According to an often repeated story, legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, once expressed his frustration by stopping practice and saying to his Green Bay Packer professionals something like, “Let’s start at the beginning. This is a football. These are the yard markers. I’m the coach. You are the players.” (Although I haven’t been able to confirm the accuracy of the whole quote, many sources agree that “the Coach” is remembered for saying to men who prided themselves in their knowledge of the game, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”)
In a similar way, I often come back to a few words of the Bible that just as carefully repeat the spiritual basics of following Christ.
We’ve looked at 2Peter 1:5-7 before. But because of the story it tells about how faith grows and is expressed I want to occasionally review it for my sake and your’s.
After reminding followers of Jesus that: God has graciously and generously given us all of the power and promises we need to live the life of faith he has called us to, the Apostle Peter says,
“For this very reason (tightly connecting vss 1-4 to vvs 5-7), giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
By the way Peter repeats his “yard markers”, he shows that there is a logic– a critical, non-negotiable, faith-based story he wants us to see.
In short, he wants us to see that what God has done for us in Christ… is the basis of our response to him through the following relationships of faith:
Links 1&2. virtue and knowledge–Without a desire for something better than our natural ways, we will not grow in a personal knowledge of Jesus.
Links 2&3. knowledge and self-control–Without a personal knowledge of Jesus shaping our thoughts, we will not grow in self-control.
Links 3&4. self-control and endurance– Without self-control we will not grow in our ability to endure.
Links 4&5. endurance and God-centered character– Without endurance we will not grow in God-centered character.
Links 5&6. God-centered character and brotherly kindness– Without God-centered character we will not grow in the Father’s love for his family.
Links 6&7. brotherly kindness and love– Without sharing the Father’s love for his family, we will not grow in sharing his love for his enemies and ours’.
Peter then goes on in vss 8-13 to repeat over and over how important “these things” are to our spiritual well being.
Over time I think I’ve seen why Peter gave such emphasis to these basics. Each faith-based link builds on the one that precedes it and becomes a basis for the one that follows.
The point is not that this is a logical mind game that is suddenly solved once all of the essentials are linked, but rather that the mysterious and wonderful grace of God becomes increasingly evident in us as we live out the relationships of an inner life that Peter calls us back to.
Most importantly, I’m just as convinced that the whole story of the Bible, and all of its individual stories of faith, illustrate the wonder of God’s Spirit and grace working through these same basic relationships of the heart.
That means that we could certainly grow in our knowledge of Christ without knowing what Peter says in vss 5-7. But no one can grow in Christ without practicing and experiencing the relationships of faith this text summarizes for us.
In Lombardi terms, “This is a football. These are the yard markers”: