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 if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Peter urges us to pursue the layering on of spiritual qualities, one after another, drawing us closer and closer to our Lord, adding to our faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. What a powerful mix. All of it, of course, is beyond ourselves but rooted in the reality that “his divine power has given us everything we need” (verse 3).
The result of this continual pursuit is that we will be kept from being “ineffective and unproductive” in our relationship with the Lord. What joy.
But I’m struck here by the consequence of not pursuing these qualities. The consequence is huge. We will become nearsighted and blind, with one key result being that we lose sight of the fact we have been cleansed – fully and completely – from past sins. That’s a drastic consequence.
I am reminded of the leper coming to Jesus, falling down at his feet and crying out, “If you are willing, you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40). Up to that moment he had been required to cry out instead, “Unclean! Unclean!”, alerting everyone in his path that they should quickly clear out of the way. He knew only too well the reality of his impurity.
But Jesus responds with the life-altering words, “I am willing. Be clean!” (Mark 1:41), whereupon the man’s experience was completely transformed. No longer was his identity rooted in unhealth, infection, disease – uncleanness. No longer were his eyes downcast, his spirit wounded, his relationships curtailed. No. Instead he is set free. He is clean!
I imagine Peter himself was there and saw it all – I imagine he never forgot.
I am reminded further of Peter’s later experience – sometime after the resurrection – while on a rooftop in Joppa, praying at midday. His prayers were decisively interrupted by a vision – repeated three times – of a sheet being lowered from heaven, filled with every kind of unclean beast and reptile and bird. The voice of Almighty God commanded him to rise and kill and eat. When Peter protested, highlighting the uncleanness filling that sheet, the Lord’s voice came ringing back, in tones that Peter never forgot: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15). It was all intended to prepare Peter to enter confidently and happily into the home of Cornelius, the Gentile, and share the cleansing Good News of Jesus.
But Peter, of course, knew well his own failings and sins. There was the moment of blatantly denying his relationship with his Lord on the night of Jesus’ arrest. There would have also been many other moments since. Yet he had come to know the reality of Jesus’ cleansing forgiveness. He knew it symbolically when Jesus scrubbed the dirt from his feet at the Last Supper. He knew it at the fire on the beach as Jesus reinstated him after his failure. He knew it as he confidently preached to thousands on the Day of Pentecost, calling them to “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
Peter never let himself forget that he had “been cleansed from his past sins.” To do so would be “nearsighted and blind.”
How crucial for us, also, to remember. Washed clean. That’s our status in Jesus. Shame put aside. Head lifted up. Freedom bestowed. Purity poured out.
Yes, like Peter, we need to have the dirt washed away after any further denial or misstep or sin. But we have received the full washing in Christ – it’s only dirty feet that need cleansing now.
So don’t forget. If you are in Jesus, you have been cleansed from your “past sins.” You have become a participant “in the divine nature” – you have escaped “the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (verse 4). Oh, how good.
Lord Jesus, thank you for washing me clean. Keep my eyes open and clear to this reality. For your glory.
Take 1 John 1:9 and soak in it all day: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash