect (agape) love that casts out all fear and makes you guiltless, blameless, shameless, and fearless before Me and opens your heart to Me in perfect fellowship and partnership.
My apostle Peter experienced this and shares it with you in his second letter. After he denied My Son he lost his bold confidence in himself. He had told Jesus that he had such great love and loyalty for him that he was prepared to die for him, but he found out that in his fear of men he did what he thought he would never do and denied his Master whom he had declared the Messiah and My Son. After I raised Jesus from the dead, My Son asked Peter if he loved him, but he asked a particular kind of love. The original text of the New Testament was written in Greek and in that language there are different words for “love” depending on the type of love you have in your heart. There is the love for a friend or a brother, that is “fileo,” and then there is the perfect kind of unconditional love that will lay down its life for another, that is “agape,” which is My kind of love for you. Peter replied that he loved My Son but only with “fileo” love not agape. So My Son changed his question to that kind of love. But later Peter came to have agape love for My Son and for his brethren in the faith. And he tells you how you can have it to. For until you have My kind of love in your heart, you will not be truly attached to the Vine to bear much fruit. You do not want to be useless or unfruitful. And you won’t be if you are abiding in My love.
But Jesus knew with Peter, “you cannot arouse or awaken love until it pleases.” Song of Songs 2:7. Fruit comes after a process.
And from his own journey, My apostle Peter reveals to you a way to assure you are not only fruitful but that your entrance into the eternal kingdom of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. 2 Peter 1:8-11. If you are concerned about these things, then this is for you. And it is here that Peter fulfills the prophecy of Jesus over him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32. Let him now strengthen you.
Peter could have stopped in his guilt and shame but My Son pulled him through so that he became fruitful and fearless. He arrived at agape love. Remember that a branch changes and grows, it does not sit stagnate— it grows so that there is first the leaf, next the bud, then the flower, and finally the fruit.
So let us begin the journey along the path of life. For the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day. Proverbs 4:18. For no follower of Jesus should be walking in darkness for you have the Light of life in you.
First Peter, by inspiration and revelation of My Spirit, writes that grace and peace are multiplied in your life through the knowledge of Jesus Christ, so the more you know Jesus the more grace in your life, the more peace in your life, and access to everything pertaining to life and godliness. For by grace I have granted to you My precious and magnificent promises so that by them you may become partakers of My divine nature and escape the corruption (death and the curse) that is in the world by lust.
Now for this very reason—to have access to walk in the precious grace that supplies all you need for life and godliness and makes you a partaker of My very nature so that you have eternal life—once you are saved you have a process of growth to bear fruit. You must first have the leaf, then the bud, then the flower, and finally the fruit. And attached to My Son you will produce much fruit that will remain to bless people of every nation even after you have departed for Heaven. Like Peter has done.
So, I tell you that, applying all diligence (which is active participation and consistency) add to your faith moral excellence. You may be wondering how you add moral excellence to your faith. Let Me show you. When you believe in My Son as Lord and that I raised Him from the dead after He had borne all your sins and diseases you are saved, born again, and My Spirit comes to dwell in your spirit. This is good but now you need to renew your mind with My Word and grow in your knowledge of Jesus.
In My Word I define moral excellence for you in many places, but you can get the practical definition in Proverbs 6:16-19, Psalm 34:13-14, and Colossians 3:8-9, 12-13. And a good example of moral excellence is the conduct of Jacob’s son, Joseph.
In Proverbs 6:16-18, I tell you that there are six things which I hate, yes, seven which are an abomination to Me: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers. These are things to avoid in order to have moral excellence. You see what they are: pride, lying, abusive behavior, thoughts that devise plans that harm others, and spreading strife and division among people, especially those of your family of faith.
That tells you that moral excellence consists of humility, truthful speech, kindness, compassion, and being a peacemaker. In Psalm 34, I put it this way: “Who is the man who desires life and loves many days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:13-14. And in Colossians, I tell you are to put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. That you are no longer to lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to My image. Colossians 3:8-10. And so, as those who have been saved, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as I forgave you in Christ, so also should you. Colossians 3:12-13.
