My new trainer Rocco is an enigmatic sort. He argues his position as well as any great philosopher would while delivering his articulate speech with the accent of a SoCal surfer-dude. The accent combined with the content of his remarks is jolting…in a refreshing kind of way. I didn’t expect it. The first time he waxed prolific, I stopped in my tracks. I had no response. Not only that, I felt rattled.
Add his unique personal style to his good mind (head shaved from the neck up to just above the ear all the way around the head, with the remaining mane tightly pulled back into a perfect braid), and you’ve got someone who, by being himself, blows away the preconceived notions of the social profilers in the audience.
Or it could be I just don’t get out that much.
When we first started training, I was finishing my book. I mentioned it. He asked what I write. I said nonfiction.
“Really. I’m all nonfiction. I never read fiction. I want facts…just facts.”
“What kind of nonfiction do you like?” I asked.
“Philosophy, science, and history.”
Okay…now this is interesting. I thought I might find out more.
“Oh really. I’m reading a really great philosophy book, but you probably wouldn’t like it. He’s a Christian.” I’d already asked Rocco if he believes, to which he responded “no.” It was a “no” that you move on from, not a “no” inviting me to probe further.
He got a funny look on his face and hesitated. And then he said, “I like Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”
It was the first sign. What Rocco says is that he views all of life through the rigid empirical lens of science. Period. But then what he does is different. He often drifts into diatribes about ethics and character and goodness and integrity and…wait for it… the omniscience of God. Either Rocco is oblivious to his own inconsistencies or he’s tiptoeing up to a question.
I suspect he’s confused about “knowledge,” limiting knowledge to the body of facts available about the things seen, touched, and measured. To him, love is a chemical reaction. Social behavior is rooted in tribal origins long ago implanted into our survival-mode biochemistry via evolutionary processes. There is only the natural. Nothing else. Rocco believes that the natural contains all knowledge…kind of like Carl Sagan.
I say… “Rocco! You’re wrong! There’s much more to know.” I only thought that.
So, I tell you this just to get to what I really want to tell you. I’m preparing for a 12-week group discussion about the Kingdom of God. That’s pretty cool, right? Yep. Anyway, the second week’s topic is Knowledge. For Rocco, discussing the concept of knowledge within the context of the supernatural would be incongruent with the idea of all knowledge emanating only from the natural world.
I’ll be honest. I too am more comfortable with an evidence-based foundation for knowledge. In fact, when I first became a Christian, I set up a meeting with the Assoc. Pastor at the church, walked into his office, sat down, and asked, “What is this Holy Spirit stuff I keep hearing about?” He leaned back in his chair, gave me a once over, and directed me to the Holy Spirit filled Wednesday night Bible Study in the main sanctuary. It was nothing like I’d ever seen before.
On Thursday morning I went back to him and asked, “How do I know if all this is true?” He smiled, leaned back in his chair again, and directed me to the fresh out of seminary youth pastor who eventually schooled me in the evidence supporting the authenticity of the Bible.
On Friday, I knew enough to be dangerous. That happened 34 years ago. Some say that I’m still dangerous.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to prepare for the Knowledge session until this morning when I opened my Bible to the next chapter. It was 2 Peter 1.
Let me just say this. God is always right here, handing me the next thing I need for the work ahead. I never get what I need before I need it. Some days I sit on the back porch weeping at His attentiveness to my needs. At first this just-in-time provision was nerve-wracking. But after experiencing the flow of divine assistance one day at a time for the past few years, I’ve grown to rely upon it more fully (as long as I don’t get letters from the IRS). Rocco would say this perfectly timed divine provision is simply a random coincidence (even though I don’t think he believes that). I say “pshaw.”
In verse 2, Peter jumps right into our essential need for knowledge:
2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,  and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.
According to Merriam Webster, knowledge is defined as:
1a (1) : the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association (2) : acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art, or technique
1b (1) : the fact or condition of being aware of something (2) : the range of one’s information or understanding answered to the best of my knowledge
1c : the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning : cognition
1d : the fact or condition of having information or of being learned a person of unusual knowledge
2 : the sum of what is known : the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by humankind
Peter’s opening greeting wishes grace and peace would be multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. In other words, it is only in knowledge of God and Jesus that we can experience grace and peace. So duh, that means we need to get knowledge. Here’s a nugget: the Greek word Peter uses for knowledge means full knowledge. That doesn’t mean finite knowledge since God is infinite. It means we are ever filled to our always-increasing capacity with the knowledge of Him. And in that ever-expanding knowledge, grace and peace are continually multiplied.
Peter writes that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for our life and our growth in godliness through the knowledge of Him. God has made promises to without us having to ask; promises that enable us to become, or grow, into the divine nature. He equips us to become partakers of the divine nature because He longs for us to know Him.
Thankfully, and to my former project managers’ heart’s delight, Peter offers a methodology using supplements for growth (it’s kind of like what Rocco asked me to do with my nutrition – remotely kind of like…). Peter’s program is a progression of growth, each stage building to produce the next stage as we are always becoming partakers of the divine nature.
Peter’s Supplement Program
- Start with faith,
- And then add your supplements, growing from character quality into character quality as follows:
- Supplement your faith with virtue,
- Virtue with knowledge,
- Knowledge with self-control,
- Self-control with steadfastness,
- Steadfastness with godliness,
- Godliness with brotherly affection, and
- Brotherly affection with love.
- Assess your results
- You’ll find that you have all of these qualities,
- The qualities are continually increasing,
- They will keep you effective and fruitful in the knowledge of Christ, and
- You will be richly provided an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Let me briefly address item 3d. This is not a pyramid scheme where we only gain entrance to the Kingdom after completing all the levels. We have access to the Kingdom right now. It is our experience of the Kingdom in the day-to-day that will grow richer and more spiritually manifest as we make our way down the path of character growth. Love is the last stage. God is love. This means that as we press on through the supplement program, we will become the kind of person who loves as God loves.
But alas, old thinking dies hard. For example, when first I considered Peter’s supplement program, I began calculating how old I’d be by the time I got to the end (she unwittingly exposes her delusions of control). Then I realized I might not get to the end before I die. Fortunately for all of us, that’s not the point. The point is we need to keep moving forward, to keep seeking to know Him. After all, eternity is now. This world gives us a chance to grow into someone who will be able to stand being in heaven. I heard heaven has a lot of goodie two-shoes.
Personally, at my stage in the program, that’s a pretty scary thought.