Of the Bible’s analogies that teach goal oriented living, this last one seems the simplest. Steady marathon runners, studious treasure hunters, and stone-setting visionaries have left us challenged, and perhaps a little out of breath. One-thing living, and doorpost dedication have called for total commitment. By comparison, footstep-following seems rudimentary—more like child’s play. But we discover that stepping in our Lord’s path is life’s greatest challenge; the most demanding goal of all.
Pattern of Prints
We struggle to understand how God chose us while giving us a choice. Why, however, is unquestionably clear: “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29). The Father has given His Son the preeminent place in the family—the dignity of being called Firstborn. Then, adding us to His family, He reveals His eternal purpose: conform His chosen children to be like the Firstborn. We can never share the Firstborn’s rank, but as He walks ahead, we can follow, aligning our character to Christ’s, anticipating the day when even our bodies will “be fashioned like unto His” (Phil 3:21). What is God’s will for your life? The Father points to the Firstborn’s footsteps, and the Lord pauses to give His familiar command: “Follow Me.”
Watch your Step
Ever cross a snowy field, stepping only in someone else’s boot prints? The experience proves two things: it takes a lot of coordination, and, in the end, your tracks are hidden in the prints you followed. The same is true in the pursuit of Christ-likeness.
Becoming more like our Lord requires coordination; looking at His stride while watching our own. It’s not the passive result of years in Christ ticking by, but, as Peter explains, determined steps are needed: “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:5-8).
This walk begins on common ground, as the letter is addressed to “them that have obtained like precious faith.” Now, Peter advises, progress requires “all diligence.” Developing Christ-like character demands full attention. He then lays out the path: “Add to your faith virtue…” Add, he says, because these steps build upon each other. Like climbing a mountain, each move combines with the previous to reach the summit.
Find a Foothold
Virtue, or courage, was what Peter lacked the night he denied the Lord. However, he took this step toward likeness to Christ on the day of Pentecost, when, with Spirit-filled courage, he stood to testify of the risen Savior. He followed the example of his Master who spoke fearlessly to those who despised His message. Have I added virtue to my faith? Do I courageously tell others about the One I am following? It’s a first step in becoming like Him.
Knowledge is added to virtue. The courageous witness becomes more effective as his spiritual understanding deepens. His words become more poignant and pure; more like the Master’s. Peter ends this epistle urging us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Perhaps I have the courage to speak of Him, but do my words reveal that I know Him well?
Temperance is self-control that, when added to knowledge, meters my words and regulates my actions. It’s the difference between impulsive Simon swinging a sword, and Peter standing calmly to announce, “We ought to obey God rather than men,” while the council plotted his death. How’s my self-control? Am I quick to unsheathe to bring others down? Do I act with rash impulse, or with spiritual nobility? Temperance will bring me a step closer to Him.
Patience, or endurance, builds and we stride Christward. It changes, “I can’t take any more,” to, “Thy grace is sufficient for me.” We’ve seen that peaceful, certain look in the most mature of believers, their countenance shining in contrast to our restless, furrowed brows. They have found enduring patience by “looking unto Jesus…Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” (Heb 12:2). Will I join them?
Godliness is the opposite of selfishness. When one appears, the other vanishes. Paul captured the truths of godliness and Christ-likeness most succinctly: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” (Gal 2:20). Are they my steps or His? Godliness will make the difference indistinguishable.
Brotherly kindness progresses from godliness. When self is gone, I can focus on loving those who are following the same Firstborn. The standard is high: “He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1Jo 3:16). Have I made any effort to stretch for this foothold? How much of self am I sacrificing for the saints?
Charity, agape—unconditional, boundless love—crowns the pinnacle of Christ-likeness. Stephen prayed, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Act 7:60). He loved those who hated Him. He cared more for their salvation than for his own life. History notes many more that followed the Master in steps of ultimate, self-sacrificing love for the lost. They came closest to true Christ-likeness. Would we be willing to follow? Will we?
Of all our goals and ambitions, where does Christ-likeness rank? Undoubtedly, this will be the hardest to implement and promises no glamor: following His footsteps leaves no tracks but His. But it’s what the Father wants most. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps” (1Pe 2:21). It’s the highest of all goals. It’s His goal for us.