These Scriptures all tell you how to add moral excellence as you grow in your faith attached to the vine who is Jesus. And I will work in you both the desire and the will to do these things. But you too must use diligence to watch your thoughts and words so that you keep your tongue from lies and evil and your mind from proud thoughts. Instead be thankful. Be conscious of your words so that you do not hurt those who hear you but build them up. And I will give you the grace to do this but you must do your part like an athlete training for the Olympics must do his.
Next, Peter writes that as you grow on the Word, you will add knowledge to moral excellence. I tell you about the knowledge you must add in 1 John 4:16, Ephesians 1:18-19, Ephesians 3:17-19, and Isaiah 11:2.
You may be wondering what knowledge you need to know. It is knowledge of My love for you. Have you come to know and believe in the love which I have for you? 1 John 4:16. And love consists in this, not that you have loved Me but that I have loved you and given you My Son as propitiation for your sins. 1 John 4:10. And this knowledge is not just that of your mind but it also involves the eyes of your heart- that you may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of My calling, what are the riches of the glory of your inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of My power toward you who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19. It is the knowledge that Christ dwells in your heart through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all My fullness, the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19.
So you see it is growing in knowledge of My love for you, who you are in Christ Jesus, and knowing the great hope and power to which I have called you that I am talking about here. It is knowing that you are citizens of My Kingdom and have full access to the riches and glory that abide there. It is knowing you can come to My throne of grace with confidence that you will receive mercy and grace just when you need them. Hebrews 4:16. It is knowing that in Christ you are holy and blameless in My eyes and that all things are yours in Him. Ephesians 1:4-7. It is knowing that you are righteous in Him with My own righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21. It is knowing that you are My child, My heir and a joint heir with Christ. Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 4:4-7. And all things are His. Every good and perfect gift. It is knowing that He emptied Himself and became poor so that you could become rich with all His righteousness, health, and prosperity. 2 Corinthians 8:9.
Next Peter writes that as you grow in the Word you will add self-control to your knowledge. For I have not given you a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7. Self control comes when you are full, when you are totally satisfied and have no need or room for anything further. And how do you have this fullness? By being filled with My Spirit, which is all the fullness of the Godhead. Ephesians 3:20. And one of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Galatians 5:22-23.
And how do you get full? I tell in the Gospel of Luke that I will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Me for Him, Luke 11:13, and then I tell you in the Letter to the Ephesians how to be filled with Him on a daily basis: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” Ephesians 5:18-20. And finally in the first letter to the Thessalonians I tell you another way to be filled with the Spirit and have self-control: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19. So by singing psalms, hymns, and songs in the Spirit you become filled with My Spirit and from this self control follows. And if you keep in My presence, where there is fullness of joy, you can rejoice always, pray without ceasing (always keep up an inner awareness of My presence in your heart) and give thanks at all times, then self control follows. Depression and anger quench My Spirit. Avoid them by thankfulness and singing of joyful praise at all times. That is the key of David that opens the door of hope in the valley of trouble.
Next, as you grow in your faith, Peter writes that perseverance will be added to self-control. I define perseverance in the Letter to the Hebrews as living by faith rather than by your natural senses and circumstances. The righteous shall live by faith in My promises and not be swayed to doubt by circumstances that look contrary to My promises. Hebrews 10:36-39. And I desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the end so as to realize the full assurance of hope until you obtain My promise, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:11-12. Perseverance is believing My Word and standing on it no matter how impossible it looks, and standing until you have what I have promised. It is being consistently constant in faith.
Next, after perseverance comes godliness. Godliness is being like Me; it is imitating Me as My dear children and walking in love. Ephesians 5:1. And how do you do that? I pour My love into your heart by My gift to you of the Holy Spirit so that you are so filled with My love that it pours out to others through you. The more filled with the Holy Spirit and the more you know of My love for you as shown in Christ Jesus the more you will love and be like Me. As you behold My Son, you will be conformed to the image of My Son, transformed from glory to glory by My Spirit in you. 2 Corinthians 3:18. Attach to Jesus by remaining in My Word, as a branch to the vine, and you will be like Him for you shall bear the fruit of the vine to which you are attached. John 15:3.
After godliness is added brotherly kindness. Brotherly kindness is compassion for others, especially those of your family of faith. Jesus told you that “A new commandment I give to you, that you may love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35. And you love because I have first loved you. I have poured My love in your heart and covered you with the shadow of My hand. My banner over you is love. You forgive the way I have forgiven you in Christ, by the Blood. And as you realize how much you have been forgiven and how Jesus suffered to obtain that for you, as Peter knew first hand, that gives you compassion for all weak sinners for you were once one too until you came to Christ and became a saint in Him. The one who is forgiven much, loves much. The more you know what My Son went through to remove all sin from you, the more you will love.
In the Letter to the Ephesians I describe brotherly kindness for you in this way: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32.
And finally, in brotherly kindness comes love. Agape. Chesed. The love that lays down your life for the good of others. The love that makes you want to serve the needs of others. The love that makes others’ interests just as important as your own. The love that reaches out to Me with no self interest in mind but only consciousness of the great love I have for you. The love that is stronger than death, for in the end these three, faith, hope and love remain, and the greatest of these is love.
And this love will come to you the more you come to know and believe in the love I have for you. It is kindled at My throne and comes to you in the heart of My Son. It is the greatest gift of all. And you will abide in My love and be filled with that love for all eternity. Why not let it light your life now? It is the fruit of the flower that began as a bud after you first received Jesus as your Lord and believed that He bore all your sins and that I raised Him from the dead in glorious splendor as your High Priest before Me.
And when you know and experience this great love that I have for you everything that you once thought so important and desirable will fade into nothing, mere rubbish as Paul called it. And then you can write with Paul: “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39.
So, we have taken quite a journey into how you grow in virtue, but to sum up, once you believe and are born again you will grow in the faith if you are diligent to renew your mind in My Word to a new way of thinking. And as you grow from faith to faith led by My Spirit in you, first you will begin to walk in moral excellence (no longer lying to and abusing one another for as you grow you will no longer be comfortable with these things but will rejoice in the truth), then knowledge which will lead to self-control, then perseverance which will then add godliness, then brotherly kindness which will lead to perfect love. And perfect love casts out all fear and bonds us together forever.
And if you are diligent in growing in this way so that these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of Jesus Christ through whom you receive the gift of righteousness and the abundance of grace so that you reign in life through Him.
There are many believers, however, that never grow because they do not read or spend time in My Word or with Me in prayer. They do not understand all that Jesus has done for them in His finished work. They have no true knowledge of Him.
And I tell you that when believers who have heard the good news lack these qualities that Peter has listed, know that they are that way because they are blind– short-sighted– having forgotten that they have purification from their former sins. They still see themselves as sinners who are trying to avoid My punishment. Do not see yourself this way in Christ. You do not understand what I did for you in giving you My Son and condemning and punishing ALL your sins upon Him if you feel this way and keep Me at a distance.
Therefore, you who believe in My Son, be all the more diligent to make certain to know that I have called and chosen you in Him before the world began.
So attach to the vine and grow thereby. For as long as you grow in and practice these things that I have listed for you in Peter’s second letter, you will never stumble and you will be fruitful; and in this way your entrance into the eternal kingdom of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. 2 Peter 1:10-12.
Remember that you are one to be welcomed, for as He is so you are by grace. You will eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom.
A merited crown awaits you. Just as it did Peter. And he did finally get his heart’s desire to make good his words that he declared to Jesus that night when he later denied Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” Luke 22:33.
And there are more crowns than one that await you who persevere in love. The crown of righteousness, the crown of life and the crown of glory are all revealed to you in My Word.
I love you. Grow on My Word. Let it dwell in you richly. Let Me, the God of Shalom, sanctify you entirely so that your spirit, soul and body are preserved complete, without blame at the coming of My Son. I who call you am faithful and I will bring it to pass. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.