It is a cute little Cape Cod with clapboard siding and two eye dormers in the front. It was constructed back in 1950, when that particular style was very popular in this country—at least, it was popular on the east coast. Several years later a detached, two-car garage was added. The house is situated on a small lot at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in a bedroom community of some 6,000 residents. The address is 96 Valpeck Avenue, Raritan, New Jersey. If I may slightly alter the first line of a children’s nursery rhyme: “This is the house that Pat built.” Even though it is some sixty-five years old, it would still make a great “starter” home for any young couple looking to buy for the very first time.
In fact, it was Pat and Lydia’s first home. And who are they? Why, they are my parents: Pat and Lydia Lombardi. And yes, it is true: the very first home that they ever owned was built by my dad with his very own hands. In fact, he did most of the work all by himself. You see, this is the house that Pat built.
I have never built anything like that. Actually, I have really never built anything—except for one project I tried to make in junior high wood shop. It was supposed to be a spice rack. But, somehow, “This is the spice rack that Joe built” does not sound all that impressive. Indeed, it really was not that impressive—in spite of the fact that I worked on it for nearly one whole semester.
All Believers Are Builders
I will admit that when it comes to building, I know virtually nothing. Having said that, the truth is I am in the process of building a place. In fact, in one sense, it is the place in which I now reside. But please do not misunderstand. I am not talking about the remodeling of a parsonage. No, I am talking about the remaking of a personage. I am talking about…me. You see, I am talking about the Biblical footing, the spiritual flooring, and the moral framing of my life. I am talking about the structure—in fact, the super-structure—of my Christian character. And I believe that is what the Apostle Peter was talking about in 2 Peter:
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, 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. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet 1:2-11).
Both the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul (in 1 Cor 3:9-15) state very clearly that all believers are also builders.1 So, we are not only under construction, but there is a sense in which we are also in construction. We are all involved in the business of building.
Both apostles also agree that we will all give an account at the Judgment Seat of Christ for the quality of our work. Paul warns about the possibility of loss: “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15). John also issues a similar warning, “Look to yourselves that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward” (2 John 8). On the other hand, Peter speaks of the possibility of an abundant entrance “into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:11). In fact, Peter tells us how we can actually add to what we will receive at the Bema. He expounds on that truth in 2 Pet 1:2-11.
In this passage Peter makes it very clear that every Christian is a builder. And, while Paul warns “let each one take heed how he builds” because “the fire will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Cor 3:10, 13, emphasis added), Peter explains how to build a life of quality that will make a difference for all eternity. In other words, this is how you need to live here and now, so that you will not lose what you have, but may also add to what you will receive then and there, on that day when you stand at last before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Building a Rich Entrance with Divine Resources
In fact, notice how the section ends in 2 Pet 1:11, “For so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The expression plousiōs epichorēgēthesetai humin hē eisodos (“an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly,” NKJV) is also rendered in other translations as “a richly provided entrance” (ESV), “a grand entrance” (NLT), and “a rich welcome” (NIV).
But how can we have “a rich welcome”? Well, Peter said, in verse 10, it is those who believe who “do these things.” What things? Well, in verses 5-9 we learn about the human process of building the super-structure of Christian character into our own lives. And in the preceding verses 2-4, we learn about the divine resources available for building this superstructure of Christian character into our lives.
And so, in this passage, Peter is essentially telling us that by our dependence on His divine resources (verses 3-4), and by our diligence in the human process (verses 5-9), we can build a spiritual house—a life of Christian character—that will be effective and productive for God, and which will result in His bestowing and our receiving an abundant and extravagant eternal reward (verses 10-11).
So, how do we do it? Lord willing, in the next article we will consider the divine resources that are available to us in this process: His divine power and His precious promises.
Not long before we moved from New Jersey to the Coachella Valley of California in 1992, I took a ride out to Raritan. Although I had not been there in years, it still was not too difficult for me to find 96 Valpeck Avenue. I stopped for a few moments in front of the little yellow Cape Cod house at the end of that quiet cul-de-sac. And I said to myself, “So, this is the house that Pat built!” I could not help but think at that moment that I was still amazed and very proud of what my dad did. Why, I suspect that even Bob Vila would say it was very good.
And I also could not help but think that one day, some day, I am going to stand before my Lord and hear Him say, “So, this is the house that Joe built.” For, you see, every believer is a builder. Each one of us is building a place. Some of us are using, as it were, nothing more than wood, hay and straw. Others are building with gold, silver and costly stones. I just hope that what I have to present for Him to inspect, will be a super-structure of Christ-like character, built by me in dependence upon His divine resources, and with diligence in the human process, that will have enabled me to be effective and productive for Him. Because, you see, I do not want to lose my prize. And the one thing I want to hear more than anything else is. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…Enter, thou, into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt 25:21).
1. Editor’s note: Technically 1 Cor 3:10-15 is about how we who preach and teach in the church are building the local church, not our own lives. Whereas 2 Pet 1:5-11 concerns building our own lives. However, Joe’s point is well taken. Whether we are building our own lives, or helping building Christ’s Church, we as believers are all builders.